Food – Heritage, Sustenance, Culture, Celebration, Community

by Sarah Heffner, Mennonite Heritage Center

 Food is a daily and essential part of our lives. It touches on creation, celebration, and community.  Food is also a concern as extreme weather cycles and global strife impact the production of food and people’s access to adequate food. Global issues affect local food production and food consumption. Locally, 10 – 11% of Montgomery County residents experience some form of food insecurity.  

A new exhibit, Food: Our Global Kitchen will be on display from July 6, 2019 through January 4, 2020 at the Mennonite Heritage Center. The Opening Reception for the exhibit is scheduled for Sunday, July 28 from 2-4 pm. The exhibit features large-format, colorful exhibit panels created by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  Exhibit themes about the global food supply include Food Waste, Scarcity & Abundance, Crop Diversity, Trade & Transportation and the Future of Growing.

The accompanying exhibit, Food Heritage of Eastern Pennsylvania, depicts our regional food heritage. Raising crops and preparing and preserving food was, and still is, a keen reminder that we are dependent on the Lord for the harvest each year. Events like our Apple Butter Frolic are great fun, with the sampling of traditional foods and farming demonstrations, but events like that don’t always connect us to the realities or labor of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century farm families or what the loss of prime farm land to development has meant in the mid-twentieth century. The regional food heritage exhibit connects some of those dots.

The local food story will begin with that of the 17th-century Lenape people and continue with the stories of the 18th-century European immigrants and 19th-century farm families who raised and prepared most of their own food. Beginning in the mid-20th-century, the region experienced rapid growth and development, and, today, a minority of area Mennonites are involved in agriculture. There is, however, a resurgence of interest in locally grown food, seasonal cuisine, and environmental and social justice issues surrounding food production and distribution.

Programming accompanying the Food: Our Global Kitchen exhibit: 

  • Friday, September 20, 5 p.m. Traditional Foods Potluck, in partnership with Indian Valley Public Library. Bring a dish from ethnic cookbooks featured at the library. Preregistration required.
  • Sunday, October 27, 7 pm. Community Harvest Home service in the Nyce Barn. Speaker Nate Stucky, Director of the Farminary Project, Princeton Theological Seminary. Open to the public.
  • Friday, November 8, 5 p.m. “Mennonite Community Cookbook” Potluck celebrates this classic Pennsylvania German Mennonite cookbook. Bring a dish/recipe from the cookbook. Preregistration required.
  • Sunday, November 17, 2:00 pm: This Very Ground, This Crooked Affair—Historian and storyteller John Ruth will present his work on finding language and understanding around the transfer of the land between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers from native peoples to our Mennonite ancestors. Open to the public.

Thank you to the following congregations for their financial support for the exhibit: Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Franconia Mennonite Church, Plains Mennonite Church, and Zion Mennonite Church, and to our business sponsors; Alderfer’s Poultry Farm, Godshall’s Quality Meats, and Bauman’s Fruit Butters.