Two years ago my dad showed me Mujeres Flores by Eunice Adorno a photo book about female Mennonites in Chihuahua México. It blew my mind right away. I shouldn´t admit this but I´m obsessed with Mennonites. I´m very intrigued by the fact that they are almost like a secret community, they don´t mix with others, they don´t share their customs and rarely let strangers into their homes.
Mennonites came to America in 1871 settled in Canada originally but after the First World War they were forced to learn English and migrated to America. However, in the US they were persecuted for not enlisting in the army. In 1920 a group of Mennonites asked permission to the Mexican government and they were authorised to settle in Chihuahua. Despite the migrations the community remains with the same cultural identity as they did in the 17th century in Prussia. Mennonites were supposedly very good at hiding their most prized possessions. It´s rumored that they used baked bibles inside loafs of bread and sowed grains into clothing before traveling.
Luckly I meet Eunice and had the chance to ask her about the Mennonite women in her book. She also told me she had a Mennonite cookbook and a month ago she lend it to me. This cookbook belongs to a collection called Popular Indigenous Cooking published by the Mexican Council for Culture and Arts.
Food is a big part of the Mennonite identity, they have spent centuries preparing and perfecting the same recipes. They are famous for being great farmers and also for producing artisanal dairy products, breads and homemade cookies.
This cookbook written by Katharine Esther Emilia Renpenning Semadeni includes recipes for breads, cookies, soups and other dishes. The recipes have evident European influences, they all call for very few ingredients and have simple instructions. There is no doubt that these are true traditional recipes but the instructions are too simple. After reading the book I got the feeling that all the tricks they learned after centuries of practice were not translated to Spanish, they stay in the Low German dialect and are passed from generation to generation.