“If anybody needs me I’ll be at the café!” Andrew Jackson opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. He closed the door and stood for a moment, debating whether to take the truck or just walk the few blocks to the café. He glanced up at the sky which contained, for the moment, a perfect sample of what the weatherman would call a mix of sun and cloud. The warmth of the sun was offset by a cool breeze blowing from the north. A very nice morning for a walk. Andrew headed across the driveway and up the sidewalk at a brisk pace. A short five minutes later he was seated in his usual chair at the window table in the café on Main Street.
“We are getting our own week!” Grant Toews was saying as Andrew seated himself and reached for the cream. “Mennonite week! What a party that’s gonna be! I hope the RCMP are ready for the chaos that’s bound to ensue when the two hundred thousand Mennonites in this country throw caution to the wind and end up drinking and dancing in the streets!”
There was a moment of silence while Bob Brown and Pete Donaldson, who were already seated at the table, joined Andrew in staring blankly at Grant.
“I thought Mennonites weren’t allowed to dance,” said Bob. “Isn’t that like, the first rule in the book of Menno Simons? Don’t make love standing up because it could lead to dancing?”
“Also,” said Pete, “I thought Mennonites weren’t allowed to drink.”
Grant laughed. “We’re allowed to drink,” he said. “We just choose not to.”
“Why?” Bob asked.
“Because drinking dulls the pain,” said Grant.
“What are you talking about, Mennonites getting their own week?” said Andrew. “Is this another one of those United Nations resolutions?”
“No,” said Grant. “It’s the Canadian government. They’ve designated a week in the fall as Mennonite Week, in honour of all the things we Mennonites have given to Canadian Society.”
Andrew pondered that for a moment. “I guess they figured they better do it now, quick, before you ruin it for everybody.”
Grant ignored him. “It’s about time somebody recognized all our contributions,” he said.
“A week seems like overkill though,” said Bob. “A long weekend seems like it would be plenty. What have you folks really contributed besides keilkje, farmer sausage and schmauntfat?”
“I personally would happily take a week off to celebrate keilkje and farmer sausage and schmauntfat,” said Andrew. “A month even, if it came to that.”
“What’s kielkje and schmauntfat?” asked Pete.
Grant looked at the others, aghast. “See?” he said. “This is why we need Mennonite Week! To educate the public!” He turned to Pete. “Kielkje and schmauntfat are Low German words for noodles and cream-gravy,” he explained.
“Oh,” said Pete. “And what’s the difference between Low German and High German?” he wanted to know.
“Low German is the dialect Mennonites speak generally,” Andrew interjected. “High German is what they speak when they’ve been smoking marijuana.”
“We don’t speak High German much,” said Grant. “Most of us don’t even know how.”
“What I’ve never really understood,” said Bob, “is whether being a Mennonite is a cultural thing or a religious thing. “What’s your opinion on that Grant?”
“It’s both in my opinion,” said Grant. “Some people are Mennonites by virtue of their religion and some are Mennonites by virtue of their culture and some are both. All in all it’s very confusing.”
“I don’t think it matters either,” said Andrew, “as long as you keep making that delicious farmer sausage.”
“Surely though,” said Bob, “Mennonites must have contributed more to society than just cream-gravy and noodles.”
“Oh yes indeed,” said Grant. “We contributed vast knowledge of farming, we established the Mennonite Central Committee to help alleviate poverty and suffering around the world, and we created the curds that people mix with French-fries and gravy to make poutine.”
“Why did people do that with those curds?” asked Pete. “Did they not realize that if they just left the curds alone for a while they would eventually turn into cheese?”
“That’s a question I’ve asked myself as well,” said Grant. “I don’t have an answer.”
There was a pause in the conversation.
“Well anyway,” said Andrew eventually, “I think Mennonites are great and whoever the first Mennonite was, I’ll drink to him.” He raised his coffee cup.
“Adam was the first Mennonite,” said Grant.
“How do you figure that?” asked Bob.
“He must have been. I mean, he was in the Garden with a beautiful naked woman, and he was tempted,” said Grant, “to eat an apple.”
There was brief moment of silence.
“I think that might make him a Lutheran,” said Pete.
“Not much difference,” said Bob.
“Many people would agree,” said Grant. “Just don’t ask the Mennonites.”