April 2005 Bailey

The Kitchenhood of all Believers:

A Journey into the Discourse of Mennonite Cookbooks


Abstract: This paper brings together insights from cultural anthropology, religious studies and Mennonite studies in an effort to uncover the ways in which Mennonite cookbooks can be understood as a recognizable discourse (or cluster of discourses) that influences and even constructs Mennonite history, theology and culture. The work begins with an initial exploration of the connections between food and faith, then proposes a distinctively Mennonite understanding of food as material culture, and concludes by reviewing eight specific ways in which cookbooks function as a discourse that mirrors, influences or even creates specific realities of the Mennonite community in North America. This study is intended to sharpen interest in further, more detailed, research of the discourse of Mennonite cookbooks.

We may live without poetry, music, and art,

We may live without conscience and live without heart,

We may live without friends, we may live without books,

But civilized [folks] cannot live without cooks.[1]

Within the expanding discipline of Mennonite studies, few scholars have paid any attention to the cultural and religious importance of Mennonite cookbooks. Yet when we consider how central food has been for Mennonites[2] over the years, we might expect to see a burgeoning literature pertaining to the ways in which such things as cookbook publication, food preparation, potlucking, food folklore and food relief efforts relate to the historical construction of Mennonite identity and theology. In the absence of any systematic attempt to grapple with the significance of Mennonite cookbooks, Katie Funk Wiebe finally threw down the gauntlet in 1999 when she declared,

I believe one of the future records of the Mennonite history will be our cookbooks. . . . A study of the development of Mennonite cookbooks could prove interesting. Why are some no different than a Betty Crocker cookbook? Yet why are they still called Mennonite cookbooks? Which Mennonite church histories will include a section on Mennonite food’[3]

Now the challenge is at hand: How do we encourage critical scholarship on Mennonite cookbooks-these publications that make it onto but rarely beyond the kitchen shelf? How do we open up space for substantive dialogue about something that might seem to be trivial, mundane or inconsequential to the “real” master narrative of Mennonite history? Is there any significance to the fact that of the most popular books published by Herald Press (Mennonite Publishing Network), three out of the top ten books are cookbooks, and two of these rank higher in sales than the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective’[4] If the Mennonite community has a strong connection to its cuisine, what is the nature of this connection? How do Mennonite cookbooks function within different Mennonite communities? Why has there been so little systematic analysis of cultural and theological developments vis–vis Mennonite foodways?

In searching for answers to these questions, we must comb through numerous Mennonite cookbooks as well as other scholarly sources in such fields as anthropology, history, religious studies and community psychology. In the process, we discover that Mennonite cookbooks often convey much more than just recipes for making particular foods-in fact, they become reflections of and even catalysts for change within Mennonite culture and theology. Such change may or may not be best understood in the context of traditional scholarly terms such as “foodways” or “gastronomy” or “cookery”-indeed, we may need to identify a new field of study named “cookeriology” that more adequately explores the interrelationships between specific foodways and the unfolding of a Mennonite peoplehood. The reader may determine whether or not the issues at hand require the attention of a new scholarly discipline that will focus on the interplay between Mennonite recipes and Mennonite culture and theology.

The basic thesis of this paper is threefold: (1) Mennonite food and Mennonite cookbooks constitute a recognizable discourse; (2) this discourse becomes coherent to the extent that it is made accessible to and practiced by many believers within the Mennonite community; and (3) this discourse always remains dynamic in direct correlation to the complexity of Mennonite history itself. This last point is critical because, as will become evident even in the limited scope of this paper, this singular discourse is probably better understood as a cluster of discourses that sometimes reinforce and sometimes contradict one another. Throughout the paper, I assume that it behooves those of us who are Mennonite to uncover the ways in which this “clustered” cookbook discourse has functioned on our behalf and, concomitantly, to figure out how we are called to influence and mold the future expressions of this discourse both inside and outside of the Mennonite community. I also assume that this particular cookbook discourse is not the be-all and end-all of how Mennonites interact with their respective foodways-indeed, we would benefit from a companion study that looks at first-person testimonials of Mennonites who, for instance, contradict or disregard the discourse presented in their cookbooks.

The opening section of this paper looks at several perspectives on the connection between food and faith, while the second section deals more specifically with a Mennonite understanding of food as material culture. Perhaps the insights developed in these first two sections someday will be self-evident, but for now we need to devote significant space to these foundational issues. The final section explores eight different ways in which cookbooks function as a discourse in relation to specific facets of Mennonite communities. Throughout these sections, the scope of the paper is limited to (mostly Russian Mennonite) contexts within twentieth-century North America. Obviously, much more research and thinking will be needed in order to expand the horizons of this topic. Perhaps this will be an appetizer of sorts, sharpening interest in more in-depth studies by future examiners of this cookbook discourse.


Cookbooks are often viewed as belonging to a domestic sphere, with little significance beyond their obvious culinary uses. As with many other things that have traditionally been associated with “women’s work,” scholars have rarely regarded cookbooks as having any serious historical value. Here, we are indebted to feminist criticism for calling for a renewed and restructured historiography so that we can begin to include that which has been previously excluded from the record. Beyond this, it appears that few have ever gone to the trouble of reading between the lines of a Mennonite cookbook to figure out what it might be saying aside from how to mix the ingredients for a whopping batch of Rollkuchen. Although many women have probably known all too well what can be read “between the lines”-and have lived the truths and struggles found in those places-few scholars have made the connection between material food culture and Mennonite theology or Mennonite history.

As it turns out, some cookbooks themselves contain an interpretive key with which to begin this process of reading “between the lines” and, thereby, uncovering the more subtle discourses related to Mennonite cookery. For example, a cookbook from Erb Street Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ontario) contains the following declaration: “Food is never just something to eat. Food is a reflection of one’s culture. It is a reflection of the social change within one’s culture. It tells us who we are, where we have come from, what is important to us.”[5] Another cookbook from the Roanoke Mennonite Church (Iowa Falls, Iowa) begins by making the claim that:

God created a special relationship between [God], [people], and food. God created us to have a physical need for food. [God] further created animals and vegetation to satisfy the need. God planned that [people would] find relationship with [people] in sharing food. Food is a symbol of [people’s] spiritual relationship with God.[6]

Suggesting an even more lofty significance for food, the Canadian Mennonite Cookbook asserts that “throughout centuries of recorded history, food has played a leading role as a force behind many great events. This has included conferences, banquets, dinners or other occasions where important decisions have been made.”[7]

From these few excerpts, we can surmise that to some extent, at least, Mennonites-especially women who traditionally have been the cooks and whose perspectives can be found in the introductions to many cookbooks-view their cooking practices as having significance beyond the filling of stomachs. Since the world of Mennonite studies does not supply us with many analyses of Mennonite foodways,[8] we must turn to other traditions in order to investigate how food might be connected to broader culture, facilitative of spiritual relationships with God and active as a “force behind many great events.”

We might begin with an anthropological approach. Through his exploration of the universality of cooking within human culture, Claude Lvi-Strauss asserts that “we can hope to discover for each specific case how the cooking of a society is a language in which it unconsciously translates its structure-or else resigns itself, still unconsciously, to revealing its contradictions.”[9] For Lvi-Strauss, each cooking practice is loaded down with a distinctive freight of symbolic and cultural significance. Mary Douglas enhances this idea with the assertion that meals must be “deciphered” as social events:

If food is treated as a code, the message it encodes will be found in the pattern of social relations being expressed. The message is about different degrees of hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, boundaries and transactions across the boundaries. . . . Food categories therefore encode social events.[10]

Presuming that we can crack this code, what particular social patterns emerge? What specific symbols and cultural arrangements are up for grabs? Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell state that “foodways bind individuals together, define the limits of the group’s outreach and identity, distinguish in-group from out-group, serve as a medium of inter-group communication, celebrate cultural cohesion, and provide a context for performance of group rituals.”[11] While we have a resounding affirmation that food practices somehow convey or even facilitate cultural constructions, it is unclear how unique the context of food is vis–vis cultural identity. Is cuisine both a necessary and a sufficient condition for the performance of group rituals? How does the context change when the rituals involved are ostensibly religious in nature?

In order to evaluate the ways in which our cookbook discourse functions within the Mennonite context, we now move from general anthropology to a more explicitly religious perspective that is suggestive of the ways in which cookbooks act as purveyors of cultural-religious as well as culinary phenomena. Here we begin to see the ways in which food and food rituals play a much more important role vis–vis faith communities than we might think.

In an essay entitled “Blood in the Barbecue? Food and Faith in the American South,” Wade Clark Roof explores the significance of barbecued pork within the religious imagination of the American South. Roof’s context is particular, but his conclusions about food and faith seem to be applicable more broadly. He claims that:

[f]ood symbols are important in any culture; more than just an object of curiosity or taste, they are bound up with a people’s way of life, their deepest values and identities. That being the case, food symbols inevitably are implicated in religious and political matters.[12]

Part of this implication has to do with a historical awareness:

Place, family, and church are all bound by ancestry, but practically speaking, it is the food practices more than anything else that keep memory alive and visibly symbolize this underlying historical unity. Eating . . . is the one thing-sometimes it seems like the only thing-that kin groups do when they come together. By sharing a meal together, they reaffirm the ties that bind-of one to another and of all to place.[13]

Roof concludes that “food and memory are always bound together” and that “even in the most profane, everyday activities such as eating, the underlying vital forces of social life and of primordial human bonding find sacred expression.”[14] Using Roof’s analysis, we might construe that Mennonite cookbooks are bound up with Mennonite values, identities and history.

Mary N. MacDonald’s essay “Food and Gender in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea” constructs a similar logic, though the context is obviously quite different. MacDonald claims that food “stands for cultural and religious life; it facilitates our relationships with other people; it may suggest relationships with unseen powers of the cosmos; and it provides the metaphoric means for sustaining those relationships.”[15] We might surmise that MacDonald could come to these same conclusions if she would have studied the “transformative substance” of food in the Mennonite community:

At the material and at the symbolic levels food, as a product of human labor and imagination, embodies an understanding of life and life-giving relationships. Food is a transformative substance and eating a transformative process. Food is not a static symbol of social and cosmic relationships but . . . an ingredient in dynamic symbolic processes by which social and cosmic structures are sustained and also changed.[16]

One last external source can help to bridge us with a more explicitly Mennonite literature on Anabaptist faith and material culture. In his essay “Religious Dimensions of Food: An Introduction,” Philip P. Arnold argues that religion is

revealed in the interactions of human communities in relationship to material necessities which determine how one meaningfully inhabits the world, and this cannot simply be a human fabrication. It is likewise the case that the material world of food verifies the utility of various cosmologies and ritual practices.[17]

Arnold echoes the point that food is somehow related both to cultural memory and to the perpetuation of religious communities. He concludes that food is an important feature of both large-scale and mundane rituals of a religious community and, therefore, “to consider the religious dimensions of food is to consider the performative dimensions of the obvious in human affairs. Extending this understanding of religion to other phenomena, therefore, pushes for a re-appraisal of domestic tasks as having important religious dimensions.”[18] This takes us back to Katie Funk Wiebe’s challenge: What happens when we reappraise the domestic task of food preparation within the Mennonite community in particular? How does this reappraisal affect Mennonite history and Mennonite self-understanding?



Understanding Mennonite material food culture remains difficult given the dearth of foodways research in Mennonite studies. Interestingly, what is perhaps the only related essay-Pamela Klassen’s “What’s Bre(a)d in the Bone: The Bodily Heritage of Mennonite Women”[19]-makes many excellent points about the meaning of food mostly in relation to Mennonite women and poses the issue of whether we need a corresponding understanding of food in relation to Mennonites in general or Mennonite men in particular (or both). While Klassen issues a vigorous and succinct challenge to the Mennonite community-“preaching and cooking are spiritual callings that both men and women can hear”[20]-her essay does not provide an overall framework with which to situate food and cooking practices in relation to Mennonite culture in general (and we might assert that she did not intend to provide such a general framework outside of the particularly important experiences of Mennonite women). She does, however, echo the basic need for such a framework when she explains that:

food has been a persistent source of debate for those interested in questions of Mennonite identity. Some take the position that food traditions are vestiges of ethnicity without religious import, while others claim that food customs play an important role in shaping the Mennonite community.[21]

Clearly, the issue is at hand and we would do well to lay some more specific groundwork on which to understand how food and cookbooks function vis–vis the Mennonite community. After all, as Klassen points out, “if we paid as much attention to the rituals of cooking and eating as we do to the rituals of speaking and reading, we might find a way to integrate the intellectual and embodied dimensions of our religious lives.”[22]

We might begin by investigating a parallel trajectory in terms of another material culture such as Mennonite furniture. Indeed, evocative statements are made with respect to the cultural significance of furniture in Mennonite history. In their classic Mennonite Furniture: A Migrant Tradition, Reinhild and John Janzen allege that:

furniture provides a unique material record of a way of life and a people. . . . In order to ‘read’ furniture . . . we must look at ways in which the cognitive dimension of the tradition-beliefs, concepts, aesthetic patterns and principles-interacts with or inspires the material dimension of the tradition.[23]

This point of interaction begins to show how physical objects such as beds and tables can carry another layer of meaning in terms of the historical and cultural developments of Mennonite people as etched within particular joinery techniques or ornamental practices. Another parallel might be Linda Boynton Arthur’s research of fabrics and textiles within the Holdeman Mennonite community, and her conclusion that clothing “is a vehicle for the expression of both conformity and deviance.”[24] Yet, what are the actual mechanics of this interaction between material culture and the unfolding historical and/or theological development of Mennonitism? Is it appropriate to compare food culture with such things as furniture or textiles?

Various authors have contributed theories and conceptual frameworks with which to understand material culture in relation to the historical development of Mennonite peoplehood. One approach is that of sociologist Donald Kraybill, who states that “the very essence of Anabaptism itself with its imperative to obey and practice the Gospel quite naturally fosters subcultural or ethnic expressions of religious experience.”[25] For Kraybill, these ethnic expressions seem to become more important than faith itself: “A common history, a collective biography, a transgenerational cultural legacy and a shared fate constitute the ethnic glue which fuses Mennonites together above and beyond religious experience.”[26] Yet, for Kraybill, ethnicity becomes more than just the glue; it becomes “concretized and expressed in very tangible practices: language, food, dialect, dress and behavioral taboos designed to mark off the boundaries of the ethnic community by commonality of practice and segregation from the larger culture.”[27] Others critique the notion of Mennonite ethnicity as being too narrow. Calvin Redekop, for instance, argues for a Mennonite identity based more on utopianism,[28] although he still recognizes that Mennonites focus on “the application of the basic Christian beliefs in personal and social life, rather than an emphasis on abstract doctrine.”[29] Still others such as Alan B. Anderson argue for an inclusive approach that affirms Mennonites as ethno-religious.[30] Regardless of the approach, there seems to be an acknowledgment that things such as food function with some significance vis–vis the development of Mennonite identity through time.

Duane Friesen offers a helpful perspective within his larger study on Anabaptist theologies of culture. On one level, the meaning of life “is expressed through eating rituals, such as the Lord’s Supper or a Sabbath meal. These are as essential to our survival as the physical sustenance food provides.”[31] In other words, Friesen states, “[h]umans live by both bread and meaning.”[32] How does this intersection of bread and meaning find expression? Friesen talks about “focal practices” in which people express their community’s basic vision through concrete ways of life. Note his explanation while keeping in mind the example of food and what people are really learning from both cooks and their cookbooks:

Practices are performed. They are not simply abstract ideas or ideals; they are observable ways of being or living. They are socially defined by a community of practitioners over time. The traditions of what constitute food practices may change, but in continuity with what has gone on before. Through practices, persons are socialized or catechized into a disciplined community. We learn (i.e., are “disciples”) by experiencing the modeling of others, by practicing the discipline with others who seek to be practitioners. These practices are “bodied” in visible, concrete ways of living that can be observed and evaluated by others, even those outside the circle of the community of faith.[33]

In his acknowledgment that in relation to the larger culture around us, “we live on boundaries between identities,”[34] Friesen’s work raises the issue for us in terms of how the “performed practices” of Mennonite cuisine function to maintain, shift or cross these boundaries. We are also left wondering to what extent Mennonite cookbooks might have a greater capacity to affect boundary maintenance or boundary shifting than other more traditional purveyors of Mennonitism such as theological books, histories or confessional statements. We might take an overly simplified perspective and say that the ethno-religious influence of Mennonite history classes, Mennonite theological articles and Mennonite media of various sorts are limited to specific times and places, and to the specific expertise of Mennonite academics or commentators, whereas Mennonite food is something that “happens” multiple times every day, all year round, through the work of average people. Put a different way, since everyone has to eat and since everyone has direct access to the forms and functions of Mennonite cookery, a sort of “kitchenhood of all believers” emerges in which all those participating have the chance to become involved in the maintenance and renovation of boundaries vis–vis Mennonite culture and theology. If this is true within the tradition, might it be the case that cookbooks can also play a significant role outside of the Mennonite community as well?

In answer to the latter question, we find a helpful and provocative resource in the work of Neal Blough, whose work on postmodern missiology can, surprisingly enough, be applicable to our emergent cookeriology. Blough develops a concept of missiology that has to do with how God’s mission relates to human cultures in general and, more specifically, how the Gospel continues to be “translatable” across various cultural contexts. “There is no common language shared by humanity. Each ‘local’ narrative, each language, is a possible context into which the Gospel may be translated.”[35] Fundamentally, this is a recognition that faith does not live in a vacuum and that “in missiological terms, the Gospel is always ‘inculturated’ or ‘contextualized,’ i.e., formulated and taking shape in terms of the culture in which it finds itself.”[36] If we employ Blough’s work to speak about the potential for Gospel contextualization within the culture of Mennonite food and food preparation, then the historical development of particular Mennonite foodways needs to be seen as the starting point rather than an end in itself. As Blough notes, “the goal is ‘translation’ and communication with others.”[37] Moving this toward a more explicitly missiological understanding of Mennonite foodways, we can both acknowledge how values and convictions become visible and enacted in particular ways, including the way a community conveys, enacts and remembers its cuisine (as visible contextualization), and see the cookbook as one place in which the Gospel is being translated into “understandable terms” for other cultures. The cookbook, therefore, stands as a witness to the Gospel and a mission partner for God’s work in the world. Just how this witnessing occurs is a complex process given both the universality and the malleability of food preparation practices.

So far we have noted some general conceptual frameworks for making the link between food and faith, and we have incorporated more explicitly Mennonite understandings of material culture. With these resources in hand, we now turn to explore a number of specific ways in which this cookbook discourse functions within the Mennonite community.


What happens when we open a cookbook? We assume that we will see something about how to prepare food; but we do not expect a lesson on simple living, a course in history or a report on gender roles. Nevertheless, these are precisely the kinds of themes that emerge when we look at Mennonite cookbooks with new eyes.

To gain a new understanding of cookbook discourse, we can consider how we understand the word “Mennonite” to function in the phrase “Mennonite foodways.” Most would think of “Mennonite” as being the adjective that describes what kind of foods can be prepared. How does the picture change if we see “Mennonite” as being the object of the phrase-in a similar way that we might see a cookbook called “The Great Cake Cookbook,” which we know to be a cookbook that tells us how to bake great cakes? Might Mennonite cookbooks be functioning to “bake” or produce Mennonite people? It is with this perspective-fundamentally a product of the previously established insights around material culture-that we can begin to explore the intricacies of Mennonite cooking as something that certainly goes well beyond the correct operation of measuring cups to the very formation of a Mennonite peoplehood. The following is an exploration of eight different ways in which cookbook discourse functions in relation to the Mennonite community.

1. Simple living: The More-with-Less Cookbook has been very influential both inside and outside the Mennonite community for almost three decades. In her foreword to the 25th anniversary edition (2000), Mary Beth Lind provides a compelling explanation for why this cookbook has been so popular:

The early Anabaptists, forebears of today’s Mennonites, recognized that “to know Christ we must follow him in our lives” (Denck), a fleshed-out theology. Yes, we are what we eat, and what we eat shows our theology. This is the appeal of More-with-Less Cookbook. The book speaks, not only to our physical bodies, but also to our souls. It is soul food, and we need it more than ever. . . . When we make food an integral part of our lives and our homes, it becomes part of our theology. We are connected to our food-cultivating it, preserving it, and preparing it. We are nurturers instead of consumers. This shift affects our relationship to the Giver of our daily bread. We become co-creators with God and stewards of God’s garden. More-with-Less invites us to recognize and remember this connection. We are what we eat-physically and spiritually. . . . Our interaction with food will express our faith.[38]

The popularity of More-with-Less can be witnessed in high book sales (840,000 copies over 47 printings) and testimonials from those who bought the book. It would seem that the discourse of this cookbook has something to do with “live simply!” and “come and join us!” This invitational aspect has been significant, and can be corroborated with several testimonies:

I didn’t know any Mennonites, growing up in Los Angeles, but I was intrigued with what I read. When overseas on a two-year mission assignment, I came across the More-with-Less Cookbook. I began reading the long introduction and thought, “They are kindred spirits.” I decided to seek out Mennonites when I returned home. Four years later, I joined Pasadena Mennonite Church and became a “cookbook convert.”[39]

To say we were converted by a cookbook would be going too far. But it was the More with Less recipe book, together with John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus . . . that first triggered our interest in the Anabaptist tradition. Both books were produced by Mennonites and both gave expression, in different ways, to the same fundamental Anabaptist conviction: that to be a Christian means following Jesus . . . and that taking Jesus seriously means a lifestyle of simplicity, service, and peacemaking.[40]

More-with-Less was my first encounter with Mennonites. . . . Since meeting Mennonites in the pages of More-with-Less, I have served four terms with Mennonite Central Committee, become a Mennonite, studied in Mennonite seminaries, written for Mennonite periodicals, pastored Mennonite congregations.[41]

These testimonies suggest that the discourse of the More-with-Less Cookbook acts as a kind of magnet, drawing people toward the Mennonite community and, moreover, toward a particular Mennonite-Christian witness. Somehow this cookbook has been able to “translate” the Gospel in such a way that people have been compelled to respond. Through its simple-living philosophy and the various subtexts making connections between faith and food, the More-with-Less Cookbook functions as a lifestyle-challenging missiological discourse.

The historical impact of this discourse can be seen in the testimonies of people who have made use of the cookbook in various ways: people who talk about using the cookbook for worship planning and devotionals,[42] people who say that the cookbook shaped their worldview and showed that cooking can be an act of faithfulness,[43] people who claim that the cookbook’s philosophy became integral to their family life in how they lived,[44] people who say that the cookbook challenged them and called them to responsible living.[45] As a discourse that encourages discipleship living, the More-with-Less Cookbook can be seen as an expression of the original Anabaptist vision. The full extent of its impact can be seen in a rather surprising entry in the Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia in which the More-with-Less Cookbook is the first in a list of examples of Anabaptist nonconformity-ahead of other examples such as conscientious objection and war tax withholding.[46]

2. Globalization of Mennonites: With the publication of the Extending the Table cookbook, the Mennonite community brought a new voice into the dialogue between missiology and cuisine. In some ways, Extending the Table sets a new standard in terms of how a cookbook can shift the boundaries of the Mennonite community, since it seems to suggest that both literally and symbolically, Mennonites are nourished by experiencing the cookery and culture of other peoples throughout the world. In the word of Paul Longacre:

The stories and recipes help us enter into the lives and situations of these people and to be changed by them in significant ways. Food is a medium of communication, but it is more; in a mysterious way, it is part of the message, as Jesus so vividly portrayed in the breaking of bread and distribution of the cup.[47]

It is significant that the title page explains how the cookbook was “commissioned by Mennonite Central Committee . . . to promote global understanding and celebrate the variety of world cultures.”[48] Evidently, Mennonite Central Committee did not commission the cookbook primarily to show people how to cook their supper, but rather to participate in a project of understanding.

While the recipes themselves reveal a certain history of Mennonites working with the global community, they convey a challenge to continue to extend the table through service work and awareness-raising:

Extending the Table is much more than a cookbook. It will most often be found on the kitchen shelf, but it could just as well fit comfortably on the bedside stand or coffee table for inspirational reading. Let it also find its way onto the pastor’s shelf for its excellent sermon illustrations and stories.[49]

This could not be said about many cookbooks!

What has been the impact of Extending the Table? In terms of missiology and translatability, we might argue that the cookbook has helped to shift Mennonites’ understanding of mission as a mutual project among global neighbors. But how does the picture change when we realize that Extending the Table represents yet another situation of Mennonites from the North having the privilege of choosing when, how and what they will appropriate from the South-a sort of international smorgasbord at which “being global Mennonites” is an optional side-dish. Put another way, we can ask whether Extending the Table represents the actual emergence of an interdependent global Mennonite community or merely an extension of the North American table to include a number of token contributions from other countries. What would a truly global Mennonite table look like? A truly Anabaptist table?

3. Remembering the past: Part of what goes on in Mennonite foodways is the performance of the past through the cooking of the present, especially through the making of so-called “Mennonite dishes.” For example, extensive folklore exists around zwiebach, evidenced by stories of Russian Mennonite immigrants stuffing their suitcases with zwiebach as they left Communist Russia,[50] or by statements to the effect that “it wouldn’t be Sunday without zwieback.”[51] Another example of a Mennonite “signature recipe” being connected to a significant historical event is the story of Mennonites in a Berlin refugee camp after World War II when the people’s spirits were lifted after the women were able to bake enough peppernuts to go around.[52] Sometimes it is not clear that certain foods would be cooked at all if it were not for the memories connected with them. Author Phyllis Pellman Good once commented that “some familiar dishes are worth remembering more for the mirror they are to immigrant farming life than the pleasure they brought in eating!”[53] The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes says that many traditional Mennonite recipes “hail back from the days of want and austerity, and are no longer in use, but may be of interest for coming generations to read, or an inspiration to a cook who is in an adventurous mood.”[54] A similar attitude is found in Mennonite Community Cookbook, which identifies its purpose as being “to preserve for posterity our own peculiar type of cookery that has been handed down for many generations.”[55]

Of course, remembering can also entail bringing to mind very positive events and accomplishments. For example, some Mennonite cookbooks contain evidence of the service work launched by particular congregations. The cookbook from Erb Street Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ontario) describes how “food has also enabled us to be ‘church’ to each other through meals of service and compassion during illness or grief as well as for [other community agencies].”[56] In the remembering of both difficult times of social upheaval and positive occasions of joyful discipleship, Mennonite cuisine provides a sort of symbolic comfort food or, in the words of Pamela Klassen, a type of adhesive that keeps Mennonites together as they weather the vagaries of history: “Cooking varenike and borscht-keeping alive the ethnic customs and the church-has been an important element in the invisible glue holding together Mennonite families and communities.”[57]

4. Mennonite migration patterns: The ongoing geographical sojourn of Mennonites can be mapped through the appropriation and modification of various cooking practices. Some cookbooks provide this analysis explicitly, such as Mennonite Foods and Folkways of South Russia, which explains how Russian Mennonite foods betray various migration patterns:

There are remnant traces of sixteenth century Holland, many foods from two centuries’ exposure to Polish-West Prussian cooking and, finally, major additions learned from Russian and Ukrainian cooks. Such is the rich and varied story of the Russian Mennonite village kitchen, primarily reflecting the good times before the Russian Revolution.[58]

Interesting examples of historically-imprinted foods include: (1) the fact that the development of fruit mooss can be seen as a specific result of the rural development work of Johann Cornies, who instructed each Russian Mennonite home to have an orchard with certain types of fruit trees;[59] (2) the inclusion of Russian/Ukrainian foods such as varenikje and borscht indicating the time spent in Russia; (3) the appearance of mooss recipes that call for tropical fruits and, therefore, begin to tell the story of Russian Mennonites who migrated to Paraguay and discovered that they needed to modify their cooking somewhat;[60] (4) recipes for quiche lorraine that reveal the time Mennonites spent in the Vosges Mountains of Switzerland;[61] (5) the recipes in the Extending the Table cookbook that speak of the many places throughout the world Mennonites have lived and worked through agencies such as Mennonite Central Committee. These are just a few examples of how cookbooks pass on memories of important places and transitional points within the Mennonite story, as if to say, “This part of our identity came from such-and-such a place and time; this part of our identity matters.”

5. Gender roles: Mennonite cookbooks are fraught with clues about both sex-role stereotyping and the prospects for gender justice within the church. We might start with cookbooks in which women’s recipes are submitted under such names as “Mrs. Henry Thiessen” and “Mrs. Jack Neufeld”-an interesting and disturbing example of the erasure of women’s identities even in the one domestic place where we might expect women to be recognized.

In another way, women are encouraged to be visible in their maintenance of a healthy household. The Canadian Mennonite Cookbook states that food can “be used by every clever homemaker to influence persons and events which can enrich the happiness of a home and its members. Good meals, attractively served, go a long way in keeping the family together.”[62] In the introduction to the North Goshen Mennonite cookbook, Pastor Don Augsburger declares:

While it is very important that mothers become good home-makers, it is also important that they challenge the family to sincere Christian living. It is one thing to provide a well balanced diet, it is yet another to provide a home atmosphere charged with dedicated living. The two are not incompatible. Every Christian mother will want to provide both. A mother who loves will season her meals with kindness and consideration. A task done with joy is not half so burdensome as one done out of duty. While the repetition of sameness in the chores of the home may become trying, sensing that one is building persons physically for a Spiritual ministry can be a tremendous challenge.[63]

A similar sentiment is expressed by Pastor Nelson Kanagy from the Bayshore Mennonite Church when he writes, “So as you homemakers serve in your own way, let us never forget we can be witnesses unto Him everyday.”[64] Interestingly, another cookbook makes the point that even though women’s role was limited within the domestic realm of cooking, this role might have held a certain level of freedom as well:

Cooking was extremely important in the earlier days when other forms of entertainment were considered sinful. It was a sin to be lavish in clothing, in home furnishings, in entertainment, and in other areas but the Swiss Mennonites felt that money and energy spent on food was a necessity.[65]

Another traditional women’s role was to provide food for important guests or occasions. One example of this can be found in Cooking and Memories, in which the story is told of a woman who had to provide food for important guests and visiting church speakers who came because her husband was the moderator of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.[66] When women worked within these sorts of expectations, they cooked long and hard. One cookbook puts it starkly when it talks about housewives not being concerned with nutrition, but rather the “complete banishment of hunger from the domains over which they rule.”[67]

In general, these cookbooks raise an important question: When it is women who write or compile these cookbooks, does the existence of Anabaptist history within these cookbooks represent the ability of women to gain the position of “official manager of history,” a role from which she is otherwise denied by the patriarchal Mennonite community? Moreover, to what extent do cookbooks function as the primary educational tool for women learning about their past, whereas the official and “real” history books might have been viewed as inappropriate reading material for the Mennonite housewife of the past?

All told, Mennonite cookbooks can be viewed as primary resources for investigating the role of women in Mennonite communities and, in particular, the ways in which “Mennonite women from all groups have participated in constructing and reconstructing Mennonite identity through their work in the kitchen.”[68] Even with the subordinate position that this role entailed most of the time, some have attempted to valorize women’s role as cook:

These women, our mothers and grandmothers, were persons of great courage, stamina and faith. Even against overwhelming hardship, they determined to make life as normal and bearable as they could for their families. They continued to serve Borscht, Zweiback, Varenikje, and Mooss. . . . They were survivors who passed their legacy on to us, their daughters and granddaughters. Let us not forget.[69]

While the realities of gender stereotyping and sex-based discrimination still linger in Mennonite communities, more recent cookbooks portray some of the changing landscape of gender roles in North America and contain a more balanced representation of both women and men submitting recipes.

6. Anabaptist history: A number of Mennonite cookbooks contain a description of Anabaptist history or the development of a particular strain or subgroup of Mennonites. This kind of text ranges from very short statements about the fact that Mennonites were often wheat farmers to long narratives describing multiple stages of migration and cultural development from the 1500s through to the twentieth century. In the middle of the continuum stands this example from Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman’s From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens:

The Amish and Mennonite are much like an extended family. With many branches, each with its own particularities, the groups are still more alike than different.

They all have a common faith rooting. Their beginning can be traced to the time of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe. In 1525 a group of believers parted company with the established state church for a variety of reasons. Among them was the conviction that one must voluntarily become a follower of Christ, and that this deliberate decision will be reflected in all of one’s life.

Eventually the group was called Mennonites after Menno Simons, one of their leaders. Over the years these people grew into a strong faith community, concerned with the nurture and discipleship of each other.[70]

In most cases, these kinds of texts are presented and then left to stand on their own. Aside from the implied assumption that “our history matters to us,” the reader is left with the question of whether the connection to the rest of the book is obvious or irrelevant. “Is this supposed to affect the way I cook the food? Or is it simply trivia'” Interestingly, the brief history in From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens concludes with the following remark: “Food is not a part of the religion of any of these people. But their bountiful meals, their tenderly-preserved fruits, and their rich baking are all part of the very fabric of their lives.”[71] This is an example of how the discourse sometimes appears to dance between both denial and acceptance in terms of the role of food in the emergence of Mennonite identity over time.

A few cookbooks develop a much more comprehensive history as an integral part of the overall cookbook. Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia and Melting Pot of Mennonite Cookery are examples of this more integrated approach in which specific recipes are presented as outcomes from particular historical circumstances. On a slightly different trajectory, there are cookbooks such as the Treasured Mennonite Recipes that combine recipes with accounts of more specific projects such as the development of relief sales, or the Thresher Table cookbook that tells the history of Bethel College.

On another level, we might consider how cookbooks go beyond teaching to actually catechizing people in Anabaptist theology. Both the More-with-Less and Extending the Table cookbooks contain text that speaks to Mennonite theology relating to lifestyle issues, discipleship, service work and community fellowship. Another interesting example is found in the Anabaptist Cookbook: Recipes from Many Lands, which includes the story of Dirk Willems within the pages of recipes-a dramatic and common tool of Anabaptist teaching in itself-as well as an exhortation to “instruct your children, as they sit around the table, about the countries from which they come. Perhaps the Lord will call some children to some day be a missionary to one of these ‘uttermost’ places!”[72] Still another subtle example is the inclusion in many cookbooks of “recipes” for a barn-raising (100 pies, 16 chickens, 50 pounds roast beef, 300 rolls, etc.) which must surely inculcate the reader with a sense of Mennonite mutual aid theology.

7. Acculturation: A constant theme throughout Mennonite history has been the tension between separatism and acculturation. On the one hand, part of the cookbook discourse essentially consists of saying, “Look at what we’ve held on to even in the face of tremendous pressures to acculturate!” Here we can look at the many cookbooks featuring a chapter on “Mennonite foods” that function as a sort of badge of courage for the Mennonite community as it preserves certain ways of doing things. One fascinating example of this is the list of “Holiday dishes served by Mennonites” found in Grandma’s Cooking:

Christmas: Goose with sweet Bubbat, Pork with Sausage Bubbat, Pluma Moos and Schinkenfleisch, many cakes and cookies, mostly made with ammonia instead of baking powder and filled with jam

New Years: Portzelky

Easter: Home cured ham with potatoes and schmoant faat (cream gravy), Paska (Easter bread)

Pentecost: Smoked sausage with potatoes and schmoant faat (cream gravy), Borscht with homemade rye bread, Plume moos, Cake[73]

While acknowledging the amazingly strong sense of self-identity evident in this list of foods, we might also ask how it can be that such foods can be deemed “Mennonite,” let alone that they could be specified for particular points in the church year with such precision. There is a clear sense of ownership here-as if to say, “These foods are our foods, and we know when to cook them!” Nevertheless, the question still remains as to who gets to decide what constitutes Mennonite food and why such decisions are necessary for the maintenance of Mennonite distinctiveness.

In contrast, another realm of cookbook discourse says, “Look at how we’ve integrated into mainstream society!” Here we can point to Mennonite cookbooks that contain an astonishing spectrum of foods, many of which would have been unimaginable for our Mennonite forebearers.[74] Given both the reality of acculturation and the prospects for remaining distinctive, Mennonite cookbooks ultimately raise the question, “What is a Mennonite, anyway'” This question, made even more provocative within the realm of cooking practices, must be answered by consecutive generations of Mennonites well beyond first-generation migrs. Susan Kalcik explains it this way:

the struggles of the immigrant generation to keep, adapt, and shed their traditional foodways affect the repertoire of foodways that succeeding generations can call upon to use in symbolic displays of ethnic identity. In many cases the struggle to keep or give up ethnic food habits continues into the succeeding generations as they struggle to adjust their sense of ethnic identity and their relationship to the larger unit of [society].[75]

The interesting point here is the continuity of struggle in terms of both the acculturation of Mennonite foodways and, therefore, the symbolic construction of Mennonite identity itself. In other words, cooking practices speak directly into (or through) the ambiguities of this dynamic and conflicted legacy in which Mennonite identity is subjected to the melting pot and, alternately, lifted clear into the realm of distinctiveness. We would benefit from further exploration of this point, especially because it could be contended that so-called Mennonite food merely represents one of the last vestiges of ethnic distinctiveness for people who are otherwise fully assimilated into mainstream culture. To what extent does food now become one of the only ways that Mennonites are able to maintain a distinctive ethnic identity? How does this food-bound struggle for ethnic identity influence Mennonite theology? In a sense, perhaps the gauntlet has been thrown down in our kitchens and dining rooms instead of in the world of academia, and the real “proof in the pudding” will be seen in the Mennonite cooks who make everyday decisions about what will and will not qualify as Mennonite food (quite apart from the instructions contained within the “official” cookbook discourse).

8. Inter-Mennonite cooperation: Yet another common refrain in Mennonite history is the question, “How much should we work with ‘other Mennonites’ from other Mennonite backgrounds'” Some cookbooks stand as examples of cooperation between various denominational bodies, even if this cooperation occurs informally rather than through official bureaucratic procedures. Mennonite Community Cookbook contains contributions from Mennonites of Dutch, German, Swiss and Russian descent, and in its extensive distribution and use in communities across North America, we might wonder what invisible and subtle groundwork this cookbook laid for both the ongoing dialogue between and the eventual merging of Mennonite conferences in Canada and the United States.

As commissioned projects of Mennonite Central Committee, both More-with-Less Cookbook and Extending the Table have embodied another example of cooperation among Mennonites. Again we can ask what sorts of subtle bridges have been built by these two cookbooks over the years between the Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ and other denominations who support M.C.C. While these groups may sometimes sit at fairly different places around the ecclesial table, they have been cooking together in spirit for years! As we trace the interdenominational use of these cookbooks, might we also happen upon further “unofficial” transactions and interrelationships between these sibling churches?

Of course, there are examples of cookbook discourses that might hinder inter-Mennonite cooperation. For example, what is the effect of the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, which is a widely-distributed cookbook and one that purports to be a “Mennonite cookbook” even though it appears to be almost exclusively composed of recipes from Russian Mennonite contributors? How are power dynamics among Mennonite groups played out within the arena of foodways? Who gets to determine which recipes should be included in the section of “Mennonite foods”? What issues of racial or economic justice arise when Mennonites cannot participate in the making of “Mennonite foods” because either they do not have the means to obtain or cook proper Mennonite food, or their context involves being faithful by cooking tamales or koosheri instead of borscht or varenikje?


We have merely scratched the surface of these eight discourse examples. Certainly, further attention is needed in order to explore many other instances in which cookbooks function in relation to the Mennonite community. Moreover, we need to listen to other foodways researchers outside of the Mennonite community so that we do not get the impression that ours is somehow the most interesting or unique situation. As an example, we would benefit greatly from reading and interacting with the work of Daniel Sack, whose recent book, Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture, provides an excellent commentary on how “[f]ood plays important symbolic roles in the church. It reveals the theological and political convictions of American Protestants and it opens a window onto belief and practice.”[76] Sack concludes that “[w]hile food often gets taken for granted in the church, it has important and multiple meanings.”[77] Mennonites would learn a great deal if we brought this kind of wisdom to bear on the multiple meanings of our own food-related discourse. Similarly, we would gain much-needed perspective on the relationship between the history of Mennonite peoplehood and Mennonite foods if we delved into the work of contemporary anthropologists like David Sutton, whose book Remembrances of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory[78] supplies many thought-provoking questions about the interplay between food, culture and memory. These are just a few examples of the breadth of scholarly work that lies open before us.

Within this emergent field of study, however, we dare not think of these matters of cookbook discourse as specimens to be objectively scrutinized from afar since we who are Mennonite participate in the ongoing construction and reconstruction of these discourses every day. Mennonite cuisine is not “out there” somewhere; it is on our plate today when we sit down to lunch. Likewise, the fundamental questions about Mennonite identity to which these discourses address themselves are not confined to the sanitary world of academic research; these questions are for us to answer in and through our own lives. Tomorrow’s legacies are already in the oven, so to speak, and we are at the banquet table with our sisters and brothers of faith from all around the world. Our role is to give thanks and to build a conscientious Mennonite table fellowship.


We have explored various ways in which Mennonite cookbooks can be understood as a discourse (or a cluster of discourses) with ramifications both inside and outside the Mennonite community. Clearly, further study will be needed on this topic, as well as related topics having to do with comparisons between Mennonite and non-Mennonite cookbooks, the significance of particular Mennonite recipes that either stay the same or change over time, the possibility of a North American market for a Mennonite cookbook produced in the South, the potential for a new “theme cookbook” knowing that the Mennonites have the simple living and globalization themes covered,[79] and a more rigorous excavation of cooking traditions from the earlier centuries of Anabaptist history.[80]

As we recognize the importance of cuisine as one of the central aspects of material culture and, more specifically, as one of the most pervasive vehicles for the transmission, reflection and transformation of Mennonite identity, we are left with a question: How can the integrity of this discourse be ensured over time? Fortunately, we have appetite on our side-people will always need to eat. We also have a ravenous cultural memory in our favor-Mennonites tend to go to great lengths in ritualizing their collective memory. Finally, we have the seemingly infinite gift of global diversity within which the Mennonite story will expand and change over time, and within which the need for eating together will continue to both reflect and facilitate the development of new relationships. This never-ending need for physical, spiritual and memorial nourishment is captured well in the words of theologian Christine D. Pohl:

Churches, like families, need to eat together to sustain their identity as a community. The table is central to the practice of hospitality in home and church. The nourishment we gain there is physical, spiritual, and social. Whether we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper or for a church potluck dinner, we are strengthened as a community. Meals shared together in church provide opportunities to sustain relationships and build new ones. They establish a space that is personal without being private, an excellent setting in which to begin friendships with strangers.[81]

In the act of eating, we come together for a renewal of our sense of peoplehood while at the same time extending the table for new and revolutionary changes to who we will be as people of faith and what we will do as followers of Christ. In eating together, we give thanks to God for the nourishment of our bodies and souls. We give thanks for all the hands that prepare the food. We give thanks that the kitchenhood of all believers brings the opportunity for discipleship close to home. And we give thanks for cookbooks that spark the imagination and provide the know-how.

[*]Matthew Bailey-Dick lives in Waterloo, Ontario and serves as the minister of peace and justice evangelism with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.
1. Anonymous, quoted in Harley J. Stucky’s The Centennial Treasury of Recipes: Swiss (Volhynian) Mennonites (North Newton: Mennonite Press, 1973), 5.
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[2]. I am using the term “Mennonite” quite broadly and somewhat roughly for the purposes of this paper. Although many of the examples come from the Russian Mennonite tradition, the term “Mennonite” is best read as a conflation of various Mennonite groups.
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[3]. Katie Funk Wiebe, “Me Tarzan, Son of Menno-You Jane, Mennonite Mama,” Journal of Mennonite Studies (Fall 1999), 15.
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[4]. A list of top ten books for December 2004 can be found on the Herald Press Web site: http://www.heraldpress.com/hpbest.htm. Obviously, we should not overstate the case. Many cookbooks are bestsellers because they are sold on the voracious cookbook market outside of the Mennonite community, whereas the Confession of Faith is usually sold only to Mennonites.
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[5]. Be Present at Our Table: 150th Anniversary Cookbook, Erb Street Mennonite Church, 1851-2001 (Waterloo: Erb Street Mennonite Church, 2001), 145.
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[6]. Sally Detweiler and Frances Stalter, Bread of Life: Cookbook from Roanoke Mennonite Church (Iowa Falls: General Publishing and Binding, 1973), 2.
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[7]. Pat Gerber Pauls, Canadian Mennonite Cookbook (Altona, Man.: Friesen Stationers, 1978), iii.
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[8]. Over the last few years, the Canadian Mennonite has featured an occasional column entitled “Table Grace” in which contributors share recipes and tell short stories about food experiences. While interesting as bedside reading, these columns do not broach the substantive issues in any rigorous way. Yet this column seems to be the best example anywhere within Mennonite publications of an attempt to regularly cover this topic.
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[9]. Claude Lvi-Strauss, “The Culinary Triangle,” in Food and Culture: A Reader, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik (New York: Routledge, 1997), 35. Lvi-Strauss goes on to explain the “culinary triangle” in which binary oppositions (normal-transformed; culture-nature) are revealed by the ways in which humans transform raw foods into either cooked foods (smoked, at best) or rotten foods (boiled, at best) through the cooking medium of air, or of water.
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[10]. Mary Douglas, Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), 249.
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[11]. Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell, Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 5.
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[12]. Wade Clark Roof, “Blood in the Barbecue? Food and Faith in the American South,” God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, ed. Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy (New York: Routledge, 2001), 109.
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[13]. Ibid., 118.
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[14]. Ibid., 120.
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[15]. Mary MacDonald, “Food and Gender in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea,” Journal of Ritual Studies 14:1 (2000), 24.
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[16]. Ibid., 30-31.
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[17]. Philip P. Arnold, “Religious Dimensions of Food: An Introduction,” Journal of Ritual Studies, 14:1 (2000), 4.
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[18]. Ibid., 5.
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[19]. Pamela Klassen, “What’s Bre(a)d in the Bone: The Bodily Heritage of Mennonite Women,” MQR (April 1994), 229-247. Obviously, Klassen’s work predates the specific “cookbook gauntlet” thrown down by Katie Funk Wiebe in 1999. Without trying to figure out whose was the “first real challenge,” it is sufficiently provocative for our Mennonite community to acknowledge both the individual work of each of these two scholars as well as the more collective experience of Mennonite women from which they emerge.
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[20]. Ibid., 245.
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[21]. Ibid., 241.
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[22]. Ibid., 246.
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[23]. Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen and John M. Janzen, Mennonite Furniture: A Migrant Tradition (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1991), 8, 11.
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[24]. Linda Boynton Arthur, “Cloth, Constraint, and Creativity,” Conrad Grebel Review (Fall 1999), 32.
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[25]. Donald B. Kraybill, “Modernity and Identity: The Transformation of Mennonite Ethnicity,” Mennonite Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988), 158.
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[26]. Ibid., 157-158.
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[27]. Ibid., 165.
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[28]. Calvin Redekop, “The Sociology of Mennonite Identity: A Second Opinion,” Mennonite Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, 192.
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[29]. Ibid., 55.
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[30]. Alan B. Anderson, “The Sociology of Mennonite Identity: A Critical Review,” Mennonite Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, 200.
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[31]. Duane K. Friesen, Artists, Citizens, Philosophers. Seeking the Peace of the City: an Anabaptist Theology of Culture (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000), 67-68.
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[32]. Ibid., 67.
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[33]. Ibid., 139.
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[34]. Ibid., 138.
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[35]. Neal Blough, “Postmodern Anabaptism Viewed from France,” Mission Focus 7 (1999), 9.
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[36]. Ibid., 10.
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[37]. Ibid., 11.
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[38]. Mary Beth Lind quoted in Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less Cookbook (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000), vi, viii.
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[39]. June Mears Driedger quoted in Longacre, More-with-Less, 199
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[40]. Christopher Marshall, “Following Christ Down Under: A New Zealand Perspective on Anabaptism,” Engaging Anabaptism: Conversations with a Radical Tradition, ed. John D. Roth (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001), 41.
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[41]. Carol Rose quoted in Longacre, More-with-Less, 10 and 286.
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[42]. Lois Shank quoted on Herald Press Web site reference for More-with-Less.
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[43]. Marlene Harder Bogart quoted in Longacre, More-with-Less, 52.
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[44]. LaVonne Platt is quoted on the Herald Press Web site: http://www.mph.org-/books/mwlcookb.htm.
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[45]. Sue Shantz quoted on Herald Press Web site. Another interesting example of this comes from a sermon by Alan M. Gates called the “Discipline of Simplicity,” in which he identifies how the More-with-Less Cookbook challenged his family to think about what is enough: “I suppose every household has its favorite cookbook. In our house that’s The More with Less Cookbook, a practical collection we’ve been using for twenty years. But we’ve learned to make a small adjustment in every recipe. Whenever the recipe says, ‘Feeds ten,’ we find it feeds six. If it says it feeds six, the four of us polish it off easily. The More with Less Cookbook was written by Mennonites. We have concluded that Mennonites eat less than we do. We read the bottom of the page, ‘Feeds six,’ as ‘Feeds six Mennonites,’ and we infer that four Episcopalians will be satisfied! The question is, do the drafters of this cookbook really have smaller stomachs than we do, or in the overall simplicity of the Mennonite lifestyle, have they simply accustomed themselves to being satisfied with less? And then we ask: what other appetites besides food have we allowed to grow so far beyond the necessary'” This sermon dates from March 25, 2001 (Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Ill.) and can be found on the Internet at www.chslf.org/sermons/3_25_2001_sermon.
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[46]. Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia article on “Nonconformity” can be found at http://www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/n651me.html.
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[47]. Paul Longacre quoted in Joetta Handrich Schlabach, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1991), 7.
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[48]. Title page of Extending the Table.
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[49]. Schlabach, Extending the Table, 7.
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[50]. I have encountered this story in a number of places. Reta Derksen recalls how “Oma told us that families leaving communist Russia took along toasted zwiebach in their baggage. This bread gave sustenance for the difficult journey to freedom.”-Canadian Mennonite (March 12, 2001), 8. Jack Dueck tells the story of a Mennonite man who, in the midst of the Revolutionary violence, experienced a profound communion with a Russian servant as they knelt in a barn eating a zwiebach.-Mysteries of Grace and Judgement [videorecording] (Kitchener, Ont.: Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, 1996).
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[51]. Wilma Toews described how the zwieback and coffee combination functioned “as the medium of fellowship and expression of hospitality.”-Wilma Toews, “It Wouldn’t be Sunday without Zwieback,” Mennonite Life (January 1948), 42. In Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia: Volume I (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1990), 33 and 36, the zwiebach is identified as “the hallmark of Mennonite baking, the Mennonite bun.”
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[52]. The story told by Elfrieda Dyck can be found in Norma Jost Voth’s Peppernuts: Plain and Fancy (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1978), 61. A similar story is told about Tina Epp who, during the hard times of Christmas 1881 in the Russian colony of Chortitza, woke up in the middle of the night to hear her mother baking peppernuts. Lacking everything else, they knew that the peppernuts would ensure that they could have Christmas after all. This story is recounted in Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia, 1: 366.
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[53]. Phyllis Pellman Good, Cooking and Memories: Favorite Recipes from 20 Mennonite and Amish Cooks (Lancaster, Pa.: Good Books, 1983), 39.
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[54]. Frontispiece of The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes (Steinbach, Man.: Derksen Printers, 1982).
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[55]. Mary Emma Showalter, Mennonite Community Cookbook (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1992), x.
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[56]. Be Present at our Table, 145.
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[57]. Klassen, “What’s Bre(a)d in the Bone,” 242.
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[58]. Voth, Mennonite Foods and Folkways, 30.
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[59]. Ibid., 143.
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[60]. Ibid., 158.
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[61]. Edna Staebler, Food that Really Schmecks: Mennonite Country Cooking (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968), 117.
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[62]. Canadian Mennonite Cookbook, preface to 1965 edition.
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[63]. Don Augsburger, introduction to Fellowship Cooking (Goshen, Ind.: North Goshen Ladies Fellowship, 1965), 2.
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[64]. Nelson Kanagy quoted in Bayshore Mennonite Cookbook, ed. Sue Collins (Sarasota: Christian Women’s Fellowship, 1970), 4.
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[65]. Harley Stucky, The Centennial Treasury of Recipes: Swiss (Volhynian) Mennonites (North Newton, Kan.: Mennonite Press, 1973), 5.
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[66]. Good, Cooking and Memories, 68-69.
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[67]. Edna Ramseyer Kaufman, Melting Pot of Mennonite Cookery: 1874-1974 (North Newton, Kan.: Bethel College Women’s Association, 1975), 16.
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[68]. Klassen, “What’s Bre(a)d in the Bone,” 242.
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[69]. Voth, Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia, 2: 6.
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[70]. Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman, From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1984), 9.
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[71]. Ibid., 11.
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[72]. Mildred A. Martin, Anabaptist Cookbook: Recipes from Many Lands (Minerva, Ohio: Christian Printing Mission, 1994), 70.
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[73]. Recipe Book Committee of the Traditional Mennonite Cooks, Grandma’s Cooking (Clearbrook, B.C.: The Committee, 1984), 198.
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[74]. In this respect, we cannot overlook the astute observations of Emerson Lesher: “the more expensive the ingredients, and the more exotic-sounding the name, the greater the possibility that Muppies will eat it. It is just as important for Muppies to have croissants for breakfast as it was for their grandparents to have had shoo-fly pie”-Emerson L. Lesher, The Muppie Manual: The Mennonite Urban Professional’s Handbook for Humility and Success (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1985), 60.
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[75]. Susan Kalcik, “Ethnic Foodways in America: Symbol and the Performance of Identity,” in Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity, eds. Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 41.
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[76]. Daniel Sack, Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 222.
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[77]. Ibid., 7.
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[78]. David E. Sutton, Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory (New York: Berg, 2001).
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[79]. As this essay goes to press, a new Mennonite Central Committee project is nearing completion: a cookbook called Simply in Season: Celebrating Local Foods and Seasonal Eating. Through stories and “whole foods” recipes, Simply in Season will explore how the food we put on our tables impacts our local and global neighbors, and will emphasize the importance of eating local, seasonal and fairly-traded food. More information about the project can be found at www.morewithless.org. Publication is scheduled for the summer of 2005.
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[80]. It should be noted that foodways are often carried by oral culture. In the absence of physical cookbooks, recipes and cooking practices were, and often continue to be, communicated from one generation to the next by word of mouth. This constitutes a whole area of potential research. Voth’s Mennonite Foods and Folkways provides important background information about how many women used to cook by memory, with handwritten notes used only sparingly as an aid. Sometimes recipes would contain only a list of ingredients with no specific measurements or instructions. In oral interviews with women, Voth notes how recipes turned into “long, rambling narratives” in which the women “cooked by feel, touch, and taste, not by precise measurements.”-Voth, Mennonite Food and Folkways, 2: 274.
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[81]. Christine D. Pohl, “Hospitality, a practice and a way of life,” Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology (Spring 2002), 38.
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
The Kitchenhood of All Believers
MQR 79 (April 2005)