THE COMMON THREAD

Part One

Note: I want to stress to all of my Sandychatter subscribers that I have only the greatest respect for ALL faiths and beliefs. It is not my intent to promote or criticize any of the religions about which I have written. However, I have always been intrigued with all religious beliefs, but especially those that played a part in the development of the United States. I hope no one is offended by an article “talking religion” – what I am hoping to convey is the impact all of these groups had on how and what we eat. Food was as important to them then, as it is to us, today. This, then, was the Common Thread.

When I first wrote THE COMMON THREAD for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, we didn’t have the luxury of the Internet—especially Google, which has become my most useful tool when determining whether any of the information I had collected in the 1990s is still relevant. Consequently, and much to my surprise, I found an interesting article by cookbook author Marion Cunningham, written for Saver magazine a few years ago. I also found an article she wrote for the Los Angeles times in 1991—both about the Shaker religion. Ms. Cunningham visited several of the still existing Shaker villages – one in Pleasant Hill, near Lexington, Kentucky, and another at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. I found it curious that someone else was writing about the Shakers and their cooking—around the same time I was originally writing The Common Thread. One comment that Ms. Cunningham made that really caught my attention was her opening remarks in Saver magazine, where she writes “I am a file keeper. Bulging manila folders hold a lifetime of clippings, recipes, brochures…” – you could have knocked me over with a feather! Ms. Cunningham was describing MY bulging files!–sls

They were searching for Utopia, or heaven on earth. Most of them came to this Promised Land, inspired by a quest for religious freedom. Still others formed religious communities that were the result of an intense religious revival that spread through many of the Midwestern states in the early 1800s.

In her novel “THE BELIEVERS” (published by Houghton Mifflin, in 1957), Janice Holt Giles wrote “…it caught from the passionate zeal of two brothers…and quickly, with the heat, the rapidity and intensity of a forest fire, it spread all over the State (of Kentucky), throughout Tennessee and on into much of the rest of the south. It was called ‘The Great Revival’.

“Such preaching,” she wrote, “…had not before been experienced and people were caught up in its emotional raptures, taken with the jerks and shakes, dancing like dervishes, speaking in unknown tongues, weeping, wailing, barking like animals, crawling, rolling, going into trances. So great was the interest, so fast the spread, that within two years, crowds of ten, fifteen, twenty thousand, were gathering for the revival experiences. It created schisms in established churches and created new denominations…”

This great revival attracted the attention of leaders of the Shaker Church; they sent missionaries to investigate.

“Eventually,” explains Ms. Giles, “two communities (i.e., Shaker Villages) were founded in Kentucky. One was located near Harrodsburg, on Shawnee Run. It was called Pleasant Hill. The other was west of Bowling Green and was called South Union.”
It was after reading “THE BELIEVERS”, one of my all-time favorite books, that I became interested in religious cults as they developed in this country, and to what extent they influenced the development of the United States.

The Shakers weren’t the only ones searching for Utopia, however. According to Mark Holloway, author of “HEAENS ON EARTH” (Dover Publications, 1966) there were many others; the earliest religious community of this type in America is thought to have been the Labadists of Bohemia Manor, in New York State, named for Jean de Labadie, one of the most famous dissenting preachers of the 17th century. There were Rappites and Zoarites, immigrants of German sects who founded their community in 1805 (The Rappite Society lasted 98 years, the Zoarites 83): there was the community of Oneida and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons, founded by Joseph Smith after he was visited by an angel for four years from 1823-1827; there were Amish and Hutterites, he Mennonites and the Inspirationists of Amama, a group that is with us today, having spent 170 years in successful communal living. Today, there are 1,450 members of this group, with 25,000 acres of land in seven different towns. They are all German and very prosperous.

Some of these religious communities, for a variety of reasons, splintered and fractured, and became other sects. Just as the Shakers were a splinter group from the Quakers, the Amish, Dunkards, Mennonites and Brethren were different sects among the Pennsylvania Dutch. Some came and went, hardly making a ripple on the surface of American history, others endured and prospered for a hundred years or more and a few are with us still today.

I have always found this particular subject fascinating—how the development of religious cults in this country influenced and helped develop the United States. For instance, did you know that the Shakers were the first to sell seeds commercially in this country? Not only were they first; their seeds were so superior that the Shakers became famous for them, enabling farmers throughout the country to grow better crops. They also invented numerous labor-saving devices for use in the kitchen and on the farm.

Now, I am not here to question whether any of these religious groups or sects were right or wrong in their quest for heaven on earth; what I would like to do, however, is explore a bit, and reflect on how these groups were formed and what part they played in the development of this great country. And then let’s see what kind of food they grew and prepared and what kind of cookbooks are devoted to them.

With the colonization of America, many groups immigrated to this country in search of religious freedom. Most famous of these, of course, were the Pilgrims.

Sometimes, communal living was initiated; sometimes for practical purposes, for survival and sometimes for religious reasons, to remain apart from “the world” and because of a belief in pooling all their resources for the common good. Mark Holloway tells us that even the Pilgrims at Plymouth made temporary experiments with communism for reasons of expediency. However, in the case of the Pilgrims, when the necessity for it had passed, communal living as abandoned.

The idea of communal living was not a new one. There were religious groups practicing communal living for hundreds of years in Europe. The earliest communistic society (in this interpretation, to mean any group of people who pooled all of their resources and lived and worked together, for the common good), of which there is any record is that of the Essenes, a Jewish sect, who flourished in Palestinian Syria sometime before the birth of Christ. They originated in the first or second century BC, and disappeared from bible history around the time of the Fall of Jerusalem In 70 A.D.. While they did not live together under one roof and were spread out in various towns and villages, the Essenes kept a rigid commune of property and followed strict religious observances. Like the Shakers centuries later, the Essenes practiced celibacy and counted on the continuation of their group through the adoption of children and converts.

Our intent, now, however is not to dwell on the history of the religious sects throughout the world but to remain focused on those that developed in this country, although nearly all had their roots in Europe and immigrated to the New World to escape persecution in their homelands. The Lutheran Anabaptists, the Mennonites and the Schwenkfelders all later established colonies in Pennsylvania and were to play an important part in the founding of American democracy.

By the nineteenth century, Mark Holloway tells us, vast numbers of religious sects were firmly established. In the course of the century (the 1800s) there were on hundred communities with a total membership of more than one hundred thousand men, women, and children. Some of their ideas were far more revolutionary than the democratic and working class movements in Europe that they were trying to escape. For instance, instead of trying to change society from within, they tried to set up models of ideal commonwealths, which they hoped would set examples to which the world would follow.

“The ideals they sought,” explains Mr. Holloway, “and often succeeded in achieving, included equality of sex, nationality and color; the abolition of private property, the abolition of property in people, either by slavery or through the institutions of monogamy and the family; the practice of non-resistance; and the establishment of a reputation for fair-dealing, scrupulous craftsmanship and respect for their neighbors” – all of this, bear in mind, taking place when slavery was becoming an accepted institution in this country, and women had no rights of their own, least of all the right to vote, and sometimes not even the right to own property.

Only a few of these communities lasted over a hundred years; many vanished within a few months of being founded. “But,” writes Mr. Holloway, “all have contributed something of value, not only to the fund of experience upon which succeeding experiments of the same kind have relied, but also to the history of American society. When they failed, going down before the advance of large-scale industry and scientific socialism, one of the most valuable qualities of revolutionary man suffered an eclipse from which it has not yet emerged. Socialists would be unwise to spurn the idealism which these utopians were endowed, for although it led them up strange backwaters and provided them with fantastic hallucinations, the heart of socialism lies in it. It is better, perhaps, to be slightly mad with a sound heart than to be sane without one”.

Of course, we know that not all of them failed and some of them are with us, flourishing, today. And even though many of these religious sects had different beliefs and practices, I did find a common thread that runs throughout most of these groups.

They almost all believed in good cooking. The exception may have been the Dutch-founded Labadists; according to Mark Holloway “(they)…began as a communistic settlement…newcomers were obliged to put all of their possessions and funds into the common stock…their meals began with chanting and ended with silent and spontaneous prayer. Men and women ate apart from one another. Any dish that excited or delighted the palate was forbidden, and anyone who was so foolish as to admit distaste for a certain dish was forced to eat it until his penance was complete. Household economy was so strict and the check on all individuals so detailed that a record was kept of how many slices of bread and butter were consumed by each person at each meal…”

Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the downfall of the Labadists, whose greatest distinction may have been being the first religious commune in the New World. Or it may have been because their leader didn’t practice what he preached—not only did he sell tobacco, although smoking was prohibited, he took up slavery and became a vicious slave owner. This leader of the Labadists died a rich man and was one of the first religious racketeers; five years after his death, however, the colony was extinct.

Interestingly, though, William Penn had met the founder of the Labadists, de Labadie, (not the leader who took up slavery in the new world) and even invited the Labadists to join the Quakers when Penn became the owner, sometime later, of a large piece of land midway between the New England and Virginia plantations, that had been named Pennsylvania in honor of his father. William Penn wanted to model his tract of land after Roger Williams’ Rhode Island (which Mr. Williams had created to offer religious freedom to ALL—a practice not being followed by the puritanical pilgrims), and so Mr. Penn invited persecuted sects of northern Europe to immigrate to this new land. Among those who gladly accepted were the German Quakers represented by the Frankfort Land Company; they bought from Penn a large tract of land. In 1683, the first group of immigrants founded Germantown. This group was followed by Mennonites and others, most of whom lived ordinary lives as settlers, marrying, and raising their families.

As a result of movements in Germany, small independent Baptist sects began to appear; they were not connected with the Mennonites or Anabaptists, but like them, they also immigrated to Pennsylvania. About 20 of these families arrived in Germantown in 1719 and soon formed the first German Baptist Brotherhood. This brought all the small Baptist sects together and they became known in the colony as the Dunkers, or Dunkards (from the German word DUNKEN, which means to dip, or baptism) and with them they brought their customs of the love feast, feet washing and the kiss of charity. Collectively, we know these people as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

William Woys Weaver (who, himself, is a direct descendant of Anabaptist martyr Georg Weber, and a member of an influential Mennonite family), in his fine book PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY COOKING, explains that the Pennsylvania Dutch are a composite of immigrants originating from four major regions of Central Europe; the Amish,. He says, only represent about 8% of the total Pennsylvania Dutch community.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, of course, can’t be lumped together as a religious group; however, within the group of people we know as the Pennsylvania Dutch, there were numerous religious sects. Perhaps the best-known of these are the Amish.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, says Mr. Weaver, are a people of many beliefs, of many lifestyles, but they share one thing in common – their cookery is the product of their land. He calls them America’s “farmers next door”, kitchen gardeners to New York and Philadelphia. He also explains that theirs is largely a cuisine of one-pot meals, fare that is designed around ancient dish concepts, to provide convenience and to strengthen the art of eating together at table. He also says that their best cookery is their most private cookery, for it is family-centered, a style of cooking that evolved out of sharing from a common pot. Weaver explains that their best cooks still cook at home, that the Pennsylvania Dutch never developed a restaurant culture to go along with their good home cooking.

It became apparent to me, as I researched material for this article, that I could have limited myself to the Pennsylvania Dutch and not gone farther afield, but if you want to learn a great deal about the Pennsylvania Dutch and their origins, you will have to get a copy of Mr. Weaver’s book “PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY COOKING” published in 1993 by Abbeville Press, Inc.

You may also own one of the many different booklet-style collections of recipes devoted to the Pennsylvania Dutch; I have several of these, the oldest with a faded green cover, published in 1934. In 1936, a replica of the older book was published by Culinary Arts Press. One feature of this booklet that makes it so appealing is that it contains, along with traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes such as scrapple and Schnitz and Knepp (a recipe of apples and ham), and the more famous Shoo-fly pie, a collection of poems and homespun philosophy. I found a similar booklet, simply titled “DUTCH COOKBOOK” by Edna Eby Heller, which was originally published in1953, and THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COOKBOOK” b Gerald S. Lestz, published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1970. The latter contains what the author refers to as “an informal history of the Pennsylvania Dutch” and also contains a chapter on the Amish. (booklets such as these often turn up in antique stores or in boxes of booklets being sold for ten or twenty five cents each in used book stores).

Dover Publications published PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COOK BOOK by J. George Frederick, in 1971; this is an unabridged republication of Part II, “COOKERY” of the PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH AND THEIR COOKERY which was originally published in 1946. I also found, wedged amongst other booklets on my shelves, a red-covered cookbooklet titled “COOKING WITH THE PENNSYLVIA DUTCH” published by the Auran Press of Lancaster, Pennsylvania—what makes this booklet a bit different from the others, aside from being undated, is that it purports to be a collection of choice old time home and farm recipes. (Since most Pennsylvania Dutch cooking remains traditional and old-fashioned, it’s hard to see how this differs from most other cookbooklets devoted to this region—I think many of these recipe booklets are the type you can purchase, inexpensively, when you travel through the region.

Yet another book—hardcover—is titled THE NEW PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COOK BOOK by Ruth Shepherd Hutchison, published in 1958 by Harper & Row.

However, one of the finer books about the Amish is titled “THE BEST OF AMISH COOKING” by Phyllis Pellman Good. Pay attention to this author’s name—she has written a number of very good cookbooks, including THE FESTIVAL COOKBOOK. Ms. Good is a native of Lancaster County, PA and edits books related to both the Amish and Mennonites. She is co-author if FROM AMISH TO MENNONITE KITCHENS and 20 MOST ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE AMISH AND MENNONITES.

My Michigan penpal, Betsy, who also collects cookbooks and has a keen interest in the Amish, provided the following list of cookbooks in her collection, which will give you an idea of what to search for:

THE AMISH COOKS ANNIVERSARY BOOK – Lovina Eicher

THE AMISHCOOK AT HOME also by Lovina Eicher*

(*Sandy’s cooknote: Ms. Eicher writes a weekly column that is in several US newspapers; to go website http://www.theamishcook. )
MENNONITE GIRLS CAN COOK – They also have a website

THE HOMESTYLE AMISHKITCHEN COOKBOOK by GeorgiaVarozza

LANCASTER COUNTY COOKBOOK – Louise Stoltzfus

FAVORITE RECIPES OF QUILTERS – Louise Stoltzfus

MENNONITE COMMUNITY COOKBOOK – Mary Emma Showalter

COOKING FROM QUILT COUNTRY – Marcia Adams

FROM AMISH & MENNONITE KITCHENS – Phyllis Pellman Good

TREASURED AMISH & MENONITE RECIPES – Mennonite Central Committee

SHIPSHEWANA COMMUNITY COOKBOOK – Indiana Amish Country

PLAIN COOKING – Bill Randle

AMISH COOKIng – a Committee of Amish Women

COOKING WITH MANDIE VOL 1 & W (She has a cooking column in The Budget, a weekly Amish & Mennonite newspaper)

HOME COOKING – Adams County Community Cookbook, Ohio

MORE TASTY RECIPES – Ladies of Maranathe Church, Dover Ohio

LITTLE COOKBOOK ON THE PRAIRIE – FROM LITTLE STORE ON THE PRAIRIE, Amish store in Decatur Michigan

AMISH QUILTING COOKBOOK – Quilt shop in Mt Hope, Ohio

COOKING WITH THE HORSE & BUGGY PEOPLE II – Amish Women of Holmes County, Ohio

SEASONED WITH POETRY, COOKED WITH LOVE, Dewey, Ok

TASTES OF TOWNLINE II – La. Grange. Indiana

AMISH COUNTRY COOKBOOK – Essenhaus Restaurant, Middlebury, Ind.

TASTE OF PINECRAFT – Amish Kitchens of Pinecraft, Fl.

COUNTRY FAVORITES, Middle Barrens School, Middlebury, Indiana

AMISHFRIENDS 1 & 2 – Wanda Brunsetter
http://www.amishrecipebox.com

Phyllis Pellman Good writes, “The Amish are a Christian group who trace their beginnings to the time of the Protestant Reformation in16th century Europe”. In 1525, a group of believers parted company with the established state church for a number of reasons. “Among them was the conviction that one must voluntarily become a follower of Christ and that that deliberate decision will be reflected in all of one’s life. Since baptism must symbolize that choice, the movement was nicknamed “Anabaptists” meaning re-baptism.

Eventually the group were called Mennonites after Menno Simons, one of their leaders.

Like so many others of their time, their beliefs were often misunderstood and frequently look upon as a threat to established religion—consequently, they were persecuted. In 1693, a young Mennonite leader believed that the church was losing some of its purity and beginning to compromise with the world—and so he and a group who agreed with him left the Mennonites and formed a separate following, which they called Amish, after their leader Jacob Amman. Today, the Amish consider themselves the most conservative of the Mennonites.

Most of the Amish who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s settled in the eastern portion of the state, but unlike other religious sects of this period, they did not live in sequestered communities; often they had neighbors who were not Amish. Also, it was not until the American Revolution that this group defined its beliefs and practices: it was at this time that they realized their objections to war and refused to take part in it. They also try to remain apart from a worldly society, preferring to farm and remain close to the land.

Some of the different sects among the Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish, have clung to old ways in dress and other customs. Old Order Amish, Phyllis Pellman Good tells us, do not own or drive cars. They live without electricity, have prescribed dress patterns, operate their own schools and speak Pennsylvania Dutch among themselves.

However, although they are highly disciplined and often thought of as austere, the two areas in which the Amish distinguish themselves are in their quilts and their food. They believe that to waste is to destroy God’s gift; to go hungry is to ignore the bounty of the earth—and that there is no reason eating should not be a pleasure.

I have discovered that many of the Pennsylvania Dutch foods and their method of preparation are as familiar tome as my grandmother’s kitchen, reflecting, I suppose, on my German Hungarian background. The Amish, for instance, are big on soups and one-pot meals, a kind of cooking I grew up with and frequently practice today (as I write this a pot of homemade beef and barley soup is simmering on the stove—my four sons grew up on a lot of one-dish meals.) Potato soup, Ms. Good tells us, still tops the list as the most frequently eaten soup in Amish homes. Some eat it with rivvels, (a kind of tiny dumpling made with flour and egg).

She says others flavor it with chopped celery and onion. Today, most people have never heard of scrapple –but my older sister made it frequently when she was alive. And the Pennsylvania Dutch practice of keeping a cruet of vinegar on the table, so you can splash it on vegetables (or in bean or pea soup) is practiced by most members of my family to this day and is as familiar to me as my grandmother’s kitchen table on Baltimore Street was, back in the day.

Most Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook authors agree that soups and one dish meals are a traditional part of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.

Ruth Hutchison, in THE NEW PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COOK BOOK writes “Soup was frugal, soup was filling. Whatever food was available could be dropped into the soup kettle, and soup with keep body and soul together for a while. Even if there was nothing but milk and flour to be had, they would make two kinds of soup: brown flour soup and RIVVEL soup. Milk, potatoes and onions would make two more kinds of soups: potato soup and onion soup. This is how the “milk soups” came into being. Sometimes the Pennsylvania Dutch called them “pour man’s soups…”

Along with pies, for which they have always been famous (and will eat even for breakfast), the Pennsylvania Dutch are renown for shoo-fly pie and apple pandowdy, apple butter andfritters, Philadelphia Pepper-Pot soup, my favorite lebkuchen (a kind of honey based spice cookie), Moravian cookies, Pfeffernusse, Sauerbraten (a pot roast made with meat that has been soaked in vinegar, which gives—along with the distinctive flavor—the meat a good tenderizing. They are also famous for Wiener Schnitzel and chicken pot pies – and, of course, sauerkraut and hot German-style potato salad.

Today, the Amish live in 28 states and one Canadian province, Ontario, totaling about 261,150 adults and children. In most communities over half of the population is under the age of 18. About two thirds of the Amish population live in three states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. **

Like the Amish and the Mennonites, the Hutterites trace their origins to the 16th century Anabaptist movement which began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525. Anabaptists claims that the true church consisted only of devout believers who were voluntarily baptized as adults. This concept was considered extremely radical and its believers met with a great deal of persecution. During this period, Anabaptism spread to Austria and from there to Moravia (now part of Czechoslovakia) where they found tolerance to their beliefs. In 1528, one group of Anabaptists adopted the practice of communal living, of sharing all economic goods. Jakob Hutter was an early leader of this community and the group eventually became known as Hutterites. The Hutterites in Moravia grew during the 16th century, but then met with war, plague, and persecution—in 1622, Catholic rulers banished all Hutterites from Moravia—which led, eventually, to most of the Hutterites immigrating to Russia and from Russia to America in the mid 1800s, when the Russian government threatened to take away their exemption from military service and their right to conduct schools in the German language. Before this mass immigration took place, however, several Hutterite leaders were inspired to resume communal living. Several of these communities were founded in Dakotas; the largest of these was the Schmiedeleut, established in what is now South Dakota.

However, because of their pacifist beliefs, during World War I the Hutterites were treated severely by the United States government. Two young men who were imprisoned for refusing to cooperate with the military died in prison, from mistreatment. Due to this, most of the Hutterites moved north to Canada. The Hutterite community moved 17 of its 18 existing American colonies to Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. With the passage of laws protecting conscientious objectors, some of the Schmiedeleuf began returning to the Dakotas starting in the 1930s where the built and inhabited new colonies.

Today, most Schmiedeleut live in Manitoba and South Dakota with a few in North Dakota and Minnesota. What makes Hutterites distinctive today from other groups with whom they share similar beliefs, is that they believe in the community of worldly goods.

In 1988, there were 35,000 Hutterite Brethrenliving in 374 colonires, or Bruderhofs, which means “places of the brethren”. Most of these are in the great plains areas of the USA and Canada and practice large scale agriculture. Unlike the Amish, however, the Hutterites have no restrictions on the type of farm machinery they use. They have the latest farm equipment, automatied poultry and livestock operations.

To learn more about the Hutterite community, you may be interested in a cookbook by Joanita Kant, titled THE HUTTERITE COMMNITY COOKBOOK, published in 1990 by Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania (yes, the very same Good people – no pun intended – who have published the books about the Amish and the Mennonites.
In the Hutterite Community, it is customary for the women to keep handwritten notebooks which have been handed down from generation to generation. It is a tradition amongst these people that each time a colony divides to form a new daughter community (usually when the population reaches 120 people), the wife of the newly elected boss is given a copy of the cookbook from the m other colony. She is usually elected to be the head cook in the new colony This collection of recipes is based on the main cookbook, as well as the canning cookbook used in the Sunset Colony in Eastern South Dakota (wouldn’t you just love to be able to look at some of these handwritten cookbooks! Be still my heart!).

The type of food eaten by the Hutterites reflects their central European origins. Meat is served in abundance; breads, buns and dumplings are made in a variety of forms, for breakfast, lunch or supper.

The whole community gathers at mealtimes, except for children 14 years of age or younger, who are fed separately. Although meals are eaten in near silence, explains Ms. Kant, and it is clear that food is regarded as a necessity, and not an art form, the food is nevertheless substantial and plays an important part in the communal lifestyle. Along with a printed recipe, Ms. Kant has provided facsimiles of the original handwritten recipes. This is a beautiful cookbook, illustrated by Mary Elmore Wipf. The book sells for about $14.00. **

The history of the AMANA Society began in Germany in 1714 under the name of the Religious Community of True Inspiration. Persecution and discrimination, imprisonment and forced relocation led the believers, after a prophecy in July 1842, to immigrate to the United States where they formed a community in New York State, near the city of Buffalo. About 800 members—men, women, and children—were amongst the original group to immigrate to a commune which they called Ebenezer, a 500 acre Seneca Indian Reservation that had been purchased by four of their leaders. Later, an additional 5000 acres of land was purchased but Buffalo was growing rapidly, land prices were increasing, and the leaders began to look westward for more land and a way to escape the worldly city life.

In 1854, a group went to look at newly opened government lands, first in what is now Kansas, and then in Iowa. A location along the Iowa River suited them and they bought 18,000 acres of land along both sides of the Iowa River in Iowa County. Here, the Community of True Inspiration, today known as the Amana Church, practiced communal living and prospered until 1932, when the holdings were reorganized into a corporation.

During Amana’s communal era, able-bodies men and women worked at assigned jobs on farms and in factories, in craft shops and kitchens, in gardens, orchards, and vineyards. They received no pay but were given an allowance for clothing and household items. Food, housing, medical care, and education were provided by the community, the Gemeinde–a German word for “community” or “village”. Each family was assigned a home, which they often shared with relatives. Community doctors and dentists were sent to a state university or to Europe for their education. Medicines were prepared by community pharmacies, and made available. Teachers were also educated outside the community and then taught all children from ages 5 to 14. At the age of 14, most boys were assigned work on the farms or apprenticed in the craft shops, while girls were assigned kitchen work until they married.
When small children were about 4 years old, they were placed in Kinderschule, a day of daycare, or cared for by grandparents, so their mothers could return to kitchen work or gardening. However, whereas the Hutterites focused primarily on farming, the Amana colony directed their attention into textile production which became perhaps their most successful endeavor. They gained a fine reputation for their woolens and calicos; their brightly colored blankets and wolen cloths were shipped to wholesale markets in the big cities such as New York and Chicago. Even so, the Amana communal kitchen system, at the height of the communal era, had 55 communal kitchens to serve the seven Amana communities. Each kitchen was assigned to 30 to 45 residents and were operated by the KUCHEBAAS (kitchen boss), her VIZEBAAS (assistant boss) RUSTSCHWESTERN (those who prepared the fresh vegetables for cooking) and two or three young cooks. These women ruled over the kitchens, kept chickens, made butter and cheese, bake cakes and pies, pickled and preserved foods and served 3 meals a day, every day of the year. The kitchen crews also prepared midmorning and mid-afternoon lunches, usually coffee, wine, bread and cheese for the farmers and gardeners and anyone else who needed extra sustenance. END OF PART ONE

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3 responses to “THE COMMON THREAD

  1. would someone let me know if this posted correctly this time? I have edited and re-sent. – Sandy

  2. This came thru fine the first time you posted it, only part 2 came first then part 1

  3. odd – someone wrote & said that part one came throgh corrupted so I did an edit and reposted it – so apparently you missed the FIRST part one – doesnt matter as long as both parts went through eventually. Thanks, Betsy.

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