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Amish Winters

It's winter in Amish country.

It's a time when the coal-stoves are hard at work, protecting homes from the harsh Indiana elements. The holidays are over and a New Year's calm has settled over most of the Amish communities. Families stay indoors and play board games, sing, or quilt together.

It's hard to believe that four months have passed since Elizabeth Coblentz, the original author of The Amish Cook, passed away. Regular readers of The Amish Cook column, though, know that Lovina has done a superb job of picking up her mother's pen.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth's cookbook, the one she completed just before her death, continues to sell well. Over 12,000 copies, the entire first printing, sold out in less than a month. It's an extremely touching tribute to Elizabeth's legacy. Another batch of books is expected in stores at the end of January, so they should become easier to find. I was excited the other night when I was in a B. Dalton store at the Tri-County Mall in Cincinnati, Ohio and saw a lone copy of our book on the shelf. It was the first time I had seen one in a store.

I still struggle with a sense of sadness at Elizabeth's passing. I sometimes find my eyes tearing up just talking about her. In some ways, I'm surprised that I am still this sad. After all, Elizabeth's health had been slowly deteriorating and, in my heart, I knew she probably wouldn't be with us much longer. But I think I lost something more than just Elizabeth that September day, I lost a link to my own past. I can close my eyes and remember, no, more than remember, I can close my eyes and taste, smell, and feel that warm summer day when I first pulled into Elizabeth's driveway. I was 19 and the world was the endless magic carpet of possibilities that it is for any teenager. For years it seemed that anytime I visited with Elizabeth, I was transported to that time of innocence and opportunity. With Elizabeth gone, so, too, is that touchstone to my teens. But we all lose such links with deaths or other changes. The challenge in life, I believe, is to stay connected to where you came from, while always keeping new opportunities, ideas, and vigor in your life.

On a recent winter day, I walked through Elizabeth's "little woods," which is nothing more than a stand of trees not far from her house. I was searching for a seedling, perhaps a tiny oak or maple, that I could uproot and replant at my own homestead to serve as a reminder of Elizabeth. I couldn't find such a seedling, perhaps I will in the spring. I would love to plant a tree in Elizabeth's memory. A reader sent some poppy seeds to me shortly after Elizabeth's death. I will plant those in her honor. And I will also, for the first time, have a garden of my own this spring, which I will always think of Elizabeth every time I pull a weed or harvest a tomato.

Elizabeth's daughters, Susan and Verena, remain on the homestead. Time will tell what will happen to that special place. Meanwhile, they just slowly sort through their parents items. As is Amish tradition, there will at some point be a private auction where only immediate family will bid upon their mother's items. It's a tradition that seems foreign to my ways, where when someone passes you just sort of split the belongings among whoever wants them. Among the Amish, a private auctioneer will come and conduct an auction for the family. The children bid for what they want and the proceeds are split equally among the kids. It's a way to keep animosity at bay while the estate is divided. The memories the children have of their parents are more important than the material transactions.

A pastor in Washington State did a better job of expressing this sentiment better than I. Lovina wrote about dividing the property up in a recent column. Pastor Cecil Thompson wrote about this column in a recent essay, which can be found at

Kevin Williams
Executive Editor
Oasis Newsfeatures