Good morning. Another beautiful one so far. Temperature is so nice that the windows are open and the coolness of the morning feels perfect.
My topic this morning is the Amish. No, I am not Amish, but I have plenty to say about one particular area of the Amish that I have been visiting for over 20 years.
It all started with my reading an article about this area in the newspaper, mainly because of it being one of the largest flea markets ever.
Well, that peaked my interest and off I went. It is 130 miles from home, a simple 2 1/2 hour drive away. When I arrived, you could have knocked me over with a feather, it was in an Amish community. The town is called Shipshewana in Indiana. Now it wasn't like I had never seen Amish before...I had for years taken the family on outings to a place in Arcola, Illinois called Rockome Gardens. The Amish town of Arthur as well. But this place was much different. It is such a clean an pristine little town. Cute shops with great little finds everywhere.
Now, I must tell you through the years, I had been questioning the taste of food. It seemed like I kept saying that nothing tasted the same way it did when I was young. I thought perhaps my memory of food from days gone by made me imagine that it was different...or perhaps it was that I was older and my taste buds were altered, and even wondered if it was because I had false teeth...could that be the reason? Well, the first meal in Shipshewana gave me the answer....NO to all of the above. It was the food at home. The food I had become accustomed to eating. It was all the processed foods filled with chemicals and preservatives. That is why things didn't taste so good any more.
In this charming little town...on the corner of the main crossroads there was this quaint little blue house...it was a restaurant called Blue Gate. You will still find that restaurant there....but not like it was 20 years ago....but the food is the same. In that little house, you were seated in what were bedrooms, perhaps living room or even the dining room. The wait was at least an hour or so....but you never minded because you would walk the stores and shop, or jut sit on one of the rocking chairs on the porch, or take a horse a buggy ride while you waited. You were served a family style meal that tasted like you were back in time. Fried chicken, pot roast that simply fell apart it was so tender, with stuffing, potatoes and gravy, green beans and a sweet potato casserole. But before all those tantalizing main foods were brought to your table you had a loaf of hot homemade bread, butter, apple butter and a concoction of peanut butter mixed with marshmallow fluff that was amazing. Your salad had fresh made croutons, assumingly from the left over breads and homemade salad dressings. To top off the meal at the end you given a choice of pie. Homemade pies. My favorite choice was one that was called Raspberry Cream. It had a cream cheese layer on the bottom, next came a raspberry jam layer, then a layer of a vanilla custard and then topped with a dream whip type topping. The crust was so flakey and delicious.....oh my...what a treat! The tables were small and on the table sat small homemade Lazy Susans that had a kerosene lamp with a shade in the center. It was a charming and delightful way to end your day. It was hard to leave at the end of the day. I kept going back and discovered many new places each time. The flea market was great, but it was the town that endeared me.
I am quite the adventurer, so I found myself up and down the country roads finding small stores inside of Amish homes. I found a small place back in the days called Ferns. You could go in and have lunch...and what a lunch it was, and while you were there, you could see the Amish girls making homemade noodles. They were on the menu as well. They served it with gravy and either beef or chicken over mashed potatoes...yes, you read that right...and it was to die for.
The first time I stopped at a farm that had a sign that read "watermelons 4 sale", I pulled in and waited for someone to come out... there was an Amish man chopping wood at the back and I approached him. I told him that I wanted to purchase some watermelons...He said go right ahead...take what you need..there is a box there with money...just put the money in and if you need to make change it is there as well. Imagine how astonished I was...Never in a million years in this day and age could you do that in Chicago. There was another road through the years that I go down that has a vegetable stand at the end of the farm on the edge of the road that has all the vegetables and fruits from the farm for sale. They have a little table inside the shed like building with a scale on it. there are bags for you there as well. On the table is a notebook and pen on a string to write down your purchase and there are envelopes to put you money or check in and a Mailbox outside on a pole to drop in the envelope with payment. Trust in God...that is their motto. I have bought the best vegetables, no chemicals, all freshly picked.
I found in town a Meat Market called Yoder's....well almost everything there just about has a Yoder name...anyway, I purchase cartful's of meat. No steroids, no hormones. It is all wrapped in butcher paper. You don't see what anything looks like...but trust me...you know every piece is good cut. In the past 15 years that I have bought my meats..I have never had a bad piece or cut ever. I load my coolers up jut before I head home. Everything is frozen so the minute I get home, into the deep freezer it goes.
One of the stops that is a must for me, is to go and get a frosted glass of homemade root beer. That reminds me of my Grandma. That's a topic for another day. And then I absolutely must go down to the Mercantile and have a homemade pretzel that is dipped in butter from JOJO's Unbelievable! I know most of you may think...big deal ,we can get those in the mall...well, let me assure you they taste nothing like these. There is Yoder's department store that has just about everything under the blue moon. It is like walking through a Woolworths years ago, combined with a hardware store.
I, one day walked into the Bulk grocery store there and was talking to a young girl and asked it there were any of the Amish on the farm that make furniture. I was looking for a dining room set. She directed me to the farm. The gentleman and I spoke and designed the plans for him to make my dining room set. It is solid Oak...48 inches wide and has 3 leaves to insert. which makes it 120 inches long. It has 6 chairs to go with it. I got to choose the color of stain I wanted, the style of legs and chairs. I wanted to have it for my daughter's bridal shower and he did it in one month. We went back, picked it up, and it all only ran me $1,000.00. What a bargain for a table that will last forever and be handed down generation through generation. Nowhere will you ever find a standard table so wide...the first time I put our Easter dinner on the table...My family and I thought something must be missing since there was so much room on the table, where once we had to juggle things to make it all fit. If that table could talk today it would have story after story of all the things the occurred around it. Hmmm...that would be another days topic.
Well, I found countless more places and things to do. I go into the side porches of Amish homes where they sell their eggs from their chickens. And they too have their change boxes sitting there with a list as to the cost of the eggs...they even have the math done out for you as by how many dozen you buy. I also go down the road a piece to a Bakery, where in this side home they make homemade pasties everyday. The list goes on and on. All I can say is that when I make my visits there...and I enter the town...my heart and my soul say 'I am home". Some say you can never go back....but with this town...I have learned that you truly can.