Tag Archives: New York

Amish Food: Tasting AmericaThe Simple Way

Destination: Amish America

Book: Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana by Kevin Williams and Lovina Eicher.

Article by Brette Sember

There’s something tantalizing about Amish life. It sounds so simple and down to earth – no phones, no electricity, no computers, no TV. It’s definitely fascinating to many people, which explains why Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio have become a huge tourist attraction, as people come to see the Amish in their buggies and plain clothes.

Amish buggy, Holmes County Ohio
Amish buggy, Holmes County Ohio

There are several groups of Amish in my area of western New York state – in the Finger Lakes and in the Chautauqua Lake region. Weekends jaunts to these areas bring us face to face with the Amish at farm and craft markets and we pass their buggies on the road. We’ve brought home our share of Amish baked goods and jams. Additionally, I have a personal link to the simple lifestyle. My great grandparents were Mennonite, a religious group very similar to the Amish that embraces a rustic and basic lifestyle (the religions are very similar and so are the cultures – both are known for their baked goods!). So it was with interest that I picked up Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana by Kevin Williams and Lovina Eicher.

Amish Are Everywhere

The most fascinating fact this book brings home is that Amish are not an East coast group. There are Amish all across the U.S., Canada and even in central and South America. And because the Amish communities are so insular (no way to call each other up or send email), the geographic groups tend to evolve independently. For example, although we tend to think of the Amish in their closed top buggies, the Amish in Wisconsin use topless buggies, those in Pinecraft, Florida ride bikes and have no buggies at all, and those in Montana ride their horses cowboy style. Each community is distinct and separate and so is their food.

Amish Parking
Amish Parking in Millersburg, Ohio

Food Groups

While there are Amish dishes that are consistently enjoyed across the country (the author names whoopee pie and pickled beets but does not include a recipe for either), each group of Amish has its own specialties and this book highlights them. A lot of what people in my area think of as Amish is not recognizable to the Amish in the south or the west. The Amish cook with local ingredients and pick up on regional specialties. For example, in Texas the Amish regularly make quesadillas and burritos, those in Georgia make cornbread, the Florida Amish fry alligator, and the Amish in Montana cook with wild game (the book includes recipes for all of these).

The book is divided into geographic segments and each contains several pages of descriptions about the lifestyles, beliefs and differences in that area with specific pages devoted to groups in certain counties or towns within that region. It’s a fascinating journey through a subculture that is widespread across the country. Each chapter also includes recipes. I recommend loosening your belt before getting down to these: Elderberry Custard Pie, Potato Chowder, Hot Fudge Sundae Cake, Scalloped Corn, Oatmeal Bologna, Yoder Coffeecake, Muscadine Pie, Amish Stovetop Beans, and Huckleberry Pancakes all beckon. This is hearty, carb-laden, homestyle cooking at its best.

Amish breakfast
Amish breakfast at Der Dutchman Restraunt in Holmes County, Ohio

Viewing the Amish

If you were hoping for a photographic peek into Amish life, you won’t get it in this book. The Amish universally shun appearing in photographs and many prefer not to even have their homes or buggies photographed either. One of the authors is herself Amish (she writes a newspaper column with Amish recipes) and the other is her editor, so they are closely attuned to the beliefs of the Amish and are very careful to mainly show photographs of food and landscapes that do not show actual Amish.

What you do get is a tour via words of the people who live this reserved life and how their cuisine reflects their beliefs (the bishops in each area decide how the people live, so some are allowed gas-powered stoves and refrigerators, while others are not) and their geography. The authors interview and quote many Amish across the country so you feel as if you really get to know each group well. Lest you think the Amish are outdated and a fading curiosity, the book explains that they are rapidly expanding – each family generally has eight or nine children, necessitating the start of new groups all across the U.S. If you don’t have an Amish community near you now, you may in the future.

For a taste of the Amish, I’m planning to make Flat Rock Pudding

FLAT ROCK PUDDING

Amish Dessert Recipe
Flat Rock Pudding

Serves 8 to 12

Dorcas Raber said this dessert originated when a woman in her church used chocolate chip cookies instead of the graham crackers in the recipe she had gotten. “It really became a hit in our church,” she said. “Everyone just loves it.”

Flat Rock Pudding

Serves 8 to 12

Dorcas Raber said this dessert originated when a woman in her church used chocolate chip cookies instead of the graham crackers in the recipe she had gotten. “It really became a hit in our church,” she said. “Everyone just loves it.”

  • 6 cups milk
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups whipped topping
  • 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies (See page 60 of the book for a recipe or use your own favorite homemade or store bought cookies )
  • Peanut butter, for sandwiching the cookies

Heat 4½ cups of the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until the milk is scalded (180°F). Whisk in the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, egg yolks, and the remaining 1½ cups cold milk. Heat the milk mixture until thick, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Fold in the whipped topping. Spread some peanut butter between two chocolate chip cookies to form a cookie sandwich. Repeat until all four dozen cookies have been used. Cut or crumble the cookie sandwiches into the pudding mixture, and stir until well combined.

The picture of Flat Rock Pudding is used by permission of the publisher. With the exception of the photo of Flat Rock Pudding, the photos accompanying this article are not from the book, but are used by permission of A Traveler’s Library. A Traveler’s Library lets you know about affiliate links. Links in this article to Amazon are for your convenience, but each purchase  will also make a few cents for Brette Sember and her site, Putting It All on the Table. Thanks!

Hudson River Valley Novel Takes New Look at July 4

Hudson River Valley book: Seven Locks

 

Destination: Hudson River Valley, New York

Book: Seven Locks by Christine Wade, Published January 2013

Thus it would seem that knowledge and genius, of which we make great parade, consist but in detecting the errors and absurdities of those who have gone before, and devising new errors and absurdities to be detected by those who come after us.

Diedrich Knickerbocker,

A History of New York, 1809

Quoted at the beginning of Part  III of Seven Locks

Hudson River Valley
Hudson River Valley. Photo by Kimba Howard

When we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 in the United States, we tend to think of the big dramatic moments–Bunker Hill, the Boston Massacre, George Washington crossing the Delaware.  But Seven Locks takes us inside the lives of ordinary people in the Hudson River Valley who lived through those days for a totally different view of Colonial America. Continue reading

What Is Your Alibi For Travel?

Destination: Rome, New York City, Tuscany, Paris, Barcelona, Alexandria Egypt

Book Cover

Book: Alibis:Essays on Elsewhere by André Aciman

André Aciman travels with a very different mindset than you and I.  We are going away from our home to a different place.  He agrees with T.S. Eliot, who said, “The end is where we start from.”

A journey, he says, always is FROM somewhere. But in his case, home is elsewhere in time. Since it is difficult to pin down where he comes from–anywhere he goes is also elsewhere.  His essays play with the idea of memory of place, trying to recover the past, fiction that sneaks into memoir, and the time-bending quality of anticipation. Continue reading