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Mennonite foodways are topic for 2013 Menno Simons Lectures

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A Canadian historian and professor will give what may be the first-ever Menno Simons Lectures at Bethel College to focus on food as a marker of Mennonite identity.

Marlene Epp, professor of history and peace and conflict studies and director of Mennonite studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario, will deliver the 61st annual lectures on the overall topic “The Semiotics of Zwieback, Sauerkraut and Spring Rolls: Mennonites and Foodways,” Oct. 27-29.

The schedule will deviate slightly from past lectures, with the first one being given in the afternoon rather than the evening and in a different location.

The first in the four-lecture series, “Eating Like a Mennonite: Food and Identity,” will be at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Bethel College Mennonite Church.

The second and third lectures will be Oct. 28. “Are We Eating ‘Just’ Food?” will be the convocation presentation at 11 a.m. “Eating across Borders: Mennonite Missions and Migrations” will be given at 7 p.m.

The final lecture, “‘Just’ Recipes: Re-reading Mennonite Cookbooks,” will be Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Lectures 2-4 will be presented in Krehbiel Auditorium in Bethel’s Fine Arts Center.

Opportunity for questions and discussion will follow each lecture. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Epp’s undergraduate degree is a B.A. from the University of Manitoba. She earned her M.A. from the University of Waterloo and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.

Her areas of research interest are Mennonite history, Mennonite women’s history, gender studies, history of immigration and ethnicity in Canada and, most recently, food history.

Among the courses she teaches at Conrad Grebel are what she calls “an eclectic collection, based on my research interests and training” and including a Mennonite history survey, A History of Peace Movements, Gender in War and Peace, Food, Culture and History, and Canada: The Immigrant Experience.

Her recent books include Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History (co-editor; University of Toronto Press, 2012) and Mennonite Women in Canada: A History (University of Manitoba Press, 2008).

To learn more about Epp’s interest in how food relates to faith and culture, see “Are we eating ‘just’ food?” from the September 2012 issue of Canadian Mennonite,

The John P. and Carolina Schrag Kaufman family established the Menno Simons Lectureship Endowment to promote research and public lectures by recognized scholars relating to Anabaptist-Mennonite history, thought, life and culture, past and present. Since 1997, the family of William E. and Meta Goering Juhnke has also contributed substantially to the endowment. Both families have their roots in the Moundridge area.

Not part of the Menno Simons Lectures but capitalizing on its bringing Marlene Epp to campus is the Mothering Mennonite Symposium at Bethel Oct. 26, coordinated by Rachel Epp Buller, Bethel assistant professor of art, Christine Crouse-Dick, associate professor of communication arts, and Jennifer Chappell Deckert.

The symposium is based on the book Mothering Mennonite (Demeter Press, 2012), co-edited by Epp Buller and with contributions by Crouse-Dick and Chappell Deckert.

Marlene Epp, along with presenters from the area and other parts of the United States and Canada, will be part of a day of readings, presentations, conversations and panel discussions on what it means to “mother” in a Mennonite context. Pre-registration is required – see the Mothering Mennonite Symposium Facebook page.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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