Extending beyond our boundaries

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook exclusively from Extending the Table Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

We made a ceremony of it. The first night of our new challenge, to eat out of Extending the Table exclusively for six weeks, we put our little guy to bed, poured ourselves a glass of Menno Tea (it tastes just like Grandmother’s iced tea!), and cracked open the cookbook. As with our More with Less challenge, we wanted to start by getting a sense of how the cookbook was laid out, what was included along with the recipes, and what ingredients we may need to stock to maximize the number of recipes we can make.

Extending the Table

Amid the many beautiful stories, photos, and instructions for when and how the recipes are often eaten, we noticed one thing: we wanted to eat it all!

Soon, though, we realized a limiting factor about Extending the Table that wasn’t present with the potatoes-and-milk recipes in More with Less; we had lots of experience eating food from other countries, but we have far less experience cooking global food. Though they sounded amazing, we had no idea how to measure our success with new (to us) recipes like Tuna Omelet or Beef Wat or Chin Chin.

So, we decided to start our challenge with the familiar.

This week, we cooked dishes from countries that either one or both of us had visited. Since we had tasted the local flavors of that particular country (or at least the region of that country we visited), we figured we would have a good sense about whether or not our end product was authentic.

Our first dish was Cuban-Style Black Beans (p. 165), actually designated as from Puerto Rico. A few years ago, we spent a wonderful week in Puerto Rico celebrating Ben’s mother’s birthday. The simple beans and rice took us back to the easy days of vacation in the El Yunque rainforest.

A quick dish for a busy evening was Tico Tortilla Skillet (p. 188 in the first edition). Ben put it together in 20 minutes so we could trade off eating and putting our son to bed.

The first hot day of the year prompted us to crave salad. Accompanying our simple spinach and almonds was the Greek Salad Dressing (p. 121), which reminded Heather of a mountain town she visited in Greece. Overlooking the ocean, the town enjoyed salty breezes and brined fish, often accompanied by a lemony dressing like the one in Extending the Table.

Heather had a few friends over on Saturday to participate in a clothing, accessories, and book swap. She made them Guacamole (p. 267), with fresh avocado and the first herbs of the season. It reminded her of the few weeks she spent in Mexico building houses. Every morning, noon, and evening, her group would receive handmade tortillas, rice, beans, and guacamole for a meal. And with the intensity of the daily work, it was a comfort to have the same meal three times a day.

After a few “safe” dishes, we decided to branch out. Heather picked a recipe that looked a little more complicated, used ingredients we rarely use (mung beans!), and involved a cooking process we use even less frequently (frying!). The Samosas’ (p. 282) aromatic spice blend—cardamom, curry, coriander, cumin—invigorated our Saturday night air.


A photo of Samosas from the new edition of Extending the Table.

We were so pleased with the Kenyan pastries’ effect on our evening, until Heather began to cook them.

She must have worked the dough too long and filled the pastries too full, because beans and onions spilled out every which way, no matter how much she pinched the dough together. Moreover, she hadn’t paid attention to the instruction to cool the filling before putting it in the dough, so every time she dipped into the bean pot, she pulled her hand back with a start. Anyone ever touched a hot raisin?

Finally, Heather didn’t pay close enough attention to the measurements for the beans. The recipe calls for 1¼ cup cooked beans, but she assumed it was 1¼ cup uncooked beans. After she had fried all the dough, she still had 2+ cups of bean filling. Guess what Ben will have for lunch the next few days!

While the samosas were a mess, they were indeed tasty and they taught us a few things that we’ll take with us on the rest of our Extending journey. First, if there are directions, read them closely—and understand them before you attempt to deviate! Second, the familiar may be comfortable (and we certainly enjoyed some excellent Turkish, Puerto Rican, and Costa Rican comfort foods), but the unfamiliar forces us outside our boundaries. Just like our son, who learned to turn over this week and now wants to explore the entire length of our apartment, we need to stretch beyond our safety blankets if we want to experience the world. The “success” of recipes, just like the success of rolling over for the first time, is not about how fancy or how skillful you are. Success is about trying it out, enjoying the process, and appreciating the new perspective taking such a risk gives you.

Maybe next week, we’ll try the Wat.

Ben and Heather Kulp


Multicultural Transformation Across 70 Years of Herald Press’s Sunday School Materials by Steve Carpenter

An Anglicized image of Jesus.

An Anglicized image of Jesus.

As a result of the Donald Sterling debacle, in which the owner of the Los Angels Clippers NBA team was recorded making demeaning remarks about minorities, the United States is again involved in a serious discussion of race and racism. Almost 150 years after the last slaves were freed in the U.S., the results of that inhumane and demeaning institution persist in this country.

Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), one of two denominations under which MennoMedia operates, is striving to end racism. In its 2012 Purposeful Plan, denominational leaders established the goal of “undoing racism and advancing intercultural transformation” as one of the church’s seven priorities. Although problems persist, much has changed in society in the last 70 years. It’s interesting to look back on the illustrations used in some of the Herald Press materials (an imprint of MennoMedia) for Sunday school. In the illustrations below, note the predominance of white, European depictions of Jesus and most other biblical characters.


Audrey Alderfer’s compilation of Sunday school Bible Lessons for Kindergarten Children, Year 1, Take Home Sheets

An Anglicized image of Jesus.

An Anglicized image of Jesus.

These pictures show the Herald Press Sunday school materials used by kindergarteners for a period of at least about twenty years, from 1946 through the mid-1960s.

God Keeps His Promise

God Keeps His Promise



By 1970 the images were beginning to change but were still very Anglo-centric as seen in this illustration from the cover and inside of God Keeps His Promise: A Bible Storybook for Kindergarteners.





Although Herald Press had little to do with the production of this 2006 Children’s Illustrated Bible Story Book, one-thousand copies were ordered and marketed under the Herald Press imprint.

Shine On:  A Story Bible

Shine On: A Story Bible


Contrast these earlier photos, from Herald Press Sunday school materials, with our latest foray, in partnership with Brethren Press, into telling Bible stories to today’s children. Beautifully illustrated in full color, Shine On is the anchor storybook for MennoMedia’s new Shine Sunday school materials for children age 3 through grade eight. Primary and Middler Sunday school teachers tell the weekly Bible lessons from the Shine On Bible storybook. Illustrations in the Shine On Bible storybook reflect the diversity of the Christian church around the world. Jesus and his disciples are more accurately depicted with a middle-eastern look.

The Shine On Bible storybook contains reflection questions–under the headings: wonder, connect, and explore–to help families tell and retell these stories at home, thus partnering with the church to nurture faith in children at home. So, the Shine On Bible storybook is not only integral to the Shine Sunday school materials, it is a stand-alone piece which would be an asset in every family’s home to encourage faith formation.

Shine On will also soon be available in Spanish as Resplandece. We are seeking additional financial support to translate it into other languages, which would encourage the many ethnic churches of Mennonite Church Canada and MC USA. Shine On Story Bible is available for $24.99 in the U.S. and $27.49 in Canada. Click here to order you own copy to use at home or pass on to your children to read to your grandchildren.


Have you seen Shine On yet? What do you think?


Do you remember any of the Sunday school materials shown above? Do you still have your compilation of take home lessons, like the set shown above?


In what ways is racism still prevalent in the church? In society?

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

The Mother of All Mennonite Cookbooks

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Except when you can.

At Herald Press we have a 64-year-old gem of a cookbook, called Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Mennonite Community Cookbook (color)

Compiled by Mary Emma Showalter, the book features 1,100 fascinating and delicious recipes submitted by Mennonite cooks from across the U.S. and Canada during that era. With nearly 500,000 copies in print and more printings than I can count, it’s safe to say that people can easily pick out the book by its unique cover.

Mennonite Community Cookbook rolls up Swiss-German Mennonite nostalgia, simple cooking, and hearty dishes into one package that’s sure to produce blue ribbons at the county fair. Old fashioned cooking and traditional Mennonite values thread through this book of food history, frequent Pennsylvania Dutch favorites, and stories of beloved relationships.

The book was the brainchild of Dr. Mary Emma Showalter, and is sometimes called the “mother of all Mennonite cookbooks.”

“The best investment I ever made was when I bought [my wife] the Mennonite Community Cookbook,” says my own 90-year-old uncle, Mose Gingerich, in a Gingerich family cookbook.

So what’s a publisher to do when a classic book like this has been reproduced so many times that the cover needs to be redrawn because the quality of the cover drawing has been deteriorating? Or when the six interior photo pages need to be replaced because they too have been reproduced so many times that they are looking awfully dark?

These are exactly the questions that we at Herald Press now weigh in our minds. Up until now we’ve taken a hands-off approach to this classic book–not wanting to turn readers away from something that many perceive as almost sacred.

We plan to release a new edition in January 2015. Except for updating the photo pages, the interior will remain exactly the same.

And as we think about the cover for the new edition, we know we want it to look similar. But should it look exactly the same? Or just similar? Should it be hand drawn, as the original, or should it be drawn digitally? And what about the fonts? Do they too need to be drawn or should we switch to computer-generated fonts?


Sure, we as the publisher could make these decisions without the input of users like you. But if we did that we would be working on our own assumptions. And in this ever-changing world of publishing, that’s not a risk we want to take.

If you know this book, please weigh in by filling out our survey. Give your input and ideas so that the new edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook continues to be seen as “the best investment ever made.”

And just for fun I leave you with this recipe (from page 455), which is mostly not practical but interesting nonetheless. What other cookbook gives you such a recipe?

Food for a Barn Raising

This bit of information was found in a quaint, old handwritten recipe book from Great-grandmother’s day. It is included here mainly for the purpose of giving us a peep into the past. As many of us know, a “barn raising” was quite an event during those early years. When a new barn was built, all the friends and neighbors came on the specified day to help put up the framework of the barn. This policy is still carried out in some communities where neighbors are neighborly. Homemakers of our day will no doubt be astounded at all the food consumed in one day. What is more difficult to believe is that it was all made in Great-grandmother’s kitchen. Here’s the list as I found it:

  • 115 lemon pies
  • 500 fat cakes (doughnuts)
  • 15 large cakes
  • 3 gallons applesauce
  • 3 gallons rice pudding
  • 3 gallons cornstarch pudding
  • 16 chickens
  • 3 hams
  • 50 pounds roast beef
  • 300 light rolls
  • 16 loaves bread
  • Red beet pickle and pickled eggs
  • Cucumber pickle
  • 6 pounds dried prunes, stewed
  • 1 large crock stewed raisins
  • 5 gallon stone jar white potatoes and the same amount of sweet potatoes

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich