I am a Mennonite. If you’re not sure what this means you can click here to see what Wikipedia has to say about us Mennonites, or if you’d like to skip the read, Dan’s definition of Mennonites is ‘watered down Amish’. If you go with Dan’s definition I would just like to clarify the image that pops up in your mind – we drive normal cars, women wear jeans and trousers just like most other women else in Canada, and we don’t live on colonies. We actually resemble the rest of the society around us and are quite ‘normal’.
Being Mennonite probably means lots of different things to different people. For me, being Mennonite is about culture. It’s about the stories of our great grandparents immigrating from eastern Europe, the way a group of Mennonites suddenly get very lively when their conversations wade into Plautdietsch (Low German), the way Mennonites always love to figure out if they know people who are related to each other, it’s about family values, a history of living off the land, hardworking people and food… Rich, creamy, fatty, heart-attack-inducing food.
A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to try making a traditional Mennonite soup, komst borscht (cabbage soup). I love to cook, but Mennonite recipes have never quite made it into my repertoire. This could be because I enjoy coming back home to Winkler and having Mennonite food, it’s food I associate with being here, but mostly because Mennonite food (I think) was made for the historic Mennonite – those who work 16 hour days farming, planting vegetable gardens, canning enough food to last you through the winter, cutting down trees, parenting eight children, and sewing all your daughters matching floral dresses. These days, Mennonite food should only be eaten once in a while as the thick pastas, potatoes, dense sausages, red meat all covered with thick creamy gravy (schmaunfat– yes, the word ‘fat’ is actually in it’s name!) can’t be justified on a regular basis. Eating the potato, bacon and cheese perogy with schmaunfat more than once every six months must be fairly sinful.
Today I finally made my komst borscht. I cracked open my mom’s Mennonite Treasury cookbook and attempted my first Mennonite food. I tasted it just before supper and thought it was a total flop. It wasn’t nice at all. But, it said to add ‘heavy cream’ just before serving so with much guilt I poured whipping cream into my soup. I kid you not, it transformed my soup from something awful to the soup of my childhood. It wasn’t amazing but it was good. My dad (100% Mennonite) gave it a 9 out of 10, which I think we can all agree is pretty great.