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Sunday, 01 November 2015

Touring the Mennonite Area of the Waterloo Region - Page 2

Written by Habeeb Salloum and Muna Salloum
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But Mennonite culture predominates.  The sausages and meats, the variety of cheeses, the preserves of jams and jellies (even low-sugar!), pickles, syrups, pierogis, noodles, the freshly fried doughnuts and fritters with maple syrup, home-made chips and breads  all remind us of the non-erasable identity of the Mennonites, preserving their heritage and traditions for the world to see at St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market.

The apple fritters took us by storm.  Fresh, hot and crispy, we thought this was the ultimate of Mennonite foods, that is, until we sampled the renowned Mennonite sausage, sliced thick, it becomes Mennonite ‘steak’.  Even the pierogis, a food that I’ve never really relished, tasted good in their Mennonite version.  If only time had given us the chance to sample the maple syrup and preserves.

Leaving the Market, we climbed aboard a tourist train, a train that connects to the heart of the Village of St. Jacob’s carrying visitors and Market shoppers alike to and from the Market. Volunteers operate this steam and diesel-hauled train.  A vintage adventure in transport, the train starts at St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market and ends at the Village of St. Jacob’s after crossing the Conestogo River.  

We walked a short distance from the train stop and reached the Village-centre.  The Village itself is steeped in history and known for its original arts and crafts, quite evident from its studios and galleries where one can meet the artisans themselves.  In addition, it offers great shopping from boutique clothing and jewelry, to gourmet foods, and handmade goods and now prides itself as site for fine-dining featuring regional cuisine.

One of the most distinguishing trademarks of the Village is The Mill located in the center of town, featuring exhibits and galleries for self-guided tours such as the Maple Syrup Museum.  Not only does the visitor learn about the history of making maple syrup in the province, but even more interesting is the story of how the Indigenous Peoples introduced settlers to the secrets of making maple syrup.

Our objective was to spend some time in the multi-media interpretive 'Mennonite Story' centre on King Street, an informative place for those interested in the history, religion, and culture of the Mennonites in Ontario and beyond.  Displays, artifacts, photos, and slide presentations are promoted as being detailed and extensive.  So well-organized is this place that audio is available in a half dozen languages. But alas, our time was limited and we were unable to visit as we had an appointment for lunch in nearby Waterloo.

After lunch we drove to the 100-year old Langdon Hall, once a mansion of the wealthy and now a vacation destination, located in Cambridge.  Although renovated into the luxurious Country House Hotel and Spa, it still maintains the upper-class grandeur that once was.  Set in a tranquil estate within woodland and magnificent gardens, Langdon Hall’s promise is to provide an “escape into a world of gracious hospitality, elegant amenities and exemplary service”.  A magical retreat for relaxation and for refreshing the soul, it allows the guest to reflect on the serenity and beauty of nature, redefining what life is all about in the country.  We were given a walk-through its vegetable garden that provides enough products in the summer and fall for its daily food service and during the winter and spring, meals are prepared from products purchased from local farms and from the Hall’s own greenhouse.  

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Last modified on Sunday, 01 November 2015

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