For Outsiders: An Overview of the Mennonite Kitchen

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Mennonite Food.
As an outsider, I can’t offer much advice on how to cook it, what it’s called or why they eat it. What I CAN do is offer some advice on the inner-workings of the Mennonite kitchen and how to find your place in it.

First, you must be aware of two things:
1. All Mennonite Women Cook– Their self value, status and acceptance are all wrapped into cooking.
2. Mennonite Recipes are for Mennonites – Any Mennonite recipe you attempt will not turn out like it’s supposed to.

Immeasurably Good Food!
Immeasurably; as in there aren’t measurements. Ask someone for their wareneki recipe 
and you’ll get barely legible ingredients on a napkin, “Add some of this and a bit that”. In some situations it won’t be written in English. Your Menno-spouse will be expecting Oma’s wareneki. What he’ll get is a pile of floury/watery goo.

Ingredients.
Every Menno-Recipe begins with the same base ingredients, flour, salt, sugar, butter and/or cream.

And possibly a potato.

Somehow, Oma was able to create culinary art with these ingredients that all tasted different and amazing. You on the other hand, will have to figure out why yours is deplorable. Reasons can be:
– It was not made in Oma’s special pan from Ukraine.
– The word Oma attempted to write was not radishes but rhubarb.
– Your butter was not made with the cream from cow that ate on the east side of the field.
– Your butter made with cream from the cow that ate on the east side of the field was NOT collected in Oma’s recycled ice-cream pail.

The truth is, you’re unequipped for Mennonite cooking. It’s like finger painting the Mona Lisa with toothpaste and my nephew’s diaper. Forget it. You’re not Mennonite and you’re definitely not Oma.

Extreme Competitiveness Mutation.
Mennonites have a mutation – they are the most competitive group of people on the planet. Combine that with the fact that there is nothing more important in life than food and you get the most competitive arena on earth, the Mennonite kitchen. 
Mennonites might not endorse war but in the kitchen, all bets are off. And what weapons are used in Mennonite-war?

Recipes.

Mennonite women don’t share recipes; they carry them into battle. These weapons are used on all the major battlefields of life – Christmas, funerals and weddings. Mennonite women tell me I’m wrong. Although competitive, they protest there’s no secrecy about recipes or ingredients.

Liars. They are genetically competitive women who express love and devotion through food. The idea they would be secretive about their cooking success is not a leap. It’s genetically predisposed.

If you ask how Aunt Anna made her schmaudnt fat, she’ll smile ever-so-sweetly and offer vaguely, “Oh, take a lump of this and smidgen of that, Nah Yo!?”

Fantastic, another detailed Menno-recipe for your collection.

Don’t trust her. Aunt Anna will not give you her recipe. Everyone loves it. It was passed down by her mother on her death-bed, who got it from her mother on her death-bed, who got it from her mother right before hopping the last buggy out of Russia. How dare you ask close family relative for her schmaundt fat recipe. You might have married her favorite nephew. She might be the children’s god-mother. You did generously give Aunt Anna a kidney. None of that matters. The only woman getting Aunt Anna’s schmaundt fat recipe is the one who hears her dying words.425058_477815302248173_1518218279_n

Menno –Men have a great life.

I’ve noticed the only winners in this veracious war of recipes are the men. Extreme competitiveness in the kitchen results in extremely good food. These women are Oma’s in training. They can take the cheapest out of stock flour, cream and salt (they got on sale or free from a neighbor) and create food that would cause Gordon Ramsey to question his life’s work.

Forget the Mona Lisa. They finger paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

If Oma is Sacred, the Kitchen is Holy Ground.

You can’t cook and you need to be Oma’s best friend. If Oma is making cookies, you gather and put away her ingredients. If Oma is making bread, you wash her dishes. Don’t mess with the Mennonite system. You are there to serve Oma.

Mennonite Cookbooks are a Scam.

I’ve been given, bought and stolen Mennonite cookbooks. I’ve used them only to produce failures. These cookbooks are a Mennonite conspiracy created by women sick of neighbors and daughters in-laws begging for recipes. In true Mennonite form, they took the opportunity to make a few bucks.

Do you really believe these competitive, master- cooks got together and said, “Let’s take our most beloved, secret recipes given to us by our ancestors in the mother-country, and put them all into a book for the under mentally developed outsiders and Menno-competition to buy!”?

You fool. These cookbooks make barely edible food. They include the “box macaroni” version of gourmet Schmaundt fat but they’re not meals you would find in a respectible Mennonite kitchen. When I cook, my husband, Jon, usually responds with something super loving and helpful like, “Guess Oma was just special.”

…Go marry your Oma then!

It’s not you. It’s the cookbook’s and Aunt Anna’s fault.

Faspa.
My husband would never forgive me if I wrote a blog about Mennonite food and did NOT include something about Faspa. I don’t know
 what Faspa means but it must be something like, “cold sandwich parts” or “cake in a bowl”.

Because who wouldn’t want to eat cake with a spoon?

They will tell you it’s a meal but it’s not. It’s a Mennonite tea party. I can prove it..
1. Faspa is always eaten mid afternoon – English tea time.
2. There are dainties and finger foods.
3. There is tea and punch.
4. There is a serious lack of steak.

One year Jon was feeling homesick and asked me to plan a Faspa for his birthday. “So you want sandwich ingredients and bowl-cake?” I asked, obviously open to the idea. “No!” he was angry, “I want Faspa”.

I served pizza.

Mennonites & Coffee
Some like coffee, but most Mennonites drink tea. There is a Mennonite movement drinking something called “Yerba Mate”. It looks like it should be included in the Controlled Substance Act. I have no idea what it is but holy Mate, they drink a lot of it!

OUTSIDER, REMEMBER:

4. Faspa is a Mennonite Tea Party.

3. Your spouse will be disappointed when you make Manno-food. Make something else.

2. Don’t trust Aunt Anna.

1. Oma’s acceptance of you is more important than your spouse’s.

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9 thoughts on “For Outsiders: An Overview of the Mennonite Kitchen

  1. Pingback: Mennonite Hunger Games | danielcooleyblog

  2. I can’t make schmauntfatt for the life of me! I can follow my mother’s recipe but it is either is too salty, too thick or just too gross!
    All I know is my mom makes her with whipping cream or cereal cream not heavy cream. She puts in the flour and some salt to taste then some milk.and stirs until there is no lumps, and it isn’t too thick.
    And no one knows the measurements!!! Why?!

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  3. lol….too funny!!!…I was born Mennonite…married a Mennonite….so I guess I am going to remain Mennonite through and through??…can certainly relate to comments!!!

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  4. My schmauntfatt (cream gravy):
    NO flour; this is important to me! 🙂

    1/4 c. butter (real)
    1 c. whipping cream
    S&P to taste (I sprinkle it over
    Melt butter, add cream. Simmer together, stirring occasionally until thickened.

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  5. It may be hard for some folks to outright share recipes because we are so used to “eyeing” ingredients. I rarely measure, most of my stuff I just toss in, adjust etc. When people say how do you make it, unfortuntely yes, my response is generally “a smidgen of this, a bit of that..” It’s not competition–merely decades of cooking the same recipe over and over again. Also, you may want to ask around after church. Someone in your congregation is bound to have written a cookbook.

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  6. Mennonite food is indeed heavenly. I have not actually read this for myself, but my daughter, who served a term of service with MCC has… in one book she read while preparing to leave for her assignment, it is found to say that in a hostage situation or other crises, one should try distracting the offender(s) with food. This, apparently, been proven effective. It has, also, surely been proven at gathering events that if you cook it, they will come…church and MCC sales in point. Carbs, sugar, fat…what’s not to love?

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  7. What a fun blog 🙂 Just to clarify a few points that are true in my Mennonite world…. its the South American Mennonites that drink Yerba Mate…. we true Russian/German anscestral Mennonites love, love, love a nice cup of good coffee… to go with Faspa (which is buns, butter, cheese, jam, pickles and then some plautz). And… my husband, who is of Swiss Mennonite background, did not grow up with Schmauntfat like I did, but somehow (under my instructions) he makes it better than I do, which is a sore point in our marriage 🙂

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  8. I had to laugh at this! Being Mennonite up the wazoo except for one thing. ..I can’t speak low German and I think that may be a factor in some recipes turning out! 🙂

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  9. This is the way my grandma taught my dad who taught me how to make schmauntfat, it turns out great. I’m pretty sure anyone can do it (this is just one way to make it)-
    Step one: bake/roast a big salty ham (or lots of farmer sausage with a few holes poked in them) in a pan with high sides that you can also heat over a flame/on stovetop.
    Step two: remove ham/sausage from pan, leaving behind ALL of the gross burnt stuff and drippings in the pan. It’s pure gold.
    Step three: begin to heat pan containing drippings/burnt stuff over the stovetop, whisking in liberal amounts of heavy whipping cream- I can’t give exact measurements, but we usually add an entire 1 litre container for a big ham, more or less. You want a light-medium brown. I know that’s incredibly unhelpful. Continue to stir and boil, whisking cream and drippings constantly, for at least 5 minutes. Again, go with your intuition (sorry).
    Step four: strain out majority of clumps and serve with EVERYTHING

    I’m on my deathbed right now, which is why I feel like I can share this with the world. You’re welcome.

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