I will never forget the comment of my “little sister” as we were browsing the aisles of the religious bookstore at the mall one day back in the late ’70s. As I write this now, I’m thinking, wow, I can remember when we had two great religious bookstores in town, including one at the mall.
Barbara was a quiet girl from a low income home and I enjoyed knowing her through our city’s fledgling Big Brother/Big Sister program at the time. So her comment in the bookstore was all that more unusual. She asked, looking at the Bibles in the store, “You mean they sell Bibles?” I assured her yes, but probed a bit and learned the basis of her question was some disillusionment with the idea that someone was making money selling God’s word. Her assumption also came from the fact that she had received one free from the Salvation Army. But I had to wonder if she somehow sensed it felt a little crass.
So I had the same feeling recently looking at our MennoMedia sales report that frequently puts Martyrs Mirror in our “Top Ten” in sales. Part of my paycheck at this point in life comes from the blood and suffering of my theological ancestors. Interestingly, the Old Order Amish are the biggest purchasers of Martyrs Mirror.
At MennoMedia, we are grateful for those who purchase this grand old (and deeply moving) text and also those who purchase our Bibles (we sell some created by other publishers), and also all those who purchase cookbooks, (which some customers might consider frivolous or a waste of our time and resources, or maybe reinforcing impressions that to be Mennonite you need to eat or cook certain foods!), hymnals, children’s books, curriculum for all ages, magazines, DVDs, CDs, downloadable video clips, and more.
The newest Herald Press cookbook, Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, is now in the warehouse and we are obviously excited and pulling out all the stops to help sell this book. Early photos of the book on Facebook got at least one comment along the lines of “well good, now you can get back to providing more meaty content” (not exact quote, and I believe it has been removed).
An unapologetic strength of MennoMedia is in the area of “food and faith” and this book fits with that, especially the celebrative aspect. MennoMedia and Herald Press publish many crucial books on theology, Mennonite history, biography and church curricula. These are resources that are essential to keeping any faith group alive and well. But even cookbooks or the authors, convey practical theology.
While not every author or group of authors can do this, the women behind the popular blog and cookbook phenomenon known as “Mennonite Girls” are providing an outstanding example of Christian stewardship, sharing and service by donating all royalties to Mennonite Central Committee projects (so far in two locations, Russia for their first book, see photo, and Africa for this new release).
While the cooking and underlying message of the two Mennonite Girls Can Cook books so far are a little different than More with Less, or Simply in Season, the MennoMedia umbrella is wide enough to embrace a variety of cooks, authors, churches, communities and peoples. The original and continuing subtitle for More with Less: Suggestions by Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World’s Limited Food Resources gives a hint at the theology it supports. As the “Who are the Mennonites” video/DVD (see short clip) says of the legacy of More with Less cookbook, “The ideas in this cookbook went well beyond the kitchen. Sure, thousands of us learned simple recipes, nutrition, and stir frying from its pages, but it also summarized our theology and conviction.”
A wide umbrella at MennoMedia. We look forward to the day when, who knows, there is a Mennonite Truck Food cookbook or Mennonite Soul Food cookbook or … name your poison! But I personally will quit when we come out with a Mennonite Happy Hour Cocktail guide.
P.S. Not to be crass, but if you are frugal, you may want to take advantage of the 30 % off sale on all Mennonite cookbooks including pre-ordering this newest Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations until May 8. Thanks!
Melodie Davis, columnist/editor blogger