Community, Recipes

Prairie Communists and Rhubarb Pie

The communism you encounter in Montana and the Dakotas is generally based on Acts 2:44 “And all that believed were together, and had all things in common.”  On the prairies of Montana and the Dakotas, communal ownership and living is not Godless communism, it is based on that verse from the New Testament.

They’re Hutterites – and not all Hutterites are the same.  Historically, they aren’t even all communal – when the Hutterites came to America, the 1880 Census showed 443 Hutterites living on four colonies, while 825 (called the Prairieleut) lived non-communally.  By 1952, all the non-communal Hutterite churches became Mennonite.  It appears that the faith requires communal living to survive.

In the Ukraine,  communal living was abandoned in 1819, and reinstituted under the leadership of Schmide (blacksmith) Michael Waldner.  Darius Walter led a second group’s return to communal living in 1860.  Janzen summarized the differences between the communal and non-communal Hutterites: “In Ukrainian Russia, communal and non-communal Hutterite groups had been virtually indistinguishable except for the differences in economic arrangements.  In America, a vibrant spirit of assimilation had caused the two groups to become radically different from one another” . . . (1999:177).  One of my colleagues at SDSU confidently stated that his family was never Hutterite – despite a surname (Tschetter) that shows up only among Hutterites.  He might have more accurately said that his family was never communal Hutterite, at least in North America.

A couple of recipes for rhubarb pie might show the differences:

Jeeta Kant’s Hutterite Community Cookbook:

            4 cups fresh cut-up rhubarb (½ inch pieces)|
            2 cups sugar
            3 Tbsp cornstarch
            1 double unbaked 9-inch pie crust

  1.  Mix all filling ingredients together and let stand overnight.
  2. Place in an unbaked pie shell and cover with a top crust and seal.
  3. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 325 for 30 more minutes.

Opposed to the recipe from Pots of Gold from Hutterian Kitchens:

About 5 pails cut up rhubarb               72 egg yolks

            1 ½ c. flour                                          72 egg whites

            24 c. sugar                                           5 ½ c. sugar

            12 c. sweet cream                              72 egg whites

Place 3 cups cut up rhubarb in unbaked pie shells.  Beat egg yolks.  Stir in 24 cups of sugar, flour and cream; mix well.  Pour over cut up rhubarb.  Bake at 350 until done; cool.

Beat egg whites with a little salt.  Add 5 ½ cups sugar, put on top of pies and brown in oven.

1 thought on “Prairie Communists and Rhubarb Pie”

  1. This only works, sort of, in small communities where everyone has a say as to how things are parceled out as well as to the rules. You should note that historically, these sorts of communities are generally run by “elders” who sometimes are elected and when so, are elected by a small number of community members (usually men). Elders decide how things are parceled out according to their religious beliefs and community rules and if things go well, and everyone is honest and honorable, such small communities do reasonably well. But over time, elders are subject to corruption just as much as any other form of government and while it looks nice on the outside you often find cult leaders dictating how things will be on the inside – that no one is allowed to talk about. Censorship in action. I prefer our way of doing things. Communism never works in large groups. Unless, of course, you happen to be the dictator at the top of the heap and his/rarely her cronies. Then, of course, things are quite rosey. Peace.


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