Amy Harris-Aber


Mennonite Church; culinary; ethnic cuisine; German cuisine; verenika; peppernuts


Russian Mennonite immigrants who settled south central Kansas in the late 19th century and their descendants naturally developed a discourse community that differentiates them from the dominant culture in which they reside. Changing regional dynamics regarding diversity along with continued acculturation impacts this ethnoreligious community in a kind of dual displacement; the descendants of these Russian Mennonites not only live in the shadow of their ancestors’ collected memories and traumas related to migration but have and are currently witnessing further shifts away from the once agricultural lifestyle they previously observed. Therefore, heritage preservation is increasingly vital for stakeholders engaged with the history of Anabaptist life in Kansas. This article elucidates aspects of the Russian Mennonite discourse community of south central Kansas by engaging with regional foodways as they appear in community cookbooks. Employing Anne Bower’s “cookbook narratives,” I explore texts that are representative of the Russian Mennonite community and assess the attitudes and assumptions each book exemplifies in regard to its intended audience. I also explore the positionality of these community cookbooks as important artifacts; community cookbooks in this region provide a history of women’s writing and exemplify how food traditions have altered throughout the decades. [Abstract by author.]