Today marks a particularly important occasion in the life of the Drunken Mennonite. Maybe you’ve been keeping track and know already.
Well, here it is. You are reading my one hundredth blog post. Pull out the streamers and pop open a bottle of bubbly. Or just, you know, have a cocktail.
In honour of this centenary, I have decided to address some of my most commonly asked questions. And a few that people really ought to ask, but haven’t.
1. Are we related?
This remains my number one most frequently asked question. Which suggests that I continue to fail at reaching an audience outside of the Mennosphere.
When I started writing, I thought I was addressing an audience of people who weren’t Mennonite, knew very little about Mennonites, but were intrigued by us. I knew this would be a small audience but I was committed to serving up some bon mots and beverages particularly for it. I didn’t account for the number of fallen-away and semi-fallen away Mennonites whose lives had a Menno-themed cocktail blog hole in them.
And who think they must be related to me.
But, in answer to the question:
No, no. For the millionth time, no, we aren’t related. Well, yes we probably are. At least if we go back far enough. And we could go back far enough, you and I, because we both have extensive genealogy books on our shelves to help us make certain we’re not marrying our first cousins. As far as I can make out, very few of the 175 family members that I actually know read the blog regularly but you might be a second cousin once removed or something.
Or you might have got me mixed up with another drunken Mennonite who is in your family.
2. Do you actually make the cocktails?
By now, I have made variations of most of the classic cocktails and a few not-so-classics. I gotta admit, the tastier ones are the ones that follow tried and true formulae with only minor variations. Too much creativity had unfortunate results. Happily, the possibilities are endless for cocktails and I don’t expect to be hampered too much as I move into my second hundred postage.
You might also be wondering which are my favorite cocktails. For everyday cocktails that aren’t overly strong, I am partial to the Canadian Mennonite. I keep trying to serve that to my Mennonite friends but it seems that they typically want something stronger. So, for a Mennonite audience, I suggest the variations on the Old Fashioned. I was particularly pleased with the Old Freundschaft, a fairly recent concoction.
3. What’s with all the rhubarb?
Mennonites have a strange affinity for rhubarb. I know we’re not the only ones. Rhubarb grows all around the world and wherever it does, there are parents sitting their toddlers down stalks of rhubarb and little saucers of sugar. It’s also true that not every Mennonite loves rhubarb – I am actually pretty sure we have a stronger consensus on raspberries than we do on rhubarb. But, as I mentioned the first time I used it in a recipe, only rhubarb has a Mennonite literary magazine named for it.
I am also fairly often asked for my recipe for rhubarb syrup. I actually have 2 recipes and will do one or the other depending upon how lazy/how much of a rush I am. The easy recipe just uses equal amounts of sugar and water and a stalk of rhubarb (or more if you are doing a lot. I do 1/2 stalk for 1/2 cup of sugar and water). Boil. Strain. Chill and store in a small mason jar. You could probably freeze it if you wanted. I tend to make small batches when I need it. The poached version is perhaps a bit better but it takes longer. I got it from this site.
4. How can I find your blog and how do I know when you’ve published a new post?
Mostly these questions come from my older family members and friends who haven’t yet mastered the internet (and/or people who don’t actually want to read it but think it would be impolite to tell me and so prefer to pretend bafflement at the interwebs).
If you’ve made it this far, let your eyes wander for a moment to the right-hand column. Under the Search button, you should see an option to “Follow” the blog. If you input your email address, you should start getting emails whenever I post. You could also follow me on Facebook and Twitter but the follow option is – I think – the most reliable.
Related to this is: sometimes people ask when my next blog post is coming out. You may have noticed that I’ve slowed down a bit. I used to post new material once a week, regular as a Kroeger clock. I’m now down to two a month or so. That’s to give all you readers time to catch up. And also to give you enough time to forget that I’ve basically said the same thing five times already in previous posts.
5. Are the Mennonites offended by your blog?
When I get this question, I start to understand why I’m not actually being read by people who aren’t Mennonite, know very little about Mennonites, but are intrigued by us. These people think that my blog is disrespectful of us charming Mennonites and so they stay away in an act of protectiveness. Isn’t that cute? As if anyone else can out-paternalist us.
I expect that there are some Mennonites who are offended by at least some of my blog posts. But then, it’s hard to hold a conversation without offending someone, somewhere in the Mennofold. I think that those who would be offended at the whole idea of a Mennonite cocktail blog self select out of my readership. Having a provocative title helps with that. But, not to worry. There are plenty of other places on the internet for those people to hang out.
On the other hand, a couple thousand people read my blog each month by now and as far as I can tell, 3/4 of those are Mennonite of one type or another. Some of them, it is true, do not admit to their family and congregations that they read it. Which has created the whole new phenomenon of closet cocktail-blog-reading, kind of a variation on the tradition of closet drinking. Something I never anticipated.
Others, however, do admit to reading it and have made it clear that they’re not offended in the least. Perhaps I should try harder.
6. But Mennonites don’t drink, do they?
One of my family members insists that he has a low alcohol threshold because of the centuries of abstinence in his ancestry. I have tried to disillusion him on several occasions, with historical facts and testimony. But he refuses to believe.
I addressed the question of whether Mennonites drink in one of my very first blog posts back in the October of 2014. It was a pretty short post because I was just getting the hang of blogging back then so I haven’t brought that post up to the new site. Here’s an excerpt:
The first thing you should know is that there are actually no traditional Mennonite Cocktails. Given the Mennonite stereotypes out there, I’m betting this isn’t much of a surprise to anyone. Still, it’s worth noting…
We trace our roots back to the sixteenth-century Anabaptists whose leaders, it is true, did speak out from time to time against alcohol, drunkenness and innkeepers who, according to one leader, were “unchaste, ungodly and decadent” (and he meant that as a bad thing) because of their involvement with drink.
Despite such preaching, there’s a lot of evidence that the run of the mill Anabaptists and early Mennonites didn’t take this stricture all that seriously. Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of Mennonites operated breweries and distilleries and most drank moderately, while preachers spoke only against drunkenness and excess. Even when the temperance movement first reared its head in North America, the Mennonites in Canada resisted it, forbidding their members from joining these non-Menno associations which harshly judged those who drank even moderately. By the early twentieth century, however, this battle was lost and most of the Mennonite congregations in North America made abstinence the norm and alcohol deviant.
These days, drinking is having something of a Renaissance in Mennonite circles. Ok, maybe not a Renaissance. A Reformation? No, not that either. But a lot of Mennonites now have the occasional glass of wine, a cocktail on special occasions, and frequent those public drinking establishments so disparaged by our sixteenth-century antecedents.
I go into more detail about Mennonite drinking habits in various other posts, but you should just read the blog for that.
7. I don’t get it. Is this supposed to be funny?
Not really known for our sense of humour, there are always those who fail to enjoy the blog. The answer to that question is, yes, it is supposed to be funny.
8. This is too overwhelming. Which blog posts should I start with?
I used to assume that people who found my blog and liked the one post they found there, then proceeded to binge-read the whole thing.
I have been disillusioned on this front. On the rare occasion that I have met my readers face to face, I have been saddened to learn that few of them have actually read my full opus. And now that this opus consists of a full 100 posts, I can see the need one would have to pace oneself. Particularly if one was making and drinking cocktails to accompany each post read.
Oh – an alternate explanation just hit me. Perhaps, you are all binge reading and binge drinking my cocktails at the same time. In that case, the dazed look I receive when we meet face to face is really the long term side effects of alcohol poisoning.
Please. My blog was never intended to facilitate binge drinking.
But, in answer to the question:
If you are new to the whole Mennoworld, I suggest you start with these posts. They don’t assume a whole lot of knowledge of the Mennodom. If you already think you know more than you ever wanted to know about Mennonites but are still reading this, you might like to start with some of my most popular posts. Or just follow your interests by wading through the tags (scroll down to the bottom to see them all). I think that my Mennonite literature and history posts don’t get as much love as they deserve.
9. Will you come to my next Mennonite cocktail party?
Ok, No, you’re right. This is not a frequently asked question. I made this one up. No one invites me to their Mennonite cocktail parties. This is no doubt because they are afraid that, even if they take the precaution of inviting multiple Mennonites as per the famous fishing joke, I will drink all their
beer whiskey. And be a bad influence on everyone else.
So we’ll just have to keep meeting in the doughnut line at the Mennonite relief sale.
10. When can I read your novel?
Ah, yes. I get this question from the three readers who click around the website and see that I have a novel manuscript as well as a Mennonite cocktail blog. I’m looking for an agent and/or publisher right now so if you know a good one who might be interested, by all means, be in touch.
Sometimes people suggest I should forget about the novel and just publish a Mennonite Cocktail book. Honest. People have told me this. Perhaps not the most business-savvy of my readers.
I know, I know. Mennonites may all have unanswered questions but we have no monopoly on them. So feel free to make a few of these and serve to Mennonite and Non-Mennonite friends alike.
- 2 1/2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz chambord
- 1/4 oz maple syrup
- 1 egg white
Shake the egg white on its own until seriously frothy. Add ice to the shaker and add the rest of the ingredients. Shake 20-30 times until well chilled. Strain into a glass and serve. Drink while considering all of the questions that you never thought to ask or, if you did, that provided unsatisfactory answers.