I am disappointed that your cookbook includes recipes for things like tacos. To me, that’s not Mennonite food. — anonymous comment on Mennonite Girls Can Cook
Herald Press recently published a beautifully illustrated book called Mennonite Girls Can Cook. As a Menno who loves good food, it’s hard not to like this attractive work by 10 very creative members of my faith.
Their use of the label “Mennonite” raises a question, however. Doesn’t this just add to a stereotype that Mennonites are fair skinned middle-class North American folks of Swiss, German, Dutch or Russian descent who live north of the Rio Grande?
The fact is that there are now more Anabaptists/Mennonites on the continent of Africa alone (nearly 700,000 according to the latest 2015 stats) than there are in Canada and the United States combined. And their numbers are growing far more rapidly than ours.
As another example of this growing diversity, there are more Mennonites on the subcontinent of India, some 250,000 in all, than there are members of our entire Mennonite Church USA, now well fewer than 100,000 in number and declining.
To be fair, the numbers of all Anabaptist-related groups in North America is more than 683,000. But oddly, Mexican and Central American Mennonites are officially counted with their South American counterparts rather than as a part of the actual continent they share with Canada and the U.S.
This is presumably because their culture, language and ethnicity are seen as being more similar to fellow believers farther south, but doesn’t this represent a subtle form of bias on the part of those of us of European descent?
I know the good folks who produced this cookbook in no way intended to convey any such bias. And the fact that they are dedicating all of their royalties to programs to feed hungry children is beyond commendable. I’m simply using this example to highlight an issue I feel deserves attention.
Or am I just being way too picky about such things?
Harvey Yoder is an ordained pastor and member of Family of Hope, a small Virginia Mennonite Conference house church congregation. He blogs at Harvspot, where this first appeared.