Learning more about Mary Emma Showalter from a friend and former neighbor

P1090147Doris Risser Miller Rosenberger

What kinds of things have you learned or appreciated from friends or fellow cooks? For instance, maybe those who handle surprise guests for dinner with ease—without a run to the grocery?

Doris Risser Miller Rosenberger was a next door neighbor and good friend of Mary Emma Showalter, the author and compiler of Mennonite Community Cookbook. Doris counts it a privilege that Mary Emma and Mary Emma’s eventual husband Ira Eby, were neighbors in Park View here in Harrisonburg for a number of years. MaryEmmaShowalterHomeParkView

Doris lived next door to Mary Emma in Harrisonburg, who lived in this house.

Last year when the 65th Anniversary edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook came out, Doris responded briefly with a comment on the MennoMedia blog that she had lived next to Mary Emma, and shared some highlights and memories. Since she now lives at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) within walking distance of Herald Press, I knew, as editor of that new edition, I wanted to pay her a visit and finally made time to do that recently.

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Doris learned a lot from her friend and neighbor Mary Emma, especially in the way of cooking and hospitality. For instance, Doris learned that it was ok when having company to fix a simpler meal, such as just soup, and maybe a salad or bread. You didn’t have to prepare “the whole nine yards” –meat, starch, vegetable, salad and dessert, as many of us grew up having.

Mary Emma also tried to religiously follow her own self-imposed “rule” of fixing a meal from whatever she had on hand—even if last minute guests were coming. The temptation is always to make a quick trip to the grocery, but that ends up in extra expense, food on hand, and time. It may have taken a little more work to scrounge and figure out how to work around a missing ingredient or staple, but Mary Emma took it as a personal challenge to manage dinner for company without going to the grocery. And Doris enjoyed Mary Emma’s example!

Doris also reflected on the college students that Mary Emma consistently had in her home for six weeks or more as they learned about “setting up housekeeping,” looking ahead to their future roles in family and community: how to make and keep a budget, getting chores done, shoveling or arranging for snow to be shoveled, fixing dinner and doing laundry, all the while accomplishing their other school work. “That couldn’t have always been easy or comfortable to have students living with you so much of the time,” Doris noted, “but it was another example of Mary Emma’s willing and giving spirit.”

She remembers when Mary Emma finally got married much later in life, she confided that she had grown lonelier as she got older. She shared that earlier, her career in teaching and administration and managing a popular cookbook was very fulfilling. So adding a step-family of three children was a big adjustment “but over time she endeared herself to her step children,” said Doris. As a neighbor, Doris knew some of the trials Ira’s children experienced in moving to Harrisonburg while they were still in high school or just starting college, coming from a very conservative church in Hagerstown and wearing cape dresses (for the girls), when that style of dress wasn’t as common at their (Mennonite) schools in Harrisonburg.

P1090144Doris’s own creativity blossomed in the realm of making beautiful and artisitc hand-made braided wool rugs, and she allowed me to take numerous photos of rugs she had made in recent years since moving to Park Gables at VMRC about 15 years ago.  For many years she made rugs for a part-time income, but now she mainly makes a few rugs to donate to MCC relief sales or other charity fundraisers.

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Doris’s handmade braided wool rugs; one she made
brought $825 at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale in 2010!

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Doris’s favorite recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook? Hands down, she loves and has always used the Basic Roll Recipe (p. 4 in most versions)—which she also frequently makes for benefit sales. They usually sell almost as soon as they are put out on a table! She feels their extra good taste and texture stems from the recipe using milk and eggs. Doris also now often subs in a cup or a cup and a half of wheat flour rather than all white flour—and the rolls still turn out great. She uses the roll dough to also make cinnamon buns.

BONUS! Doris allowed me to borrow her copy of a Showalter family history book titled, “A Family Home,” compiled by Andrew Jenner, a former photographer and reporter for the Daily News Record in Harrisonburg. Here are two lovely professional photos of Mary Emma with all of her eight siblings and her parents at two different points in life, not seen before on this blog. (Photos courtesy of Doris Trumbo. Click to enlarge).

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Above: The Showalter family of parents plus nine children, about 1930.
Back row left to right: Mary Emma, Jacob, Carl, Howard, Owen.
Front row: (father) Howard Daniel Herscus Showalter (HDH), Ethel, Jim, Kathryn, Doris and (mother) Flossie.

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The Showalter family with nine adult children, 1945.
Back row: Carl, Mary Emma, Howard, Jacob, Owen, Kathryn, and Ethyl.
Front row: HDH, Doris, Jim, Flossie.

We thank Doris for giving yet another window into the life and times of Mary Emma Showalter from those privileged to know and live with or near her!

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Basic Roll Recipe (from Mennonite Community Cookbook)

2 cups milk
5 tablespoons sugar
5-6 cups flour (Doris uses 1- ½ cups whole wheat flour)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup shortening
1 yeast cake or packet (softened in ½ cup warm water)
1 egg (optional)

Scald the milk and add shortening and sugar.
When liquid mixture is cooled to lukewarm temperature, add yeast that has been dissolved in ½ cup lukewarm water.
Add 3 cups of flour and beat thoroughly.
Set sponge [the yeast and liquids and 3 cups of flour combined] in a warm place for 30 minutes or until light.
Beat egg and salt and add to sponge along with the remaining flour.
Knead until dough no longer sticks to the board or fingers.
When dough is light, cut into small pieces and shape into rolls.
Brush with fat or butter and let rise until light.
Bake at 400-425 degrees until a golden brown (15 to 20 minutes).

Makes approximately 2 dozen medium-sized rolls. (Original from Mrs. John W. Gingerich, Wellman, Iowa.)

Purchase copies of Mennonite Community Cookbook here.

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Share your own story of remembrance of Mary Emma, or about ANY of the many women who contributed recipes to this heirloom volume!

Mennonite Community Cookbook Peanut Brittle

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Do you like to make (or just eat!) peanut brittle at Christmas?

Thelma Swartzentruber shared some memories of her mother’s contributions to Mennonite Community Cookbook on Facebook earlier this year, but many may have missed them there. So we thought we’d highlight them here on the blog.

This also gives us a chance to highlight a recipe for Peanut Brittle—a treat many of us enjoy or make at Christmas if no other time of year. The recipe for Peanut Brittle in Mennonite Community Cookbook was contributed by Thelma’s mother, “Mrs. Paul Maust,” on page 445.

Thelma WROTE: “Your article brought back memories of how my mother received her cookbook. She was one of those who collected recipes for Mary Emma Showalter. This is the story my mother told me:

‘[As part of her master’s work] Showalter needed to test X amount of recipes and was also required to publish [something]. So she combined the two and did the cookbook.’

“I don’t read that in the cookbook, but I do read the part mom told me, about Showalter writing to people all across the country and asking them for recipes. Mom was one of those who collected recipes for her and was rewarded by receiving a free cookbook when they were published. I remember the day our cookbook came in the mail.

“Mom’s recipe for peanut brittle is on page 445, Mrs. Paul Maust. We used the Ice Cream Candy recipe to make taffy (p. 442) and also a favorite cake recipe was the Devil’s Food Cake (p. 208). In May 2015 we [celebrated] our 50th anniversary. On our wedding day we received a Mennonite Community Cookbook as a wedding gift from a friend with this inscription inside the front cover: ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ The cookbook is very soiled and taped but sure brings back memories.”

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Here’s Thelma’s mother’s recipe for Peanut Brittle as it appeared in the 1950 version and the 2015 edition.

Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup white syrup [Karo]
½ cup water
3 cups raw peanuts
1 teaspoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar, syrup and water.
Cook to the soft-ball stage (236 degrees).
Add peanuts and melted butter and continue cooking until syrup is a golden brown (290 degrees.) Stir during last few minutes of cooking.

Remove from heat and add soda and vanilla.
Stir until mixture thickens.
Pour into buttered tins and break into pieces when cold.
If roasted peanuts are used, add to syrup before removing from heat.

Recipe originally submitted by Mrs. Paul Maust, Montgomery, Ind. and  Mrs. M.T. Brackbill of Harrisonburg, Va., (who was the photographer for the original and longstanding photos used in the cookbook).

Thank you, Thelma, for sharing your story and highlighting this wonderful recipe for some good old fashioned homemade peanut brittle! Perhaps mix some up this weekend?

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And remember, the Mennonite Community Cookbook special 65th anniversary edition is still on sale until Christmas 2015 for 30% off! Stock up for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries to come!

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Mennonite Community Cookbook’s Vanilla Pie (Better than Shoo Fly?)

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Is it shoo fly pie or is it vanilla pie? You decide.

That shoo fly pie is associated with Mennonites, Amish, and in general plain people, is undeniable. What’s not so clear is how widespread is the love? (No pun intended.)

Pennsylvanians from Mennonite, Amish and other backgrounds from Anabaptist-related groups are frequent fans. But growing up in Indiana in a Mennonite home and church, I never tasted shoo fly pie until I went into Mennonite Voluntary Service with three Pennsylvanians in my unit/housing. Then I became a fan of the milder versions of shoo fly pie.

As I looked for a recipe I might like, someone mentioned Mennonite Community Cookbook’s recipe for vanilla pie. Vanilla pie? I had heard of wet bottomed shoo fly and dry bottomed shoo fly, but vanilla pie? What was that?

Eureka. There on page 382 of most editions is a recipe for this pie (and you’re getting the recipe here free, below). I’ll also include my tweaks and additional directions in italics, because these older cookbooks–even as good as Mennonite Community Cookbook is, are kind of lacking in the “extra” comments and directions that some of us love and need.

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I think the only reason this is called Vanilla Pie and not Shoo Fly is because this uses vanilla! Otherwise, they are very similar.* There is also flour, egg, and brown sugar in the gooey part for this recipe, which softens the strong taste of the pure molasses, sorghum, or dark Karo or (or whatever you use). Someone also suggested King Syrup is less bold and more agreeable for newbies. (I also suggest reading the whole recipe plus directions before beginning.)

VANILLA PIE

Bottom part:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (I used 1/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup light corn syrup)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Top part:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pastry for 1 (9 inch) crust

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Thickening the gooey part.

Combine ingredients for bottom part and cook until thickened. [The thickening took awhile! Stir almost constantly. Also, a blog post at Our Heritage of Health recommends making your crumbs first–see directions below–so that the molasses part doesn’t lose frothiness while you mess with the crumbs.)

Pour into unbaked pie shell.

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Pastry cutter to make crumb topping.

Top with crumbs made by combining sugar, flour, soda, baking powder, and melted shortening. (I did not melt the shortening. That didn’t sound right. I cut it in with a pastry cutter–or use two knives–to make a traditional crumb type topping.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  (I wish I had taken mine out at no more than 40 minutes, it looked a little brown, but it depends on your oven.)

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Makes 1 (9 inch) pie.

From: Mrs. Amos Leis, Wellesley, Ontario, Mrs. Noah Hunsberger, St Jacobs, Ontario, Mrs. M. C. Showalter, Broadway, Va. [no doubt a relative of Mary Emma’s. Can anyone confirm?]

I shared with our office staff who seemed to enjoy it–especially those who were accustomed to the strong taste of molasses. One said, “I don’t usually like shoo fly pie, but this is good.”

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That’s good enough for me. I did not have one crumb to take home. One grateful service-minded co-worker even came back to wash the pie plate for me. Now that’s appreciation.

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What is your favorite recipe for Shoo Fly Pie? Have you tried the Vanilla Pie? Any additional suggestions or tweaks? We welcome any and all feedback, photos of your attempts, someone eating a pie??

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*If you have an older version of Mennonite Community Cookbook, I noticed the ingredient list for Shoo Fly Pie changed fairly significantly somewhere between 1950 (my copy) and 2015, the current edition. Does anyone know when??

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To buy a copy of Mennonite Community Cookbook 65th Anniversary Edition, check here. It includes a fascinating 12-page historical section.

 

 

MelodieDavisBlogPhotoMelodie Davis, Managing Editor at Herald Press and sometimes food blogger at www.findingharmonyblog.com 

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 …

How a Mennonite college student earned a year’s tuition selling Mennonite Community Cookbook

Summer’s here. Know any students looking for summer jobs?

The summer when Mary Emma Showalter’s now classic Mennonite Community Cookbook was released in 1950, various college students sold the cookbook as a way to make money for their college expenses.

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Eugene Souder

Eugene Souder was one such entrepreneur who had about 15 young women and men selling cookbooks under his loosely organized effort.

He says the John C. Winston Company, (publishers in conjunction with the early “Mennonite Community Association” in Scottdale, Pa.), put out a notice that they were looking for someone to round up students, who could sell the cookbook to acquaintances, church members, friends, or neighbors—and perhaps door-to-door. “I don’t think I saw that initial notice put out for sales reps, but someone recommended me. So they came recruiting me,” recalled Eugene in a phone interview recently.

“It was simple—I had one or two meetings of interested persons at Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU), inviting them to earn some extra money that summer.” Eugene himself was between his junior and senior years of college. For all who know Eugene, most would agree that the “e’s” in his name stand for entrepreneur par excellence. He reflected, “It was fun to recruit. That was basically all I had to do. I got a commission off of each sale, and the total that year was enough to cover my expenses for my final year of college.” Eugene added that he didn’t sell more than five himself, and that there were more women than men selling the cookbook.

Dan Hertzler, a classmate of Eugene’s and former editor of Gospel Herald, recalls that a year at EMC at the time cost $550, with a $100 discount for Bible majors. While Dan was later connected with the Mennonite Community Association and has long been associated with Scottdale, Dan didn’t help sell the cookbooks.

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Eugene Souder, second from left, in the early days of the Crusader’s Quartet, with Roy Kreider, Paul Swarr, Aaron King.

Eugene confesses he didn’t sell many himself because he was heavily involved in a budding men’s quartet at EMC that went on to help launch the long running Mennonite Hour radio program in 1952, which led to the whole international Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc.  organization—(which eventually became Mennonite Media, which joined with Mennonite Publishing Network to form MennoMedia in 2011. A quick mini history, more here!)

“So that summer of 1950, I didn’t really have that much time to actually sell; I was surprised at the good return for my time,” Eugene says. The cookbook initially cost $3.50 for the plain edition; a deluxe “chapter tab” edition was $4.50. “They were very fair in the commission they paid me.”

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Crusaders Quartet in later years: Aaron King, Eugene Souder, Paul Swarr, Roy Kreider.

Eugene went on to a long career as a pastor, graphic designer, and founder/editor of at least three church magazines: Our Faith, Together, and Living. Living is the only one still alive—and I’m the editor. You might guess that Eugene recruited me for that job, so I know what a good convincer he is!

Jay B. Landis, a former professor in the English language and literature department at EMC, was one of those who sold the cookbooks. But neither Jay nor Eugene remember it being through Eugene’s circle of sellers. “I sold a few—maybe to my mother and a few others,” Jay confesses. Jay was just out of high school and working a full time job to make money for college, so his involvement was definitely limited.

Jay and his wife Peggy now live in the home where Mary Emma and her eventual husband, Ira Eby, lived in Harrisonburg. When Peggy was an officer of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community Auxiliary, she offered a dinner for their annual auction: a meal at their home with recipes cooked from Mary Emma Showalter’s cookbook, including the famous seven sweets and seven sours. “Some of Mary Emma’s nieces and nephews were the eventual recipients of the dinner, and during the course of the evening, we read several of the essays Mary Emma included at the beginning of each chapter of the book,” Jay recalls.

Eugene summarized his experience of earning enough money for a whole year of college as “The easiest money I ever made. Sometimes it is surprising what good things come your way.” Like other students of his time, he graduated debt free.

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We would love to hear any stories from others who were involved in “selling Mennonite Community Cookbooks” in the early 50s! Most sellers would be in their mid to upper 80s by now. Do you know anyone? A parent or grandparent? Let us know!

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Mennonite Community Cookbook made a great shower or wedding present in the 50s. It still does! Order here.

Melodie Davis
Managing Editor

Home cooking Mother or Grandmother might have loved: Dried Beef Gravy

What’s for Dinner? Blogger Marian Beaman Serves Up “Pennsylvania Dutch” Dried Beef Gravy

 

Reposted from “Plain and Fancy” Blog (

“Just two generations ago, preparing meals was as much a part of life as eating,” so says Mark Bittman in an article entitled How to Eat Now published in the October 20, 2014 issue of TIME magazine. Although a recent Harris poll reveals that 79% of Americans say they enjoy cooking, probably most get at least a third of their daily calories outside the home. Bittman goes on to show how easy it is to get a nutritious home-cooked meal on the table and includes 3 simple recipes: Vegetable soup which borrows from the freezer aisle, a whole roast chicken with garlic and lemons, and skillet pear crisp recipe which makes for easy cleanup.

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My mother cooked two main meals every day. I could count on the fingers of one hand the times we ate in a restaurant. Her recipes were hearty, reflective of the Pennsylvania Dutch cooking she grew up with, never skimping on the butter.

When I came back from Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, I brought on the plane frozen ham loaf and chipped beef. After the ham loaf is thawed, it’s a cinch to pop it into the oven and serve in a few hours with virtually no prep time.

Preparing chipped beef gravy though, while not enormously time consuming, does require assembling ingredients: dried/chipped beef, butter, flour, milk or cream, and a touch of pepper and then stirring in a skillet on the stove.

Last Wednesday, I pulled out my trusty Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter, a book of 1100 favorite recipes gleaned from Mennonite families all over the United States and Canada. Usually, I use Mother’s recipe in my head and knowing the ingredients for what she called dried beef gravy, I add a hunk of this and two cups of that: “just what you think” as she used to say. This time though I will follow the cookbook’s recipe for creamed dried beef, which I see browns the beef with the butter.

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RecipeDriedBeef

Next I assemble all of the ingredients and fire up the stove, beginning with melting butter in a hot skillet.

butterMelt

Adding the dried beef to the melted butter sends a hearty aroma throughout the kitchen. Then, sprinkling flour over the butter and beef, I create a roux to which I slowly add milk. Depending on your sensitivity to calories, you could use water, milk, or cream. I always use milk. Keep on stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and thick.

Dried Beef+ButterFlourStir

Finally, your creamed dried beef, which Mother always referred to as dried beef gravy, is ready to serve over toast, over mashed potatoes, as you wish.

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Typical Menu

Dried Beef Gravy over Mashed Potatoes

Garden peas

Applesauce

Mark Bittman would probably raise his eyebrows over the amount of butter and flour in the creamed dried beef recipe. And of course this menu is heartier than his lower calorie menu of vegetable soup, roast chicken with pear crisp but, oh, is it delicious!

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For years I thought of creamed dried beef as a Pennsylvania Dutch dish. After all, it appeared on page 58 of the Mennonite Cookbook, 1972 edition. Recently, my sister-in-law Terry told me her mother made the same recipe when she was growing up in California.

How about you? Did you enjoy creamed dried beef (or a variation) growing up? Is this recipe part of your cooking repertoire now?

Inquiring cooks want to know. . . 

Vintage Potluck Dishes (Adapt-a-Recipe to Make Healthier)

Do you like to cook from vintage cookbooks? The staff located at MennoMedia/Herald Press offices in Harrisonburg, Va., recently had a “vintage potluck,” preparing dishes from two now-classic Mennonite cookbooks, Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter and Mennonite Country-Style Cooking by Esther Shank (both Shenandoah Valley, Va. natives, by the way.)

We enjoy a once-a-month potluck on various creative themes. Here’s a partial list from this past year:

  • From the Garden (vegetarian)
  • Wish I Was There (foods from travels)
  • It Came From Beyond (any way you want to interpret that)
  • I Know It’s Only Soup & Roll, But I Like It (soup and breads)
  • Christmas Party (needs no explanation, right?)
  • Funeral Foods (foods often served for family dinners at memorials or funerals)
  • Do the Can-Can (Mystery Tin Can Swap)
  • Old Menno’s Cupboard (Recipes from vintage Herald Press cookbooks, focusing on Mennonite)

Isn’t that a great list? You got it here–free–to use with your small group, Sunday school class, or office! We brainstormed this list at a staff break. Management’s dictum related to potlucks is: no sign up sheets, no planning, involve the least amount of staff time possible.

But we have fun and eat well.

Last week for our vintage “Old Menno’s Cupboard” theme left the entire office smelling like a church fellowship hall. My personal favorite? Dried corn. That was the dish I requested every year for my birthday dinner. We dried the corn ourselves. Angela Burkholder, whose family also dries corn, brought the dish. Yum.

I’ll leave the dishes all a row here like at a potluck so you can enjoy them vicariously.

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Rice Vegetable Souffle from Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 129, prepared by Beth Nealon.
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Chicken Curry from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, prepared by Jerilyn Schrock.
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Dried Corn, Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 154, prepared by Angela Burkholder.
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Scalloped Corn, Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 151, prepared by Cindy Miller.
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Butterscotch Squares, Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 282, prepared by Melodie Davis.
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Banana Tea Bread, Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 12, prepared by Vica Shindyapin.
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Blueberry Muffins, Mennonite Community Cookbook, p. 16, prepared by Barbara Finnegan.
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Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, prepared by Lois Priest.
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Luscious Cherry Cheese Pie, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, prepared by Kimberly Metzler.

(Let us know how enjoying these dishes vicariously worked out for you. And contrary to what it looks like here, we have some awesome male cooks on staff who usually bring a dish.)

BUT! You might notice there are mostly main dishes and desserts here. No salads. No fruits really, except in desserts. And that could be a valid criticism of Mennonite Community Cookbook in 2015. You can find a few reviews on Amazon that worry about health consciousness in this cookbook.

That was vintage cooking in 1950 and earlier, when many of these recipes were popular and passed from cook to cook, from family reunion to church potluck to informal coffee or tea time in kitchens. Everyone knew how to prepare straight up vegetables, canned fruits, or simple salads, and so did not have, or use actual recipes for those items. I’m happy for how we eat in 2015.

And as Mary Emma points out in the introduction to her “Meats and Meat Dishes” chapter in Mennonite Community Cookbook, “The people who lived in houses that were inadequately heated, and who were up doing chores before the peep of dawn, required a heavier diet than we need today.” Grandfather butchered a beef on shares with a neighbor, six hogs, plus chickens as needed. “With such a bountiful supply of meat, it is no wonder that Grandmother’s menu could include scrapple for breakfast, meat potpie for dinner and fried ham for supper.”

And so we invite readers and fans of Mennonite Community Cookbook to submit your adaptations of these or other old family recipes to make them healthier for today’s families. March is National Nutrition Month and we’d love to share your healthy recipe on this blog, and our Facebook and Pinterest pages. Enter this contest by the end of March!

Directions: Send via Facebook, or by email: mennocooking@mennomedia.org. Our hashtag for all stuff related to the cookbook is #mennocooking.

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Winners (drawn from entries received) will get their choice of these popular cookbooks in paperback, each a $20-$30 value! Simply in SeasonMore with Less, Extending the Table,Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, OR Saving the Seasons. Our goal is to get you cooking, sharing and talking about Mennonite Community Cookbooks and all the many fine books for sharing food and faith from Herald Press!

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While we’ve begun featuring great food photography in our cookbooks, these photos could have definitely used some stylin’ as in the lovely food photography over at Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog. But trust us. Mouth-watering good was the word here, in spite of any deficit in the photos (hastily grabbed by yours truly).

Managing editor, Melodie DavisMelodieDavisBlogPhoto

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

What Would Mary Emma Showalter Say?

What Would Mary Emma Showalter Say?

By Melodie M. Davis

We’re having a blast—with Mary Emma Showalter’s mammoth cookbook rolling out again Feb. 2 in its 65th year! No retirement party for Mennonite Community Cookbook, no siree, Bob. We want to keep this brainchild of Mary Emma’s cooking for another 50 years, at least!

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This is what a shipment of 8000 pounds of cookbooks looks like!

So what on earth would Mary Emma say if she were still living? She lived long enough to know about computers and the Internet and online marketing—but she wasn’t around when Facebook first launched on college campuses across the land and then, quickly, became the go-to social media of choice, even for those in the 65+ age bracket (and now mostly abandoned by the college-age crowd). She would be amazed to know she’s on Twitter and Pinterest and yes, even Instagram, a bit.

But would she be supportive of these newfangled marketing efforts?

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Artist Naomi Nissley, left, and author Mary Emma Showalter inspect the first printing of Mennonite Community Cookbook, 1950.

I’ve gotten to know her a bit through all my research in the past year–in office files, interviews, the archives at Eastern Mennonite University Historical Library, talking to relatives, the husband of the illustrator, friends, and combing endlessly through past articles that she wrote or that were written about her (and you’ll hear more about all these in weeks and months to come). But there is one incident that tells me perhaps she would be a little put off at first, maybe even a little aghast, and then she’d dig in and do whatever needed to be done to help see her baby reach new audiences, new generations, new cooks—even though cooking has changed so MUCH in the last 65 years.

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Mary Emma serving tea–reprinted from The Way We Are: A Celebration of 75 years of Eastern Mennonite College.

That incident is told in the back of the new 12-page historical section for this book. So of course I can’t spill the cookies here, but it does have to do with baking lots and lots of cookies. Right at the end of the semester, when grades were due from professors, and what she, as head of a college home economics department, told the PR firm who requested the Mennonite cookies. And what they told her back.

If you love the cookbook or are fascinated by vintage Mennonite cooking or adapting recipes for your tastes today, or admit to being a bit of a foodie or love a good Mennonite potluck meal or reunion, you’ll love the stories in our new edition.

Mary Emma did put her foot down in response to certain promotional stunts. You’ll find that story too.

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Gravestone of Mary Emma Showalter Eby near Broadway, Va.

I’ve been in her former house. I’ve talked to her grad school roommate. I’ve devoured a historical piece about her written by a colleague. I learned she had a great sense of humor. I’ve cooked from her book. I’d love to take people on a Mennonite Community Cookbook tour and drop by her gravesite or at least pass by the outside of the home she lived in, where the original photographs for the cookbook were taken.

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The home Mary Emma was living in when the original Mennonite Community Cookbook food photos were staged, using beloved heirloom antique family dishes and place settings.

I don’t know for sure how she’d feel about the new edition and all the social media we’re going for here: the contests with weekly cookbook prizes on fun themes. I think they’d give her pause and then she’d say, if it keeps the book alive, if it keeps people eating more purposefully and meaningfully, go for it.

That’s just my take.

What do you think?

I know one thing. Mary Emma would have LOVED to see these photos below and hear the thoughts and memories so many people associate with their copy of Mennonite Community Cookbook. Below are just some of the cookbook covers sent or posted by fans and readers.

And before we lose you, if you want to get a copy of the new edition at a great 25% discount, for just $18.74 until Feb. 2, act fast, and go here, or call 800-245-7894. (Discounted price will appear in cart until Feb. 2, 2015.)

And get cooking to enter the current contest showing one of your fav recipes from Mennonite Community Cookbook: two drawings will be held, one this Friday Jan. 30, and one Feb. 6. More info here! Entries to be featured here on the blog in the future. Thanks!

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The remains of food stylist Cherise Harper’s mother’s #MennoCooking cookbook.

 

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The well used cookbook of Alma Unrau, head of customer service for Herald Press and MennoMedia.

 

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The still shiny copy of Sylvia Hertzler Saunders, which came from her grandparents in 1976 as a birthday gift.

 

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Wilma Cender shared the backcover jacket for the cookbook, which she received for a bridal shower gift from a special aunt and cousin.

 

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From Dorothy Friesen: This copy belonged to and was heavily used by a gay Mennonite couple in Chicago, who, not welcomed in the church gave it to me in the 1980s.

 

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Book belonging to Sue Stuckey, who says she’s excited to see the new edition!

 

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Amy Hertzler says: “My favorite cookbook! It was a Christmas gift from my great aunt, Florence E. Horst, in 1978.”

 

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Marian Thomas’s shot of “my beloved old friend.”

 

MelodieDavisBlogPhotoBlog post by Melodie M. Davis, managing editor for this edition.