Serving up history Saturday in the Amanas

Communal Breakfast

Communal Kitchen Museum — Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9 a.m.

Breakfast is prepared in the communal kitchen -- Photo courtesy of Amana Heritage Society
Breakfast is prepared in the communal kitchen — photo courtesy of Amana Heritage Society

Longing for a simpler time? Get a taste of history this Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Amana Heritage Society’s Communal Kitchen Museum (1003 26th Ave.) in Middle Amana as part of the Amana Colonies’ Winterfest. Guests can observe the old wood-burning hearth in action, enjoy a hearty communal-style breakfast and learn about life in this unique community.

Reservations are required — call (319)622-3567 or email to make one. Breakfast is $10 per person and served at 9 a.m.

“Historically, that is the only way that people in the Amana Colonies actually ate food. There were no kitchens in individual homes,” breakfast organizer Jon Childers said.

The Kitchen Museum was one of nine communal kitchens in Middle Amana, and over 50 throughout the seven villages, Childers said, and people would eat with their neighbors. Thirty to 50 people would share three meals and two coffee breaks in these female-run kitchens. A kitchen boss and her second-in-command directed the action, while a few young women cooked, served and washed dishes, with the support of several older female prep cooks.

Breakfast is served -- photo courtesy of Amana Heritage society
Breakfast is served — photo courtesy of Amana Heritage society

Communal breakfasts generally consisted of homemade bread and molasses, fried potatoes and maybe a bit of leftover bratwurst, bacon or pork sausage. Also coffee, which is exclusively what Amana residents drank with their breakfast, Childers said. This Saturday, guests can expect eggs, country ham, a little bacon, fried potatoes, homemade bread, jams and jellies and coffee, of course. The potatoes and eggs will be cooked on the wood-burning hearth.

In addition to the culinary portion of the event, guests will learn about the Amana Society’s anti-war history.

“The Amana church, which is the reason we all came here — 167 years ago that started in Germany, in 1714; we’re technically still pacifists to this day. In Germany, we did not participate in wars,” Childers said.

To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of World War I, Childers will discuss the struggle the Amana community faced due to their unwillingness to bear arms.

“We even had an angry mob from our county seat come down and try to burn down one of the villages because they thought we were slackers,” Childers said.

“We applied to the draft board as conscientious objectors. We said we don’t have a problem with our guys serving, we just don’t want them to be armed.”

If you’d like to make a day of it, Winterfest offers a wide variety of activities. For the sporting type, there are nail hammering, log sawing and ice fishing competitions, plus a 5k run/walk, ice skating, the Great Amana Ham Put (yes, that’s a shot put with a ham) and the pork chop slap shot. If you’d rather take it easy, consider the wine and beer walk, best beard competition, mini golf in the Festhalle barn, a wide range of arts and crafts for all ages and tours of artisans’ workshops.

Finish out the evening with dinner and dancing to live music at Millstream Brau Haus, or relax with a five-course meal and local wine pairings from White Cross Cellars at the Ox Yoke Inn for the bargain price of $24.95. Call (319)622-3441 to reserve a place at the Ox Yoke table.

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Contact the Amana Colonies Visitors’ Center for more information at (319)622-7622 or