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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.