Our Story

This cookbook is 35 years in the making. The journey began in Madison Wisconsin in the 1970s, a time when the food world was exploding with possibility. The Dane County Farmer's market was in its infancy, The Ovens of Brittany was introducing the world to the iconic Brittany Bun, and a pair of young lovers was enjoying every moment of it, eyes wide open. Barb and Mike Pratzel loved to cook and share food, and in time they found their place in the burgeoning industry of hospitality and food service, after a random stay at a San Francisco B&B brought into focus their lives together.

The Collins House
In 1985, Barb and Mike opened their long-dreamed-for bed and breakfast in an historic home near the campus and downtown. Known for its classic Prairie School architecture, and situated on Madison's largest lake, The Collins House became a Madison institution. Guests from all over the world--university and business visitors, as well as travelers seeking a local experience, came for the homemade breakfasts, ample pastries, and warm, knowledgeable welcome. Many a wedding was held in the elegant first floor space, and a catering business soon evolved, serving area businesses and festive events with menus that centered around home-baked breads and pastries, and creative finger foods. Lifelong friendships evolved, and over time a demand grew for the Pratzels to bring their creative fare and down-to-earth style to a larger audience. A small neighborhood cafe was the logical next step.

Manna Cafe and Bakery
Manna Cafe and Bakery opened in 2005. Situated on Madison's north side, in the neighborhood the Pratzels called home, it immediately drew a huge crowd of people who were craving a local, neighborhood hangout to call their own. Manna was a direct continuation of the menus, ambiance, and business philosophies cultivated for two decades at The Collins House. The menus drew from their extensive breakfast repertoire, and catering fare informed their lunch offerings: oatmeal pancakes, creamy egg scrambles, luxurious quiche, scratch soups, creative sandwiches on homebaked breads, and an extensive array of desserts and pastries. The Pratzels, a constant presence at the cafe, encouraged an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie, and Manna became a go-to "Third Place"--a community with its own subculture where everyone knew everyone, staff and customers alike. The turnover was low, the regular customers were many, and the hubub was vibrant.  

The Cookbook
When The Collins House closed in 2005, customers followed the food to Manna, where they found not just their favorite recipes but a home away from home,  When Manna closed due to the pandemic, there was an outpouring of grief, and with it a call for the recipes, as a way not just to keep eating, but to keep the memories and experiences palpable.  Barb was delighted to return to her career in writing, but this time bringing her words alive with the recipes that nourished her community for 35 years.  The book is filled with stories, memoir, kitchen wisdom, and careful instruction that guides cooks of all skill levels to success.