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Two more cooks blogging their way through MPN cookbooks

   
 
   

Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publishing Network joint release
February 5, 2010
-John Longhurst

WATERLOO, Ont. and SCOTTDALE, Pa. — Wendy Hammond is doing it to discover simple ways of preparing local, healthful foods.

Emily Welty is doing it to get a break from her studies, and to honour her grandmother.

Valerie Showalter is doing it to learn more about being a Mennonite, and to connect with her mother.

What are they doing? Blogging about cooking recipes in Herald Press cookbooks.

Hammond, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was the first up; a story about her effort to cook all the recipes in Simply in Season was written in October, 2009. Now she has been joined by Welty, of London, England, who is blogging about her efforts to cook through Extending the Table. Showalter, of Lancaster, Pa., is doing the same thing with the More-with-Less Cookbook.

For Welty, a PhD student at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the project is a way to take her mind off her dissertation, which focuses on Mennonite approaches to peace building and development, and to honour her grandmother who died last summer.

“After her death I found myself with a kitchen full of her cooking utensils and the legacy of her kitchen skills—but no real cooking skills of my own,” she says. “This project is partly a tribute to her, a way to make sense of my own grief, and a way to celebrate her life.” 

Welty isn’t committed to completing the project in a particular timeframe.

“There are a lot of other deadlines in my life, particularly related to my PhD,” she says. “Adding another one would only create more stress. But I do try to cook one recipe a week.”

The blog, which she started in November, 2009, was never part of her plan. “But as news spread about the project, I started receiving lots of emails from people who wanted updates on my progress,” she says. 

At first, she worried that the blog would add more pressure, but the opposite has been true. “The fact that people are checking on my progress is actually proving to be really encouraging,” she says. 

Welty’s blog  can be found at extendingthetable.wordpress.com  

 
   

A Way to Learn About Mennonites, Connect with Her Mother

For Valerie Showalter, a member of the Akron, Pa. Mennonite Church, blogging about her effort to cook all the recipes in the More-with-Less Cookbook stems from her interest to understand Mennonite history and traditions through food.

“History books aren’t the only way to learn about being Mennonite,” she says. “Mennonite cookbooks also can teach us about who we are as Mennonites, what we value, and how we have changed over the years.” 

Showalter points to the changes she’s found between cookbooks like the Mennonite Country-Style Recipes to books like More-with-Less, Simply in Season and Extending the Table.  

“These books show the shift to a more globally-focused and health-conscious diet,” she says.  

At the same time, the project is enabling her to be more connected to her mother, and to cooking traditions passed down through her family and church. 

“My mother used More-with-Less a lot when I was growing up,” says the 25 year-old. “Cooking through it now is a way for me to learn more about why she cooks the way she does, and what the book meant to her and her generation.” 

As for the experience of cooking through More-with-Less, Showalter says she’s making some changes to the recipes. 

“I try to use less sugar, white flour, meat and fat,” says Showalter. “I tend to prefer a healthier product, especially in baked goods. I try to use about half whole wheat flour, or other whole grains, extra seeds, nuts, dried or fresh fruits to boost the fibre and vitamin count.” 

Like Welty, Showalter didn’t set out to create a blog. But as word about the project got out, she decided to invite others to follow along. 

“People are excited to see someone trying these recipes,” she says of response to the blog. “My friends tell me their moms used to make these recipes when they were growing up. They say that reading about it reminds them of the comfort food the enjoyed growing up.” 

At the same time, the interest also shows “how interest in cooking well and living responsibly is still valued by a new generation today,” she says. 

Showalter’s blog is at morewithlesscookbook.blogspot.com.

A story about Hammond’s blog can be found at www.mpn.net/news/october09/newblog.html, or visit it at thelocalcook.com.

Information about Herald Press cookbooks can be found at www.mpn.net/simplyinseason

Herald Press is the book imprint of Mennonite Publishing Network, the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and  Mennonite Church USA.