8 Great Reasons to Hang Out at a Mennonite Potluck

Mennonite Community Cookbook blog, Third Way website and MennoMedia/Herald Press (yeah, they’re all connected) recently sponsored a “Best Church Potlucks Ever” photo contest (ended June 15, 2015). Okay, it was mostly a ruse to be able to collect and share some great photos from across the Mennonite church on the topic of food. Mary Emma Showalter, who collected the original recipes for Mennonite Community Cookbook, would be thrilled!

The Bible is filled with stories of food and sharing meals—and many of us have experienced the deepening fellowship that happens around tables and food. Jesus made the breaking of bread and sharing a meal into something holy. Jesus’s last meal before his crucifixion, and his first meal after the resurrection, speak to us of the spiritual dimension of food—such a great and wonderful gift of our Creator God.

So we’ll offer a series of four photo essays over the next weeks on the topic of food, eating, sharing, and some great recipes.

First up, just for fun and compliments of a volunteer, Marcia Bauman Shantz from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, St. Jacobs, Ontario, are eight great reasons you just may want to hang out sometime at a Mennonite potluck!

WhoKnewPotluckCouldBeSoExhaustingEdited1. You might catch a snooze. Isaac, a child of St Jacobs Mennonite Church, catches an early nap after a church potluck. Who knew a potluck could be so exhausting?

2. Someone is guaranteed to give you a smile, with or withoutPotluckCarrotSmileEdited sticking a carrot in it, as Jonah from St. Jacobs does creatively here! And carrots star in Vitamin A: you get 203% of your daily requirement for this essential vitamin with one average carrot, while missing all or most of the baddies like sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

BlueberryKidSt.JacobsEdited3. Blueberry love. Kai can’t hide his love for blueberry pancakes at the church’s annual Shrove Pancake supper! At a summer potluck or picnic, you’re sure to get plenty of anti-oxidant-rich foods like blueberries! What’s not to love?  WebMD ranks blueberries the #2 food in nutritional quality.

4. Will you be my Clementine? Zoe sports a cute clementine nose at a churchClementineNoseEdited potluck (do we see a theme here, maybe even someone egging her on?). Easy to peel, clementines are now frequently offered with some “kid” fastfood meals and are juicy, sweet, and less acidy than oranges. Only 35 calories and 7 grams of sugar.

GrapeEyesEdited5. You might see someone who looks attractive, with or without real grape eyes. Here Tina models the grape eyes. Purple grapes rank #1 on WebMD in nutrition!

 

6. Young Mennonites can receive early training on theIceCreamConeSmushEdited Mennonite vice of choice, ice cream (and other dangerous desserts. Seriously.). Rumor is that at the Mennonite Convention USA in Kansas City this week, the bars will be empty and the ice cream shoppes will have lines stretching for blocks (pretty much the same thing happens at Mennonite Church Canada big get togethers too!). Here Levi demonstrates the ice cream “nose smush” at the church’s Saturday night campout potluck. The ice cream cones were stuffed with chocolate cake, then a layer of ice cream, then a little chocolate icing, as made by church camper, Elaine.

WatermelonLipsSt.JacobsEdited7. You might end up with watermelon lips! A cooperative Levi also models the newest look in wearable, tasty lipstick. (In case you think he looks like Kai, they are brothers.)

 

8. It is perfectly acceptable—even biblical—to take a Sabbath rest after lunch.BlueberryKidNappingEdited (And if you think the young man looks a little like the guy showing the blueberry love above (#3), bingo. Same Kai, when he was younger!)

 

All photos and some of the captions courtesy of Marcia Bauman Shantz, volunteer photographer for St. Jacobs. Parents gave permission for their child’s photo to appear here, but not for use elsewhere. Thanks for honoring our request.

For all of Marcia’s work and obvious potluck love exhibited by St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, we are awarding them the grand prize, one copy of the new 65th anniversary edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook. Other drawing winners, to be announced later, will receive their choice of five other Herald Press cookbooks.

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You can buy the Mennonite Community Cookbook 65th Anniversary edition here.

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Everyone’s a winner—both in the kitchen and nutritionally—with the lovely and updated new Extending the Table and Simply In Season cookbooks as well, with beautiful new food and recipe photography. Check them out too …

Things I Learned from Mary Emma Showalter Eby — by Rob Eby

A Tribute to His Mother

May 11, 2003

Robert Eby is the son of Ira Eby, who married Mary Emma Showalter after his first wife, (Rob’s mother), died. Mary Emma courageously stepped up to nurturing her instant family, and Robert, who was 11 years old at the time of the marriage, shares some fond and some less fond memories in this tribute he delivered at Mary Emma’s memorial service on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2003.

Before I give my formal presentation of my reflection and tribute to Mother, I’d like to add my anecdote to the many stories about the Mennonite Community Cookbook. When I traveled throughout the country and had occasion to visit in Mennonite homes I often saw a copy of the Mennonite Community Cookbook in the kitchen somewhere on the shelf or on a counter. On one occasion when the hostess realized that I was the son of Mary Emma Showalter Eby, the editor of the Mennonite Community Cookbook, she brought out her cookbook and had me autograph her copy. So somewhere in the United States there’s a copy of the Mennonite Community Cookbook with my signature in it.MennoniteCommunityCookbook_2015cover

When Dad announced to me, his 11-year old son, his intention to marry Mary Emma Showalter, I responded enthusiastically. It appeared that there were at least two personal benefits: Number one, she drove a 1959 Chevrolet Impala stick-shift, a Chevy Impala—I was impressed with that. And secondly, she was a teacher and I thought, “Oh good, she can help me with my homework.” So the first benefit, while seemingly important to a youngster, held only temporary significance. Shortly after I had learned to drive that stick-shift, my parents sold it and bought a Buick automatic shift. The second benefit proved to be more enduring. Beyond assistance with school-related homework, Mother contributed to my educational experience in multiple aspects.

One appropriate title for this reflection / tribute could be, “Things I learned from Mary Emma Showalter Eby.”

Mother may, unintentionally, have learned some things from me as well, particularly in the area of child rearing. During the initial phase of our relationship it appeared that, besides teaching by the textbook, preparing meals by the cookbook, and living by the Good Book, she also attempted conducting child behavior management by the parenting book. Occasionally when I dared to protest her disciplinary actions, she would reply, “The books say . . .” and then proceed to relate what she had extracted from one of those books. And I don’t remember if I ever stated it aloud, but I thought to myself, “Well, whoever wrote those books never met me!” As far as I was concerned those books were long overdue for wholesale revision!

But as we became better adjusted to one another, however, I heard nothing more about the books. Perhaps Mother gradually recognized a place for latitude in her approach to parenting.

Along with Dad, Mother endeavored to instill in me a strong work ethic. Mother believed in starting one’s work early in the morning, or early in the day at least, to allow sufficient time for relaxation afterward. However, in order to reach that point of completion, it was necessary to execute each task with, as Mother phrased it, “with dispatch.”

While I do not consistently adhere to that philosophy, I certainly aspire to it.

Mother also believed in the quality of a task well performed. In my adolescence, one of my warm weather assignments was weeding and edging flower beds—a job I detested! More than once when Mother observed my mediocre work she stated, “What is worth doing, is worth doing well.” To that I retorted, “Well, this isn’t worth doing!”

I must have taken at least a decade to apply that principle of doing well, for it certainly did not reflect in my academic work. From grade school through college, I held minimal concern for academic achievement. I often remarked that I did not allow my studies to interfere with my education.

Mother coaxed, pleaded, scolded, and challenged me, and also reminded me that I was performing below my potential. Only during graduate school did I begin to prove the potential that Mother knew I possessed all along. The former reprimands gave way to encouragement and support.

Mother generously gave of herself and of her goods, as Catherine [Mumaw, who also gave a tribute] has already related. Mother also expressed her generosity through hosting and entertaining. As I assisted her with meal preparation I learned proper table setting and food service. One of various ways that Mother helped her guests feel at ease was her conversational skills. She seemed able to engage nearly everyone in conversation regardless of topic or field of interest. Mother utilized the art of strategically placed questions to lubricate interpersonal interaction. Her anecdotes and stories seasoned the verbal exchange, which seemed to complement her well-seasoned food.

Mother often hosted people from other countries and those who were in church-affiliated service abroad. From my exposure to those persons I gained a deeper appreciation for the richness of cultural diversity.

Mother and Dad’s souvenirs, photos, and accounts of their international travels also contributed to the expansion of my worldview. In a sense, I received a mini cross-cultural experience without leaving home. Mother’s affinity for nature and the arts seemed to further expand my horizons and heighten my awareness of beauty. Simply by being in her presence I learned to identify the variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs as well as the birds that either lingered or passed through the area. I gained greater appreciation for artists and the unique characteristics of their works.

It is possible that I may have been instrumental in the expansion of some of Mother’s horizons—most likely beyond what she would have anticipated. With the British invasion of the U.S. rock music scene in the 1960s, Mother received an initiation to the advent of the counter-culture revolution in which I participated.

Rob-singingSummertime-Rebirth-1972
Rob Eby, singing “Summertime” as a member of Rebirth band, 1972.

At first she resisted the longer hair, the alternative attire, and hard-driving, screaming electric guitars. I doubt that she ever learned to embrace that kind of music that I loved to play. However, it seemed that Mother came to accept my passion for performing. She and Dad eventually attended some concerts that my musical groups presented.

Rebirth-James-Rob-Dean-circa1972
James Krabill, Rob Eby and Dean Clemmer, circa 1972, in Rebirth

 

As Mother and I grew older and I became a more responsible adult, most of our overt conflicts dissipated. Our relationship evolved into more of a friendship. During the eight years prior to my moving out of state, I enjoyed my frequent visits with my parents on Sundays and occasional evenings. As I entered their home, Mother usually greeted me with a smile and a cheery, “Hello!” And following our visit as I took my leave she would say, “I’m glad you could come.”

MaryEmma-IraEby-wedding-family-Dec1960Edited
Phyllis, Ira, Rob, Mary Emma, and Eleanor, on the day of Ira and Mary Emma’s wedding, 1960.

 

When Mother consented to marry Dad, I wonder how aware she was of the implications of taking virtual strangers into her home. It must have been a high stress transition from single professional to married professional with the additional responsibilities of an instant family of four.

At that time I was oblivious to what difficulties Mother may have been experiencing. In retrospect I acknowledge and admire her for her courage, fortitude, and love.

And so on this occasion, and on this Mother’s Day, I make this tribute with gratitude to you, Mother, teacher, friend. You must have considered what you did worth doing. And you must have considered what you did for me and others worth doing. For you did it well!

I thank you, Mother, teacher, friend, and I wish you safe passage.

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The 65th anniversary edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook is available from the MennoMedia store, Amazon, and many other bookstores and websites.

The Artist Behind Mennonite Community Cookbook: Naomi Nissley

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We’ve given a lot of attention to Mary Emma Showalter in recent weeks with an article in The Mennonite about how she came to compile Mennonite Community Cookbook, our own blog post “What Would Mary Emma Say,” and ongoing tidbits on the Facebook page. Newspapers are running stories about the cookbook’s revival as well.

NaomiNissleyArtist Naomi Nissley

But a second major player in the success and look of this famous cookbook was artist Naomi Nissley.

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Both Mary Emma and Naomi were relatively young and new in their fields—in fact both were still graduate students as they worked on the book. The great part is that Naomi’s husband Alexander “Sandy” Limont is still living and happy to talk about the book, and has been most helpful in our research into the history of the book, the covers, and the artwork. I was able to ask him and Naomi’s brother some questions about Naomi’s life and process in working with Mary Emma in creating the signature look of Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Naomi went to Eastern Mennonite College for a time and her brother Lowell Nissley felt sure that was how Mary Emma was acquainted with Naomi and her artwork. He recalled that Naomi was offered the opportunity to receive royalties from sale of the book, but took a cash payment instead: likely a big mistake considering the longevity of the cookbook. But as a grad student she likely  needed the cash. He recalled Naomi as being self-depreciating but very enthusiastic about the opportunity to work on a cookbook of this scope. She couldn’t have realized at the time it would become the work for which she was most well known.

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Naomi worked in careful concert with Mary Emma, corresponding back and forth. In one case, a detailed letter from Mary Emma gave gentle nudges toward tweaking drawings to better match Mary Emma’s considerable vision and opinion.

LetterMaryToNaomi_sketch

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A grandmother, perhaps, at her spinning wheel

The drawings included the ordinary things of daily life, the quotidian (double click on any of these to get closer up),

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A woman kneading dough in a huge bin
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A grandmother at her cook stove

 

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A picnic on a farm

 

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A vegetable garden

 

and much more. Many were on-the-spot sketches drawn from Mennonite communities in central Pennsylvania.

P1060453Naomi’s professional bio includes that she dreamed of becoming an artist as a child, and studied painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). She enrolled at additional art and graphic schools and her work was exhibited by invitation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Yale and Rutgers Universities, and Tyler School of Fine Art, in addition to PAFA and others. She once wrote about her work, “For me art is a constant dialogue between experience and artistic creation.”

Her husband Sandy was also an illustrator and graphic designer. He worked as an art director for an ad agency for a number of years. They were married for 55 years until Naomi died in 2010 at age 91. She was a member of the Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster and the Germantown Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

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All of Naomi’s drawings that were used in the original 1950 cookbook are used in the 65th anniversary edition, published in February 2015.

Today I touched a bit of this history. In the humble way of an amateur blogger and photographer, I headed over to Eastern Mennonite University’s Menno Simons Historical Library, where I had made an appointment with the special collections librarian, Simone Horst, to haul out boxes of these framed and matted prints from the archives. Neither she nor I were sure when and why they were framed. Perhaps they were for a special display and celebration that happened at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pa., while Naomi was still living, when she was asked to sign copies of the cookbook for those who attended.

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The drawings are even more delightful in person than reprinted in the book. Perhaps we’ll have to work on getting these intriguing glimpses into heritage and history on display somewhere again.

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We’ll continue to share more behind-the-scenes stories, photos and looks that you won’t find anywhere else. So do share this with any of your friends who are Mennonite Community Cookbook aficionados so they can sign up to receive our periodic blog posts!

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Did you ever meet Naomi Nissley? Have a copy of the cookbook signed by her?

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Don’t miss the new edition: A great gift for any fan whose own copy likely looks like this.MarianThomas

Melodie Davis, Managing Editor

An Invitation to the Table


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The spread at the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding in 2013.

The release of the Mennonite Community Cookbook Monday got me thinking about my own background in Mennonite cooking. My grandparents’ house, just a mile away from where I grew up in Goshen, Indiana, has been an extension of home for as long as I can remember, and at the center of our home is food.

While Dad could whip up a mean stir fry and Mom was famous for her oatmeal dinner rolls and chocolate crinkle cookies, through my childhood it was Grandma and Grandpa Mast who were at the center of my food universe. They have helped with rehearsal dinner salads and roasts for my brother and cousins’ weddings, baked muffins for open houses, and hosted countless “Tuesday-night dinners” for anyone in town. Their hospitality and cooking abilities are both traditions I hope to maintain.

I have always regarded Grandpa as the king of breakfast. I can’t recall him breaking a yolk on an over-egg, even as he stacked it on a pile of Canadian sausages and pepper-potato hash. Whenever I’m back in town, I find my way over for a breakfast at some point, and I’m never disappointed.

My family enjoying our new aprons, made by my loving grandparents (front and center.)
My family enjoying our new aprons, made by my loving grandparents (front and center.)

Grandma can often be found in the kitchen as well, up to her elbows in her latest culinary project. She cans and bakes with as much ease as most of us breathe, and her basement pantry and freezer stores are testaments to her prowess: pickle jars, homemade ketchup, and canned peaches line the walls while frozen strawberries, blueberries or some extra gingerbread men saved for a surprise visit from a great-grandchild threaten to overflow the freezer.

My grandparents stick to some of the traditional Amish or Mennonite recipes which they grew up with, both coming from the Amish church. They also try new flavors and recipes from their favorite cooking magazines and shows. They have a shelf full of cookbooks that always seems to grow as more folks continue to experiment with and share their favorite recipes.

As a kid, it was easy to take this kind of culinary mastery for granted, as it was all I knew. And while it’s always a blessing to have great food to share, the best part of cooking is the community it builds, which is what Mennonite Community Cookbook is all about – creating family dinners, church potluck meals, or a gift of Christmas cookies. Food is about the relationships it helps create.

My brother and his wife after their engagement announcement.
My brother and his wife and raspberry cream pie (!) after their engagement announcement.

Looking at my brothers and me, it’s easy to see how this tradition of food and community has affected us, both in work and in relation to each other. Our best memories are formed around the table, with fork and spoon in hand.

In the coming weeks, we will share a number of stories, from both our blog writers and guest posts from others that involve Mennonite cooking and community. If you have interest in contributing, tell us your stories in the comments or send us an email about a blog contribution. You can also leave your story via voicemail using the tab on the right side of the page. If you’re interested in purchasing the Mennonite Community Cookbook, check out this link.    

Benblog image Mast is a writing intern for MennoMedia and Herald Press. He studies English and Writing Studies at Eastern Mennonite University.