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HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Oasis Newsfeatures editor Kevin Williams was a 19-year-old college student when he went on a search for an Amish newspaper columnist. Being young and na"ve, he didn't realize that was like trying to find four-leaf clover, very tough, but not impossible. The idea for an Amish cooking column came quite by chance. Kevin was on assignment in Michigan for a magazine, doing a feature story about the increasing number of Amish families moving to the state. While interviewing an Amish woman in her kitchen, he noticed a tiny hand-written cookbook called "Mother's Favorite Recipes." It was a quaint, charming cookbook. So Kevin bought one on a whim and drove back to his Ohio home. Later, as he flipped through the book, the idea of bringing that old-fashioned charm to a newspaper column emerged.

A month or so after that first cookbook encounter, Kevin made the four hour drive to the Michigan woman's house in hopes of talking her into turning her handwritten cookbook into a weekly newspaper column. She politely declined. Dressed in his Sunday best, Kevin approached some other Amish women in southern Michigan about writing a newspaper column. All met him with polite, but glazed, suspicious stares. The Amish are wary of outsiders, and Kevin probably appeared to be another huckster trying to lure someone into a scheme.

An Amish man in the southern Michigan community of Reading told Kevin of a woman who lived in Indiana who wrote cookbooks. The Amish woman had muscular dystrophy and writing was a way for her to earn some income. So, that same day, Kevin headed to Indiana in search of the cookbook writer. But upon arriving in her community, he discovered that she had left the Amish order and moved to Virginia. So Kevin stopped at Amish bakeries and dry good stores in this rural Indiana outpost, hoping to find a woman who would become the columnist he envisioned when he first picked up a copy of "Mother's Favorite Recipes." The same polite but standoffish stares greeted him. Until, in random frustration, he turned into a driveway where two women were standing outside. That was Elizabeth's Coblentz's driveway.

It turned out Elizabeth had been writing for The Budget since she was 16. The Budget is a newspaper circulated among Amish communities in the United States and Canada. Elizabeth was a natural to take the job of newspaper columnist.

In August of 1991, the Quincy Herald-Whig in Quincy, Illinois became the first newspaper in the country to subscribe to The Amish Cook newspaper column.


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