Do you have a cookbook memory that shoots you straight back to your childhood? I know I do. It’s The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes that held pride of place in my mother’s kitchen all my growing up years and beyond. I was surprised to find that this book, copyrighted in 1962, had three printings in a year and a half.
The original purpose of the recipe collection was to share recipes for “quantity servings” for conferences. My mom was head cook for a Bible camp for native children in Manitoba, Canada, in the late 60s, so these recipes for fifty dozen cookies, lemon pudding for 100, macaroni and cheese for 100, and others must have been very handy for her. At any rate, she made multiple notes in that section—and all others!
The bulk of the 224-page book consists of submitted recipes in many categories from breads to cookies to soups to candy to main dishes to “you name it” from Canadian Mennonite women. All throughout this book my mom handwrote in dozens more recipes she used often. She also taped in recipe cards and food articles clipped from newspapers. She liberally wrote in the margins, declaring some foods delicious while others were marked with an x. Most pages show flour, egg, or butter spatters. This Mennonite Treasury was treasured indeed!
The editorial committee also created a chapter with traditional Mennonite recipes from Russia, where this religious group spent many decades before coming to Canada in the 1800s. This chapter was included as a history lesson, as in the 60s processed foods were already creeping into Mennonite homes and recipes. The collaborators couldn’t think why anyone would go back to the old ways! The book’s introduction says, “Many of these (recipes) hail back from the days of want and austerity, and are no longer in use, but may be of interest for coming generations. . .”
My mom died in 2010, and one of the things that came to my house after that was her Mennonite Treasury. Not long after, a friend from church, sharing my Mennonite heritage, asked if I remembered Plumi Moos. Immediately I was a small child with long braids and wearing a dress and stockings. It was Sunday late afternoon, and a meal called Faspa was on the table. This light meal consisted of buns, meat, cheese, pickles, and a large bowl of Plumi Moos (pronounced PLOOmeh moose).
I hadn’t thought of this traditional fruit soup in a long time, but I knew where to go to find out how to make it! Only, which one of the half dozen recipes had my mom used? None of them looked exactly right. I contacted several of my cousins and got their mothers’ versions. I still wasn’t certain any of these matched my memories.
Eventually I blended several ideas and made my own version, using half a cup each of three kinds of dried fruit and simmering them in 2.5 cups of water until they were soft. Then I sweetened to taste using honey and added a dash of cinnamon and cloves. I mixed 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 cups of milk and added to thicken the moos. Served chilled, this has become a favorite breakfast in my home.
Truly this Mennonite Treasury of Recipes has a treasured place of honor in my kitchen, a treasure that can be handed down to my daughter and her daughters after her.
Valerie Comer‘s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their creation-care-focused church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Her first published work, a novella, was released in the collection Rainbow’s End from Barbour Books in May 2012. Visit her website and blog to glimpse inside her world.