In the 1970s, amid a global food crisis, MCC made a radical request – inviting Christians in Canada and the U.S. to reduce their household food budget by 10% as a response to hunger around the world and over-consumption at home.
The More-with-Less Cookbook, written by MCCer Doris Janzen Longacre and published by Herald Press in 1976, offers ideas and recipes to help families move toward that goal.
The book sold more than 800,000 copies in its first 25 years. MCC and Herald Press published a 40th-anniversary edition in 2016.
Longacre died of cancer in November 1979, as she was finishing the manuscript for a followup book, Living More with Less, which Herald Press published in 1980.
Now, more than 40 years later, we encourage you to explore how her invitation to a "more-with-less" way of eating and living can still shape meals, habits and lives.
From More-with-Less Cookbook, ©1976 Herald Press. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Mennonites are widely recognized as good cooks. But Mennonites are also a people who care about the world’s hungry.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the cooperative relief and service agency of 17 North American* Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches, has called for a major focus on the world food crisis by Mennonites within the next five to 10 years. It is providing leadership in working at long-range solutions by broadening and strengthening rural development and family planning programs around the world.
In addition, for the first time in its 55-year history, MCC has asked each constituent household to look at its lifestyle, particularly food habits. Noting the relationship between North American overconsumption and world need, a goal has been set to eat and spend 10% less.
“In Mennonite communities across North America, people are responding with a kind of holy frustration. ‘We want to use less,’ they say. ‘How do we begin?’”
In Mennonite communities across North America, people are responding with a kind of holy frustration. “We want to use less,” they say. “How do we begin? How do we maintain motivation in our affluent society? How do we help each other?” From questions like these, the idea of compiling a cookbook was born.
Mennonite and Brethren in Christ periodicals carried the request for recipes, hints and inspirational material. Within weeks, letters from men and women, from students and grandparents, filled my box.
Thousands of recipes arrived from around the world.
Those with whom I counselled agreed that every recipe used should first be tested. More than 30 home economists tried the recipes and evaluated them in their homes. I searched out resources on nutrition and world food supply.
All the recipes I received were carefully read. Over a thousand were tested. Many were adjusted according to suggestions from tasters. Some are a composite of similar recipes. Many excellent recipes could not be used because of limited space.
“We are looking for ways to live more simply and joyfully, ways that grow out of our tradition but take their shape from living faith and the demands of our hungry world.”
Although the book is finished, the holy frustration goes on. Do not approach this book as a set of answers for responsible change. At its best, it tells us that Mennonites – a people who care about the hungry – are on a search. We are looking for ways to live more simply and joyfully, ways that grow out of our tradition but take their shape from living faith and the demands of our hungry world.
There is not just one way to respond, nor is there a single answer to the world’s food problem. It may not be within our capacity to effect an answer. But it is within our capacity to search for a faithful response.
*The numbers of supporting churches, the use of the word Mennonite to include other Anabaptists such as Mennonite Brethren and the use of North American, rather than U.S. and Canadian, are recorded here as they were in the 1976 edition of the book.
(This article, by Rachel Bergen, was published on the MCC website in November 2016 to mark the release of the new 40th-anniversary edition of the cookbook.)
In the midst of a political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe that made it difficult to access food locally, former MCC representative Esther Tchando turned to the bread recipes in the cookbook, More-with-Less.
“That bread was so precious because you couldn’t even find it on the shelf. I was able to share … bread with people who really appreciated it because it was something no one can find,” she said about the scarce years of 2007 to 2009. Her children also took bread to share with children at school, she said. “The empty stomach doesn't have an ear to listen.”
To get supplies for MCC to distribute, Tchando recalls waiting in line for hours to cross the border into Botswana or South Africa. In the process, she was able to get ingredients for bread.
MCC photo/Lynn Longenecker
Tchando, who in 2016 was managing a Ten Thousand Villages store in Oakville, Ontario, said she also used the cookbook while she and her husband, Marcellin Danhoundo, served with MCC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The family, originally from the country of Benin, was living in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2016, where Tchando likes to cook "Coconut Rice" from the cookbook.
“Working with MCC and using More-with-Less has taught me to live simply but also to share. Where you are serving, people are in need. Whatever you have, you share with other people.”
The new 40th-anniversary edition, More-with-Less: Timeless recipes and inspiration for simple, joyful eating, is available for sharing and for use. Released in 2016 by MCC and publisher Herald Press, the book benefits MCC’s relief, development and peacebuilding work around the world.
The updated classic, originally written in 1976 by MCCer Doris Janzen Longacre, has healthy, wholesome recipes, cooking tips and commentary on living with less that users of the cookbook have come to know and love.
Updated by award-winning food writer Rachel Marie Stone, the new book has colourful photos, new recipes and labels to identify gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.
Although the principal benefit to MCC is the funding the book generates to help people around the world, other MCC workers, in addition to Tchando, have found the cookbook to be useful in their own cooking too.
Paul Shetler Fast and his wife, Rebecca, serving as MCC representatives in Haiti in 2016, love to cook together. Living in a country where access to certain foods can be challenging has shown them how valuable a cookbook like More-with-Less is.
Photo courtesy of Paul and Rebecca Shetler Fast
The Shetler Fasts are from Pittsburgh and write a food blog, The Hungry Hounds, which highlights the simple, tasty foods they are making.
“Moving to Haiti has taught us again the value and necessity of working with what you have and maximizing the value of what can be found locally. In a context where butter costs $12 a pound, it’s nice to have a cookbook that gives you other options,” Paul Shetler Fast said, referring to a page of substitutions. “When you need to substitute ‘basics’ like buttermilk or baking powder, it’s nice to have a trusted source that can walk you through making that happen.”
In 2016, Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi and her husband Dan, from Lowville, New York, were living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and serving as MCC area directors for Southeast Asia. They also have served with MCC in Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. She has used More-with-Less since it was released 40 years ago.
MCC photo/Dan Jantzi
Over the years, she has hosted many international guests. Often she’s used an idea in More-with-Less to serve leftover food along with one new dish to keep from wasting food.
“If you’ve been hosting guests for a while and you’re still hosting, you’ve accumulated a lot of leftovers. You put it all out and then add one new thing. I’ve done that so many times,” she said.
For Jantzi, More-with-Less is a way of living. “It’s a cookbook that’s more than a cookbook. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something you can’t get just by looking up individual recipes online. It’s a whole package of looking at food and faithfulness,” she said.
The 40th-anniversary edition, More-with-Less: Timeless recipes and inspiration for simple, joyful eating, was released in 2016 by MCC and publisher Herald Press. The book benefits MCC’s relief, development and peacebuilding work around the world.
Enjoy some cheese straws from More-with-Less!
1 cup sharp cheese, shredded
1 ¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
1/3 cup butter, cubed
3 tablespoons milk
sesame seeds (optional)
Combine cheese, flour, salt and pepper.
Cut in butter and then sprinkle with milk.
Form into a ball. Roll out 1/8 inch thick. If desired sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds then run rolling pin over again.
Prick dough all over with a fork. Cut into 1 X 2-inch sticks, or into 2-inch squares and then into triangles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven 375F oven for 10 minutes, or until golden.