This post was first published in August, 2015, serving as an introduction to the topic of Mennonite understandings of Geography. It was also an excuse to nerd out over the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — this is a post perfectly situated to reach that niche audience of Mennonite Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans who also like cocktails.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has, we are told, the words Don’t Panic inscribed on its cover “in large friendly letters.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Mennolands comes with no such advice.
You may indeed want to panic; I will not judge you for it.
The first thing to know is that the Mennolands are not best understood as a physical place. Sure, you can look at a map and see where Mennonites are congregated. And you can plan out a tour of those places with a pack on your back and a map in your hand. You might see some Mennonites that way, and meet a few. The roads you travel will intersect the Mennolands.
But to actually enter the Mennolands, you need to change your thinking, re-orient your worldview, take on a new weltanschauung. Even an infinite improbability drive won’t get you there otherwise.
The important places on the Mennomap are the places with large clusters of Mennonites and, especially, Mennonite institutions like schools and mission associations. Many of these clusters are now small urban centres with smaller clusters nestled around them like satellites.
These clusters might exist in rural or urban areas. I, for instance, live in a smallish Mennonite community on the outskirts of the Mennonite metropolis of Kitchener-Waterloo. I live in Canada’s largest city. This happens from time to time. Vancouver is in the Menno outskirts of Abbotsford; Chicago and Indianapolis are both border towns of Goshen and Elkhart. Winnipeg — well, I’ll let the Manitobans fight it out over whether Winnipeg is a suburb of Steinbach or Winkler. I’m not going there.
Naturally, the map of the Mennolands overlaps the standard issue map that you can find anywhere. Sometimes Mennonites have tried to live in isolation from the rest of the world but the ones in Canada and the United States have mostly learned to navigate the world with two maps at hand. One map makes sense of the roads and political divisions of the world, and the other tells us where the Mennonites are, and whether they’re the right kind of Mennonite.
You wouldn’t literally hitchhike in the Mennolands — that’s the second thing you need to know. Hitchhiking’s a metaphor in this blog post for traveling through your social networks. To literally hitchhike requires a far greater trust in the goodness of strangers than even the best of us possess.
For most of us, travel within the Mennolands is already determined by the proximity of family or Church functions. But if you want to tack on a little side trip and spend more time there than needed for family and Church reasons, you need to start consulting with all your Mennonite friends, family and acquaintances long before your itinerary is set. Someone will know someone who will be happy to put you up, or invite you for a meal, or show you an important Mennonite site, or introduce you to their Congregation.
This is what traveling in the Mennolands is all about.
If you’re lucky, and you travel to one of the right corners of the Mennolands, someone might even offer you a drink. No promises, though.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy claims that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It calls for: Ol’ Janx Spirit, water from the seas of Santraginus V, 3 cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin, Fallian marsh gas, Qualactin Hypermint extract, the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger, Zamphuor powder, and an olive.
Mennonite liquor cabinets — those on earth anyways — typically do not stock the majority of these ingredients. There are a number of earthling variations on the recipe but none that are particularly Anabaptist. I remedy that here with an odd little cocktail for the metaphorical hitchhiker wandering — with or without a towel — through the Mennolands. A couple of these and you’ll feel like your brains have been smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large blue hymnbook.
Pan-abaptist Gargle Blaster
2 oz bourbon (for the Ol’ Janx)
1 oz gin (for the mega-gin)
1 tsp minted simple syrup (for the hypermint)
Fizzy water (for the sea water and gas)
1 unhulled sunflower seed (for the tooth)
1 pinch of crushed dried hibiscus (for the zamphour)
1 olive (for the olive)
- Infuse the hibiscus in gin for 20 minute or until gin is a vibrant purple.
- Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
- Add bourbon, hibiscus-infused gin and minted simple syrup to the ice.
- Shake until chilled.
- Strain into a short glass.
- Top with the fizzy water.
- Drop in one sunflower seed
- Garnish with olive.