What is your connection to Mennonite Community Cookbook?

Guest blog post by Cherise Harper

Hello, friends. My name is Cherise. I’m a food stylist and I’m honored to be writing this guest post today. In fact, the whole experience of working with the wonderful people at MennoMedia and Herald Press has been humbling and just a little surreal for me.

Mennonite Community Cookbook (color)

You see, I grew up with the Mennonite Community Cookbook. For my family, it was a staple reference, from which we pulled chicken pot pie, ham loaf and chocolate chip cookie recipes. Even with my parents’ vast array of cookbooks, and I mean well over 100, the Mennonite Community Cookbook was one of the most loved–and still is.


(The notebook with the black spine is my mother’s copy of
Mennonite Community Cookbook.)

My grandmother, 89 years old, tells me that she got hers from a dear friend at church when she was a young married mother. My mother received hers as a wedding gift in 1963, and I was given mine as a bride in 1990. My mother’s book has since fallen into individual pages, the cover is gone, and now the pages are hole-punched to fit into a three-ring binder.

She has over fifty years of notes on those pages–dates of the time she first made the recipe and often a note on how much we liked it. It’s very personal for her and for me.

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So when this project was proposed to me earlier this year, it was very personal. I’ll be honest and tell you that I really couldn’t believe it. I probably didn’t use my inside voice and I may have jumped up and down a few time. Or a dozen. I realized that this was a very important undertaking. My father calculated that the photographs must have been taken in the late 1950s when color photography was becoming more common. And, while I wanted to honor the integrity of the recipes and the historical aspect of the photos, with that date in mind I agreed it really was time for an update. After all, how do you appeal to a new generation of cooks and invite them to make such wonderful recipes without having bright, beautiful photos?


Apple dumpling

Melissa Engle, the photographer, and I had worked together before so I was looking forward to what we could create as a team again.

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 Top: This is me, working with food for an earlier photo shoot for Herald Press.
Bottom: Photographer Melissa Hess gets just the right angle and lighting. 

The photoshoot for Mennonite Community Cookbook took three days and culminated in the “Grandma’s Table” shot, which involved much of what I had prepared over the three days.


This meant that we couldn’t eat all the goodies as we were working.

I was familiar with about half of the recipes so much of the preparation was familiar. There were some recipes that were new to me – like the Pansy Cake, which involved four 8” cake layers with four different colors of batter!


I decided to do a test run of that cake at home because sometimes when I make a recipe that’s unfamiliar it takes a little more time to navigate through the directions. It turned out so well that we decided to use the “test” cake for the real photos.


Butter Horns, Eggs in Ham Nests, and Shoofly Pie all made it to the table to be photographed. The Shoofly Pie had an added aspect of difficulty: Photographer Melissa Hess had to keep shooing a fly off of it! Not kidding. That one fly that’s always at a food photoshoot made an appearance.


As a food stylist I prepare a fair amount of recipes on the fly. I regularly test recipes and give feedback to help make sure they work for the average home cook. As I’ve found over a lifetime of cooking from this book, they are tried and true, basic recipes that can be made with local ingredients and pantry staples. They appeal to my hunger for historical significance in our foods and I really hope that Melissa and I have honored the importance that this cookbook plays in so many homes across the world. And, I hope we have done Mary Emma Showalter and her family proud.


Cherise Harper, also blogging at Chickens and Chai.


From the Herald Press editors: Do you own a copy of Mennonite Community Cookbook? When did you get it, and for what occasion? We invite you to tell your story, and send photographs of your much loved copy for a follow-up blog post or in our comment section.

Please note: We cherish the legacy of Mennonite Community Cookbook as much as its many fans. This new volume will only update the food photos to appeal to new generations of cooks; no recipes will be changed or left out! We do plan a special section highlighting the history of the cookbook for this new “50th printing” edition, planned for early in 2015! 

To purchase the existing cookbook as it is published now, visit our store.


A Primer in Publishing Geekspeak

Every industry has its shoptalk, and publishing is no exception. While I don’t think of my editorial work at Herald Press as very specialized—mostly I just help writers say what they mean—every so often I find myself sending an email full of acronyms and jargony-jargon. And I ask myself: when did my vocabulary become so full of publishing geekspeak?

Our chatter around here isn’t as specialized as, say, that of the medical profession. But we do have our codes and shorthand. Below is a list of some of the abbreviations and terms we at Herald Press and MennoMedia throw around in emails and meetings. Consider this your primer in publishing patois.

ARC. Stands for Advance Reader Copy. These used to be called galleys. They are what they sound like: pre-publication versions of a book that go out to reviewers and publications that we hope will offer advance reviews of a particular book before it is published. ARCs make it possible for reviews to come out about the time of a book’s publication rather than weeks or months later. We produce ARCs for some of our Herald Press books, and our ARCs look like final books in many ways: they have designed front covers and are bound and sized like the final version. But a footer runs across the front cover that says: “Advance Reader Copy: Not for Sale,” and the interiors may or may not have been designed, copyedited, and proofread.

Here is one example of how ARCs function: the ARC of Reconcile by John Paul Lederach, which will be released August 11, went out to reviewers on May 1. Publishers Weekly received our ARC and offered this lovely review.


BISAC code. This stands for Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee code. (I had to look that one up.) Every book we publish gets its own BISAC code (a number), and subject heading (a string of words). The Book Industry Study Group, the leading book trade association, offers this list of categories that publishers use to organize books according to topical content. Booksellers then use these codes to shelve books (in bricks and mortar stores) or to organize for searchability (on Internet sites). Picking the right BISAC code to categorize a particular book means asking ourselves as editors and marketers, “Where and how would readers search for a book like this?”

So if you want to try out your skills at BISAC coding, before reading on, try this: imagine that you’re me and that you need to assign a BISAC code to Ellie, Book 1 of the Ellie’s People series by Mary Christner Borntrager. Herald Press is re-releasing this series, which sold more than half a million copies before going out of print. The first book in the series, Ellie, releases August 15, 2014.

1. First, read about Ellie here.

2. Now go to this website, which contains a list of all the BISAC codes and subject headings.

3. Choose the BISAC code that best categorizes this book for booksellers. Wait to scroll down until you’ve chosen the code, since my choice will be revealed right after this book cover.


While many books have several possible BISAC codes that would fit, this one was pretty straightforward. Did you choose JUV033010 for JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian / General? We did.

CIP data. While we’re talking numbers: CIP data means Cataloging-in-Publication data, and we need it for every single book we publish. The U.S. Library of Congress and Library and Archives Canada supply this data for us, and sometimes it takes a little time . . . as in, months. So when I send a manuscript to a copyeditor, I send it to Dorothy Hartman, our administrative assistant, who submits the application for CIP data and expertly manages all the related communication and details. I always breathe a sigh of relief when Dorothy sends me the email with the CIP data, which I then pass on to our designers to drop onto the copyright page.

For example: Together in the Work of the Lord by Nathan E. Yoder, a history of the Conservative Mennonite Conference, officially releases on July 14. Our production schedule shows that Dorothy submitted the CIP application form on January 23. When you get your copy, look at the top of the copyright page and you’ll see a string of letters and numbers and specs that likely won’t make much sense. But now you know what it is. You know, in case anyone ever asks.


OBC. Stands for Outside Back Cover. We as editors and marketers and designers spend more time than you might guess on the back covers of our books. I’m talking a lot of time. How can we tell you as readers what this book is about? How can we make you want to pick it up and read it? What words and concepts best disclose the rich content that this book contains?

Of course, with many of us ordering books online, we don’t see the back cover of books before we buy them. But the OBC copy often appears as or is adapted to the book description, as on this website for our forthcoming book The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening by Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis. The Spacious Heart releases September 1, but you can read this book’s great OBC copy, written by my coworker Melodie Davis and tweaked by our marketers, on the “Description” tab.

Spacious Heart

Orphans and widows. These aren’t acronyms, but they’re terms that befuddle. These orphans and widows aren’t the children without parents and the women with deceased husbands whom James, in James 1:27, enjoins his readers to “care for . . . in their distress.” (Otherwise, my directions to our designers to “fix this orphan” or “eliminate this widow” would be disturbing indeed.) In publishing, orphans and widows are dangling lines at the top or bottom of a column in designed text. Orphans and widows create white space on a page and often make it less attractive to readers’ eyes even if we don’t know it. Our designers have all sorts of tools in their back pockets for fixing them.

There you have it: a short introduction to publishing lingo. Before you become a full-blown publishing geek, you’ll have to learn a few more, such as ISBNs and MSS and JPEGs and P&Ls and TOCs and PDFs and PI sheets.

Beyond learning some of the shorthand of our industry, however, I hope you’ve caught the careful attention that we give to each book that we publish. The making of a book requires tending to hundreds of details and processes and acronyms. We at MennoMedia are honored to take care of these so that you can pay attention to what matters: the actual words and images of our books, curricula, and periodicals. These, we pray, will further your faith in Christ and commitment to the community of believers and all of God’s children.

So now, if you ever get an email from me with the subject line “ARC OBC,” you’ll know what I mean.


ValerieWeaverZercherValerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.

Amish Reality

I recently came across a book cover—albeit a spoof—for Amish vampire kittens in outer space.


While it may seem farfetched, there are an awful lot of crazy Amish tie-ins these days. It seems that everyone wants to tell the reality-TV, sci-fi, or romance-novel version of the Amish story.

But at MennoMedia we have been offered the opportunity to help Amish writers tell their own stories for a change. Through conversation prompted by one such published Amish writer, we were eager to begin syndicating a weekly newspaper column called Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.


Lovina Eicher, author of a long-running and well-loved column about her Amish life, is working with us to start a new column syndicated by MennoMedia, Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

Lovina is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Lovina inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002.


Through Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, Lovina will continue to connect weekly with her huge base of readers and fans. And she will continue the tradition of reaching readers with dispatches and recipes from her Amish home.

Lovina’s winning combination of tasty family recipes and writings about her daily life and faith as an Amish mother, wife, and cook have earned her a loyal audience with thousands of readers across the United States.

Each weekly column opens with about a 600-word reflection on the events of her household, community, and church district, and concludes with a favorite family recipe. She will follow this format weekly. Total column length is between 700-750 words. The rate for the column depends on a newspaper’s circulation, and we are open to hearing from any newspapers in your area who might be interested in such a column! This is not our first venture into syndicating a newspaper column. Perhaps you already read the long-running Another Way newspaper column by our staff member Melodie Davis, which has been syndicated since 1987.


We at MennoMedia are honored to work with Lovina in bringing her authentic Amish voice to both her loyal readers, and also readers who have not yet discovered her work. We are confident that Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, with its homespun Amish wisdom and hearty recipes, will greatly appeal to readers and give people a glimpse into authentic Amish living.

Lovina’s Amish Kitchen just launched July 1, and a new column will be posted online every Friday afternoon (after running earlier in the week in newspapers). Here is the recipe for sugar cookies in her first column:

Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups lard (or use 1 cup margarine, softened, and 1 cup lard)
  • 3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9–10 cups flour (just enough that you can handle dough)

Mix all ingredients except flour. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Chill dough for a few hours or overnight. Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until bottom is golden. When cool, frost if desired.

You can read more about Lovina and her new column at her website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter! You may be interested to know that she writes her columns with pen and paper and mails them to us. We then get them ready for electronic publishing. She is happy to correspond with readers who write to her at the Post Office box given at the website and elsewhere.

Amy Gingerich

Amy Gingerich, editorial director