The Food Art of Naomi Nissley

Today as I worked on the task of Casserole Perfection, I pulled out my copy of the legendary Mennonite culinary source - The Mennonite Community Cookbook. Turning to the "Cheese, Egg, and Casserole Dish" chapter, I immediately noticed the small, detailed drawing framing the title at the top of the page - a cheese cloth hanging from a tree branch, dripping every so slightly onto the Dishes

It was sweet and beautiful and shined of a skilled artist. The cover of the book obviously has some fabulous work, but the interior had never caught me before the Cheese chapter. So I flipped through its entirety and marveled at the drawings.

A teapot in the "Bread" chapter. The intricate details are amazing. 

The Mennonite artist is Naomi Nissley from Pennsylvania - a serious, well-trained, accomplished printmaker. Her work has appeared at Harvard, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Cookbooks today are filled with vivid photography - portraits of stunning dishes aimed to stimulate a palate. My own photos of food seeks to do the same, as well as tell the story of its making.

But rarely do we see cookbooks today that feature the work of printmakers to show a particular culture's art and foodways. Yet another reason the book is an icon.

The drawing above struck me especially as it seemed to tell a lovely story like... 
"YES! My love is home!" 
Or maybe, "Oh great... The Millers have arrived for dinner!" 
Or maybe, "Holy Crap! The Millers have arrived for dinner early! Quick... hide the television!" 

I'm sure some Mennonite somewhere has this for a tattoo. Rightly so.

I want those dishes

I included the one above because I'm hoping someone can fill me in on what in the world that thing is the woman is holding. I'm baffled and intrigued.

Now back to my casserole...


  1. Katie: I sent you a note via e-mail which may explain the drawing in the Jellies, Jams, and Preserves chapter.

    I have two beautiful large copper ladles which my Grandparents used in butchering and preserving, though I recall neither except for the fulsome activity surrounding the events and the gathering of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grace Herr

  2. Thank you so much Grace! I've definitely filed your email under "very helpful information" and "why I started this blog in the first place". Love all the connections and how much I learn.
    Your ladles sound priceless. As do the fulsome activity. :)

  3. By reminding me of these wonderful illustrations, you've inspired me to obtain a copy of this cookbook, which I remember our family having as I grew up. I laughed out loud at "quick, hide the television!" (See http://www.personal.psu.edu/mja11/blogs/family/2010/04/a-60s-family-memory--facebook-.html)

  4. Mary, Your blog looks fascinating... Loved the comment about the television! Glad you'll the cookbook classic. It has some gems within. Thanks for taking the time to comment!