Mennonite cuisine refers to food that is unique to and/or commonly associated with Mennonites. Mennonites are a Christian denomination that came out of sixteenth century Protestant Reformation in Switzerland and The Netherlands. Because of persecution, they lived in community and fled to North America, Prussia, and Russia and groups like the Russian Mennonites developed a sense of ethnicity, which included cuisine adapted from the countries where they lived. Thus the term "Mennonite cuisine" does not apply to all, or even most Mennonites today, especially those outside of the traditional ethnic Mennonite groups. Nor is the food necessarily unique to Mennonites, most of the dishes being variations on recipes common to the countries (Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Latin America) where they reside or resided in the past. Mennonites do not have any dietary restrictions, found in some other religious groups. Some conservative Mennonites abstain from alcohol, but other Mennonites do not, with Mennonite distilleries existing as early as the late 16th century.
Types of Russian Mennonite Foods
Russian Mennonite cuisine combines features of various countries due to the history of migrations and most dishes would generally fall under the umbrella of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian cuisine. Common ingredients in Russian Mennonite dishes include cabbage, potatoes, sausage, and a range of dairy products. One common dish is zwieback, which is roasted and dried to become two-layered white buns. Zwieback can be stored for several months and was the main food eaten during Mennonite migrations. Other common dishes for Russian Mennonites include cottage cheese vereniki (a kind of pierogi or dumpling), chicken soup made with star anise, green bean soup, sunflower seeds or "zoat", a sweet fried pastry called roll kuchen, cold plum soup called plumemoos, pork cracklings or jreewe, perishki, dill pickles, komst borscht (cabbage soup), rice pudding, noodles known as kjiekle, a white cream gravy called schmaunt fat, waffles with a sweet white vanilla sauce, a fried sweet dumpling called New Year's Cookies, a sweet bread served at Easter called paska, and smoked pork sausage, commonly called Mennonite farmer sausage or formavorscht. Mennonite-style cheese is also famous worldwide. Queso Chihuahua or queso Chester are produced by Mennonites in northern Mexico and Bothwell Cheese is created by Mennonites in Manitoba, Canada. Mennonites also brought yerba mate with them from Paraguay to Canada.
Russian Mennonites also commonly participate in a late afternoon lunch called faspa, which usually consists of zwieback, deli meat, raisin buns, pickles, and cheese (especially cheese curds). This meal is easy to prepare and intended to give farmers a mid-afternoon lunch and Mennonite women a rest on Sunday.
Types of Swiss Mennonite Foods
Because they immigrated to North America much sooner than the Russian Mennonites, there are fewer identifiable dishes associated with the Swiss Mennonites or Pennsylvania Dutch. German beer sausage, schoofly pie, apple fritters, and Amish glazed donuts are a few notable dishes.
A variety of cookbooks have recorded and preserved Swiss and Russian Mennonite recipes. First published in 1960 by Steinbach, Manitoba's Derksen Printers, The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes (commonly called The Mennonite Treasury) popularized Russian Mennonite cuisine and is the third-best selling Mennonite book of all time, surpassed only recently by the writings of best-selling novelist Miriam Toews. The "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" series also popularized Russian Mennonite dishes, and the More-with-Less Cookbook is found in many Mennonite kitchens. The Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter was originally published in 1950 and features Swiss-German Mennonite recipes.
- Voth, Norma Jost, "Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, Volumes I", pp. 35-55. Good Books, 1990. ISBN 0-934672-89-X
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