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Newton woman to share her “Mennonite culinary journey”

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The movie Julie and Julia and a love for good food has inspired a Newton woman to embark on a culinary journey of her own.

Ellen Awe is documenting her adventures in a blog called “A Year of Mennonite Cooking.” She will share her experiences in cooking, eating and writing at a Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program at Kauffman Museum on the campus of Bethel College Aug. 1 starting at 3:30 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

The foundation for Awe’s journey is the Mennonite Community Cookbook, first published in 1950 with over 435,000 copies now in print. Awe inherited her copy of the cookbook from her maternal grandmother, Ida Kauffman Yutzy, a conservative Mennonite from Plain City, Ohio.

Awe says she has fond memories of her Grandma Yutzy with her full apron, housedress and white head covering. Yutzy used the Mennonite Community Cookbook for many years and hand-wrote more recipes in the now tattered and stained 60-year-old copy that Awe owns.

The Mennonite Community Cookbook was truly original – its author, Mary Emma Showalter (Eby), included recipes gathered from multiple streams of Mennonite theology and ethnic backgrounds. Showalter selected more than 1,100 of the 5,000-plus “Favorite Family Recipes” submitted from Mennonite communities throughout the United States and Canada.

One hundred and twenty-five Mennonite women noted for their excellent cooking contributed instructions for tantalizing dishes representing old Dutch, German, Swiss and Russian kitchens. Showalter introduced each chapter with her own nostalgic recollections of cooking in her grandmother’s day, punctuated by wonderful “old-time” illustrations by Naomi Nissley.

Awe, who teaches at a Catholic school and is married to a non-Mennonite, strives to keep the “family meal” alive and is committed to preparing healthy meals that use local produce. But a recent rebirth of appreciation for her cultural and spiritual background has led her to a “journey through the land of cream, lard, noodles and corn” as she reads her grandmother’s Mennonite Community Cookbook and revisits recipes from her past.

From her first blog on December 26, 2009 (“Scramble,” from a Grandma Yutzy recipe), to a July 2010 posting on “Peach Skillet Pie,” Awe will talk about her recipe selections and inspirational experiences. Audience members will also have an opportunity to share their favorite recipes and cooking memories.

The Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program accompanies the special exhibition “Beloved: Artwork by Kristin Diener” in which many pieces refer to the artist’s Amish and Mennonite heritage.

For more information on the Aug. 1 program or the “Beloved” exhibition, contact Rachel Pannabecker at (316) 283-1612.

Kauffman Museum, located on the Bethel College campus at 27th and North Main Streets in North Newton, is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its Web site,

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