Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starting Simply

I spent an evening with Julie and Julia recently and was inspired by the love of food and the love of cooking that unfolded before me. I sat enamored and salivating on my couch. I loved this movie and admired the devotion of both cooks. What kind of culinary journey would I want to embark on? I remembered that I have in my possession, a copy of my grandmother's torn and tattered testament to all things deliciously Mennonite. The Mennonite Community Cookbook, original copyright 1950. My grandmother, Ida Kauffman Yutzy, used this cookbook for many years. My mother gave it to me many years ago after my grandmother's death. My mom had a newer edition and thought I might like my grandma's. This copy is falling apart and stained on pages of her favorite recipes. Inscribed on the covers and title pages are handwritten recipes, one of which I will share here.

A few words about the Mennonites. I am one and I realized recently, when asked to produce a cultural autobiography for a class, that being Mennonite is largely what defines me, Even though I teach at a Catholic school and most of my friends, including my sweet husband aren't Mennonite, it is largely what inspires and defines me. People who still think of Mennonites and Amish as one and the same, say "REALLY?" when they find out I am a Mennonite. They seem to just think I am the way I am because I grew up in the 60's. I wasn't old enough to have been a hippie then and all that irresponsible behavior wouldn't have completely worked for me. I have a proclivity toward appreciating the simple, and a heart for helping the needy. I believe in peace, love, food, and lots of good produce. I admit to a moderate thirst for red wine and lattes as well. My husband says I may be more of a "Starbucks Mennonite."

I have a recent rebirth of appreciation and fondness for my cultural and spiritual background. I strive to keep the family meal alive. So, I am starting out on a journey through the land of cream, lard, noodles and corn to revisit some recipes from my past. I have the memory of my Grandma Yutzy, with her full apron, housedress, and white head covering to guide me. Grandma was not warm, but she was kind and she always fed us well. She hummed hymns as she worked around her house. It is an honor to have her manual of love in food form, to be my guide for this year of Mennonite cooking.

My first recipe is not part of the cookbook, as most of my recipes will be, but is one that is written by hand on the inside cover page. I selected it because my own mother has made it for as long as I can remember as a special Christmas treat. This year I made it for the first time in my own kitchen. I called my mother to check on the kind of pan I was using and she reminded me of the baking time and frequent stirrings. "Every 15 minutes for 2 hours? Sounds like a commitment, " I said. The results are well worth it.

It is called Scramble. It is the best party mix I have ever tasted. I have always wondered if Scramble is the name my grandma gave it because I have never seen another recipe with this name.


2 lbs mixed nuts

1 12 oz. bite size shredded wheat squares

1 10 oz oat cereal

1 6 1/2 oz rice squares

1 5 oz pretzel sticks

2 cups vegetable oil

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1 T garlic salt

1 T seasoned salt

Miz all ingredients in a large roaster. Bake at 250 for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

That's right. two hours, every 15 minutes. Stir it sisters and brothers.

Peace be with you,



  1. Hi Hon,

    I second the recommendation for `Scramble' as I seem to be happy major recipient of said item ;)

    Your `sweet husband'

  2. Ellen, I am really impressed that you are doing this. My mother helped produce a fireman's cookbook when my sisters and I were young. She put one away for each of us and that is the one cookbook I go to for special recipies like party mix! Our mix does not include the rolled oats. It is our tradition to make the party mix while we trim the tree, and the way my husband eats it we are lucky if we have any left by Christmas. It's a good thing he is a runner! Any way I always admired the way your family all seemed to contribute to preparing the meal. I always hoped for that but my family always seem to leave me alone in the kitchen, probably for good reason.
    Good luck and happy cooking!
    Christine Tirotta

  3. I'm glad to see another cooking Mennonite girl. Are you following the "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" blog? You would fit right in!

  4. Heh, "Starbucks Mennonite." I like that.

    My Aunt Florence made a variation on this recipe and gave it out in foil-covered coffee cans every year at Christmas. She called it Chex Mix because those were the cereals she used.

    Anyway, I follow "A Year of Slow Cooking" and your blog came up on the list of suggestions when I Googled "A Year of" to see what else I could find. Mennonite cooking? Now that sounds interesting....

    I have old recipes and cookbooks from various Aunts and Grandmas, and I love the feeling of continuity they give me so I definitely understand your desire to do this. I look forward to reading more posts and finding more good, simple recipes.