My interest in Mennonite history is very new, and so my wonder at discovering Preservings at the Steinbach MCC perhaps caused some to roll their eyes — I mean, the publication has been right her under my nose for many, many years. Its existence is not news. But my awareness of its existence is still super-new.
And then I discovered something else too — there are new issues being released!
And then Issue No.37 ended up on our kitchen island — the very latest! Let’s take a look:
Inside the main cover, you’ll find that this issue focuses on ‘gardens, kitchens, recipes and remedies’. At the outset, just paging through, it seemed to me it’s a food issue. But it doesn’t take much inspection to see it’s so much more than that. Here’s why I love Preservings: the publication goes places that are a little off the beaten path, as far as conversation regarding all things Mennonite is concerned. I do enjoy pushing at the boundaries and looking a little deeper, below the surface. So no, it’s not a “food issue” as I first thought… in fact, I’m embarrassed that I had thought that. Let’s examine why ‘gardens, kitchens, recipes and remedies’ sums it up much better.
The 1551 Kreuter Buch in Katharina Thiessen’s Library
Katharina Thiessen was a famous midwife in the late 1800’s in Southern Manitoba, and she was prescribing remedies based on this German book of healing plants from the 16th century! This book was donated to the Mennonite Heritage Archives earlier this year, and “…it explains the power and influence of plants,” states David Loewen’s inscription. (Article by Paul Dyck and Conrad Stoesz)
The Lebenswecker (Life Awakener)
You know how if you stub your toe, you hit your thigh to distract yourself from the pain in your toe? Well, the “Life Awakener” takes that idea and compounds it… disturbingly. A device with many sharp points. “When I saw father bringing it out, I wanted only to be well,” reflects Bernard H. Pauls in his diary. The MHV in Steinbach possesses the Lebenswecker! (Article by Hans Werner)
Comical Remedies for Stomach and Ear Ailments
Klaas R. Friesen (1870-1942, of Friesen Machine Shop, on Friesen Ave in Steinbach) had a sense of humour, revealed in his journal of remedies… and concludes, “… if these remedies don’t help… well then I don’t know what’s to be done.” (Article by Ralph Friesen)
From ground cherries, to drying herbs, to “moon planting”. This is a beautiful article reflecting on Mennonite gardens, punctuated with conversational quotes from many different interviews, and beautiful photos of said gardens. (Article by Tracy Ruta Fuchs)
The Garden(s) of Riva Palacios: A History
Exploring of the gardens in Bolivia’s oldest Mennonite colony. The photos include peanuts drying in the sun, and cacti grown closely together functioning as a fence! (Article by Kerry Fast)
Mennonite Men Consider the Flowers
When I think of flowers and gardens, I think almost exclusively of my grandmother’s skill and passion for growing plants of all kinds. And entirely overlook my father’s care of his own flower beds, and how he treasured the ditch flowers. This article reminded me of how one-sided my memories have been… based perhaps on assumptions that flowers are the exclusive territory of women. (Article by Susie Fisher)
A Walk Through the Gardens in the Archives
Right now in the dead of winter, the concept of gardens almost feels like a fever-dream. Has there ever really been a time that plants could grow here? Or, anywhere? Stroll through the gardens of yesteryear and be consoled. (Article by Hans Werner)
Food and Spirituality
Daphne Thiessen writes, “I don’t like to be busy … I get overwhelmed when I’m constantly jumping from one obligation to another with no place to rest in between.” I identify so very very much. I’d say her article makes a good case for the slow food movement. (Article by Daphne Thiessen)
Immigrant Cooking in Mexico: The Mennonite Kitchens of Chihauhua
You guys. This article contains three recipes. I’d say that the awesome thing about Mexican Mennonite food is that, well, a lotta flavour is added (read: chilies). I shall be attempting the Russian-Mexican Beef Soup this week! (Article by Karen Hursh Graber)
(Vegetarian friends, look away! But also… you had to know this was coming.) The feature photo of a hog slaughter in 1913 Russia is a little macabre, with one carcass stretched out on a rack in the background, and another reclined front and centre. A child peers over the gigantic animal. A fellow on the right busies himself with the brandy. (Article is a translated excerpt from Arnold Dyck’s Lost in the Steppe)
Foodways – A Sustaining Memory (blogs & musings about Mennonite food):
Mennonite Waffles and White Sauce
A blog originally posted on www.mommymoment.ca, this includes recipes which are reportedly “very similar” to that which you’ll find at the MHV. I can’t wait to try these out and see for myself! (Article by Jody Arsenault)
The Manitoba Food History Project: Coming Soon To Steinbach
This is what you’d get if the two most-watched channels in our house (The Food Network and The History Channel) had a baby with a food truck. Look for the OHC Food History Truck coming to Steinbach, Winnipeg, and Grandview this fall! OHC stands for Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg, and they’re looking for people to interview about everything from the Mennonite Treasury Cookbook, to Not Edgars, to you name it! “Hop aboard the UW OHC Food History Truck with your bag of groceries. We’ll interview you while you cook a recipe that has meaning for you.” (Article by Janis Thiessen)
Ten Epic Mennonite Dishes We Wish Were Real
Wait what? YES! Andrew has been published in Preservings! I continue to be dazzled. I also continue to hope he’ll make the Cracklings Pizza for me sometime. (Article by Andrew J. Bergman @ The Daily Bonnet)
I can’t document every single thing in Preservings… but you gotta admit I sure tried. To pick up a copy all your own, visit the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg, the Mennonite Heritage Village gift shop in Steinbach, or Die Mennonitische Post on Main Street in Steinbach.
You know, I’ve just spent several weeks immersed in issues of Preservings from the late 90’s. Then suddenly today I’m reading through a 2017 publication, and I feel like I’m being jerked back and forth in time… and I’m loving it. (Plus, I’m doing it to myself. Andrew has pointed out to me that I could’ve been accessing back issues of Preservings online this whole time, right here. But personally, I do enjoy holding a printed copy in my hands.)