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Hutterite Community Cookbook

Book review by Marion Mertz

Kant, Joanita. Hutterite Community Cookbook. Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books, 1990.


Judging from the appealing photographs in the Hutterite Community Cookbook, living in a Hutterite community and taking part in the communal three meals a day is an excellent way to good health. The photographs show healthy adults and children, old and young, bursting with a zest for life.

The Hutterites trace their origin to the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement, which began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525. These Anabaptists (rebaptizers) believe in voluntary baptism as adults. Persecuted in Europe, the Hutterites fled to America in 1874. They believe that living in community is the ultimate expression of Christian love. In addition to voluntary baptism as adults, the Hutterites believe in non-swearing of oaths, nonresistance, nonconformity to the world, sharing of all community goods, and obedience to all of God's commands.

Today there are approximately 35,000 Hutterites living in 374 colonies (Brüderhofs) in the Great Plains area of Canada and the United States. The colonies usually contain 70 to 150 people. When the colony grows too large to provide a sufficient amount of work for each member, it is divided and a new colony is formed. The colonies engage in large-scale agriculture on tracts totaling 3,000 to 10,000 acres, using the very latest field equipment and automated poultry and livestock operations. A preacher, selected by the men, is chosen as spiritual leader, and a steward is selected to supervise the labor force and manage finances. Supervisors are elected (both men and women) for each operation such as agriculture, manufacturing, maintenance, carpentry, cooking, gardening, teaching, etc. Work is completed by six o'clock in the evening. There is a one-hour rest at noon and no unnecessary work on Sunday. One half-hour worship daily and one and one-half hours on Sundays is required. Recreation consists of reading, walking, singing and visiting. Education in High German is provided by state certified teachers, ages six to fifteen. Higher education is deemed unnecessary.

Scrumptious, well-balanced meals are given in easy-to-follow recipes. If you are interested in preparing dinner for 85-100 people, recipes are available; if you wish to prepare for only six, that recipe is also given.

Sample menus for a week are provided by the Sunset Colony, Schmiedeleut. Special menus are given for weddings, Thanksgiving, and funerals. A separate section provides for canning meats, vegetables, fruits, and jams. Try some mustard beans, chokecherry jelly, or tomato ketchup. Interspersed among the recipes are accounts of the lives of members in the community.

Superb photographs by Victor Peters, Bernd Längin, Annie Griffiths Belt, Joyce Brown, and Dawn J. Ranck bring the book to life. Unfortunately, some of the photographs lack captions. The book includes an index and bibliography. The author, Joanita M. Kant, is Executive Director of the Codington County Historical Society in Watertown, South Dakota.

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