The Communal Kitchen Museum!

It is hard to imagine living in a group environment. That though is just what they did in the Amana Colonies. The Amana Colonies are seven villages. Located on 26,000 acres the colonies are in east-central Iowa. In these communal villages, the colonists all dined together. They ate food cooked in a communal kitchen.

I always wanted to tour the Communal Kitchen Museum in Middle Amana, Iowa! Visiting in the winter, the museum is closed. But this year, I visited during the summer on a hosted trip.

When Keith and I visited they offered a wonderful takeout meal. Visitors could take the meal home, or eat at a picnic table outside the museum. The Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau arranged for Keith and I to pick up a takeout meal and dine outside. This was perfect during COVID-19 on a beautiful summer day.

The takeout meal!

David Rettig, Executive Director of the Amana Visitor’s Bureau explained the takeout meal is an example of what was served in Amana’s communal kitchens. “This is the kind of meal they served. I only have tasted this one other place, in Vienna.”

He shared he was surprised to find boiled beef elsewhere. David explained in Amana, they boiled beef because it was easy to fix it in a communal environment.

Our meal was prepared by the Amana Meat Shop using traditional Amana Recipes. The event was part of the annual Take a Bite festival!

Our meal consisted of boiled beef, creamed spinach, horseradish, potatoes, pickled beets, cottage cheese, and rhubarb cake for dessert. My husband Keith was in German food heaven!

Communal Kitchen Museum
Frank and Cindy Tabolski ad Ray and Maggie Auger enjoy their takeout meal!

Out of Town Visitors!

We saw two couples dining at the picnic table next to us. Other Illinoisan’s, they hailed from Algonquin. “We have been coming here for years,” Frank and Cindy Tabolski said. “We first came with our kids in the 1980’s. This year we brought our neighbors, Ray and Maggie Auger.”

Tour of the communal kitchen

Jon Childers, Director of the Amana Historical Society led our tour. “This is the only remaining communal kitchen intact.”

Built in 1863, the Ruedy kitchen served around 40 people in the immediate community.

How the communal kitchen operated

“There were originally 55 communal kitchens. Each kitchen was run by a kitchen boss.”

There was also a vice boss or Fitz boss and three girls between the ages of 14-22 or so. These young ladies washed dishes, cooked, served and rotated jobs in the kitchen. My grandmother worked in this kitchen for six years,” John Childers shared.

All in all, three meals and two coffee breaks were served. “Sometimes the women would take a snack out to the fields,” John added.

Communal Kitchen Museum
Connie Zuber Baugh and Jon Childers shared information during the tour.

Connie Zuber Baugh was also on hand during the tour. Connie’s family had an inn and Connie has been involved with interviews over the years. These interviews are part of the historical society history. “During oral interviews some of the ladies said, ‘We got up at four a.m. It was the same routine everyday.”

The Ruedy Family

It was very fascinating to meet George Ruedy. He grew up in the Ruedy kitchen. “George’s grandma was the kitchen boss,” John Childers said.

Communal Kitchen Museum
Jon Childers and George Ruedy in the Communal Kitchen

Both George’s grandmother and mother’s names were Marie. The kitchen has been preserved back as it appeared in 1932. This was when they served their last meals when the Great Change came. At that time the colonies no longer lived under a communal lifestyle.

“I was the first child born under electric lights,” George said. George Ruedy was born May 9, 1937. George moved to Cedar Rapids but returns to Amana occasionally. The kitchen stayed in the Ruedy family for several years. They had it open as a museum but then they sold it to the Amana Historical Society.

The Ruedy Communal kitchen has both a kitchen and intact dining room.

The Cooper Shop

The Cooper Shop located across the street from the Communal Kitchen.

Across the street from the Communal Kitchen is the Cooper Shop where tools and products of barrel makers are on display. The shop is circa 1863. This was also a very amazing stop with intact tools. Keith and I loved both stops.

Thank you Amana Colonies CVB for hosting us for the Take Out Meal and allowing us to tour the Communal Kitchen Museum! Read about exciting places to stay while visiting!

For more information about the Communal Kitchen Museum, call 319-622-3567.

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