The Amish Cook from Oasis Newsfeatures

Amish and Christmas Decorations

I put up a poll this evening about whether you favor real Christmas trees or fake.  My family usually went with the artificial, store-in-a-box type, while my wife's family would usually just go into their woods and grab a real thing.  Meanwhile, my grandma decorates her artificial tree and when the season is over she throws a sheet over it and wheels it into a spare bedroom where it sits until the next fall. Now THAT is easy.Smile  The Amish generally don't do Christmas decorations (oh, I am sure somewhere you'll find an exception, but this is a general rule).  You'll often see Christmas cards that they've received from Amish and non-Amish alike that will be on their mantel or wall, but that is about the extent of it.  Of course, they'll celebrate the season through food: fudge, candies, and casseroles season-specific start to give the kitchen a great scent, but those tasty "decorations" don't last long. But beyond the cards and candies, you won't see a tree or fake candy cane decorations or other outwardly secular signs of the season adorning Amish homes.

I'll talk about the Amish and Christmas gift exchange in a future post!

Sunday Night Nostalgia: Hot Shoppe, Anyone?

I do get nostalgic for simpler, tastier times.  You'd expect that from the Amish Cook's editor.  Food conveys so many memories: comfort, nostalgic, long-gone but still-loved relatives, coziness, vanished youth...the list is of feelings these places conjure is endless.  I've talked before about my fondness for such defunct eateries like Bill Knapp's and Burger Chef.  Restaurant memories are on my mind because when Rachel and I were in Texas recently we saw a lot of Luby's Restaurants which is a chain of cafeteria-style restaurants in Texas.  Cafeteria-style restaurants were once popular throughout the country and I'm not quite sure why they fell out of favor.  A cafeteria seems more sanitary than a buffet, but I guess you can't pile your plate at a cafeteria the way you can at a buffet, so that is probably what did them in.....a local chain called the Cambridge Inn was a great cafeteria destination, but Luby's reminded me of the now defunct Hot Shoppe, a cafeteria owned and operated by the Marriott chain.  Do any of our Amish Cook readers remember The Hot Shoppe?  There are some other eateries that may still exist somewhere as shells of their former selves, maybe someone else out there knows? I know a few Rax roast beef restaurants still cling to life, and there is one old-style Farrell's ice cream parlor operating somewhere.....but what about these?

1) Wag's (we used to go here with my Grandparents in Florida

2) Burger Chef (I doubt any of these still exist, just sort of a fast-food forerunner to Burger King)

3) Howard Johnson Restaurants (I know the hotel exists, but HoJo used to be better known for it's ice cream, any of those still around?)

4)  Sambos (a Denny's-style eatery, I think there are racial overtones to the name..not sure about that, but I think...)

5) York Steak House (used to be a mall-type steak house chain, any of those still around?)

I know, I could probably "Google" the above and find my answer, but that is no fun....maybe someone else just knows?  Ah, nostalgic for the days before Google.

While, I am at it: anyone remember the old department store "Rink's?"   Or "Fazio Foods", a grocery store chain?  Any of these still around.....?



Binder and Book

I was thrilled when my Dad found an original copy of An Amish Christmas in my old bedroom at my parents house.  The original Amish Christmas was sold back in 1992.  A local "mom and pop" printing shop would print the books and my Dad and I would bind them together and copies sold for $9.99 in some local stores and through the mail.  There aren't many of those originals still left, but we are offering a reprint/revised 20-year anniversary edition of An Amish Christmas for the next two weeks.  Click here to buy.  Anyway, this is one of these posts and photos that is probably special just to me (and perhaps my Dad), but this is the photo of the binder we bound the books onSmile.   The books and plastic comb binding and the binder operated using a lever. The original sold for $9.99.  The original copy that Dad found this week is pictured above with the binder.  I've heard from one reader in Eaton, Ohio who says she actually still has her original.

Snowy School Scene

This is another beautiful photo from David Shaner's collection.  A big thank you to him for letting us share in some of his beautiful work.  This is a photo of an Amish school taken in the Grabill area of Indiana.  What I like about this photo isn't the classic Amish imagery of a school-house.  The photo does depict a classic "one-room" Amish schoolhouse (most are actually more than a single room and can be rather spacious inside), but what really grabs me is just how much hardier Amish culture is than non-Amish.  Notice all the school-children bundled up and playing in the schoolyard? Most midwestern schools close when the slightest bit of snow is on the ground. I have heard of Amish schools being closed in rare instances, but that is not commond.  And when non-Amish public and private schools are in session, recess would usually be held inside in the gymnasium (okay, correct me, I might be wrong on that...since it was 30 years since I was a school-kid, I am surmising that is the case....).  These Amish children, though, simply bundle up and enjoy the outdoor elements. I love that about about Amish culture, an ingrained acceptance of whatever God and Mother Nature chooses to throw your way.  Just deal with it and enjoy it.  We could all learn from that!

Frozen Laundry

Well, the first meaningful snow of the season is about to blanket the Ohio Valley.  We are expecting 2 - 3 inches tomorrow followed by frigid weather.  Above is a gorgeous photo taken by photographer Dave Shaner around the Grabill, Indiana area.  I couldn't get the photo to be the perfect size, any smaller and you couldn't see the laundry, any larger and it took over the whole screen... Many Amish forgo outside line drying when the temperature gets too cold.  First of all, wet clothes on the line have a tendency to freeze and trying to clip laundry with a clothespin can be a prescription for frozen fingers.  So many Amish have either some lines in the cellar or some drying racks inside for clothing. Of course, you don't want to put the clothing too close to the stoves as that can be a fire hazard.  I remember visiting the late Elizabeth Coblentz and standing next to her coal-stove while wearing some of those stretchy, nylon running pants.  I very quickly had a hole melted in the pants.  In fact, many an Amish person has a patch in the rear of their denim jeans from standing too close to the stove!Smile  Enjoy the above photo, which, again, was taken near Grabill, Indiana.   It's a very typical winter scene in many ways, but, again, seeing laundry hanging in frigid weather is more rare, some very hardy fingers in that family.  Thanks again to Dave Shaner for sharing!


Okay, this is a little off topic (well, maybe not so much todaySmile), but I became aware of a website today that sort of has me amazed.  Now, I am the king of apology writing: "I'm sorry you didn't get your cookbook on time..."...."I'm sorry I offended you with this opinion....".....I'm sorry there was an error in the recipe for cheese biscuits."   I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry....Tired of saying it or want help in saying it? There is actually a website to help you apologize!   I found out about this website because one of our readers had a link to  the site on their Amish Cook profile page and at first I thought it was a joke.  But when I read their site and the thoughtful way it was written, I realized they were serious.  Check it out here!   Sheesh, would any of you pay $24.50 to have an apology letter written for you?  On one hand, the site says that often the missing ingredient in an apology is something that really conveys "I'm sincere, I mean it."   On the other hand, if you're paying someone to write an apology, isn't that sort of dodging the sincerity aspect of it?  I'm truly not endorsing, nor criticizing the of their site seem rather compelling....I just thought I would put it up for discussion....what do you think about this?

Not So Simple.....

So, anyone who has a copy  of "The Amish Cook's Everything But The Kitchen Sink Book", did you read my book excerpt in there? If so, what did you think?

"Not So Simple" is my "memoir."  "Memoir" sounds a little pretentious, but, all the word really means is "my story" and that is what it is.  "Not So Simple" - a phrase I find myself uttering a lot these days -  describes my past 20 years of work with the "plain people" and the story behind the Amish Cook column (and there is one).  I've told Lovina that if I could just get the memoir published it would serve as a sort of "career capstone" for me and sort of give this whole long journey some real meaning.  The book is about 1 /3 complete but I do not have a publisher for it yet and I'd rather not go the self-published route.  So we'll see.

Speaking of "not so simple", this website is sort of a reflection of me: my tastes, personality, etc. I think ANY website absorbs the personality and quirks of its owner to some degree.  Last night I made a post about the Amish visiting the Holy Land.  In the post, I was critical of the writer who left out what I thought was some really key information.  This morning, however, I had a regular reader, a nice lady, email me:

I'm finding it difficult to read some of your posts because there is frequently a reference made to the quality of another person's writing.  Maybe this is the journalist in you but critical statements that can even be interpreted as sarcastic are quite off-putting and don't seem in line with the overall theme and tone of your website.  Other journalists who are contributing articles to other sources probably don't have as an intense interest and involvement in the Amish as you do ad it seems unfair and side handed to so often criticize the quality of another person's writing.  It also quietly elevates you to a position you might not be comfortable with as being the expert and the standard for journalism.  

What do others think of the above comments?  AM I too critical?  See, in my mind, I can think of dozens and dozens of news articles where I've said "here is a superb article by.." or "read this excellent piece."  So, yea, sometimes I am critical if I think a piece merits it, but I also think I am a positive and peppy cheerleader for articles when they merit it. 

Sooo, I'd like some input on "Not So Simple" and my "editorializing" on the site.  I had another reader pounce on me because she felt I was frequently bashing Berne, Indiana.  I told the woman that I don't think I have ever bashed Berne.  I simply have said that " for a variety of reasons Berne is not my favorite settlement."  Simply an opinion...I like strawberry ice cream better than chocolate, but I don't think that means I am bashing chocolate.  SIGH....not so simple, is it?

Wow, Tacky Buggy!

Wow, I am not often left speechless, but this buggy does leave me at a loss for words. I've seen buggies with bling before, I've seen buggies dressed up with lots of reflectors, and even some with a bumper sticker on....but they've been - as Paul Harvey used to call them - "bumper snickers."  Maybe something that says "Gone Fishin'" or something.  But this buggy spotted in a rural area west of Berne, Indiana is just bizarre.  Alcohol does seem to be a bit of a problem in the Adams County, Indiana Amish settlement, I've observed this tendency first-hand, so this sticker could just be another symptom of that.  But for a buggy to blatantly advertise the owner's love of brewski is just unheard of....The Amish generally dress alike, drive the same color buggies, etc so they wont' stand out from one another, while still remaining separate from the world.  This bumper sticker seems to be thumbing its nose at the usual standards.  For those who have trouble enlarging the image, the yellow "plate" on the right buggy says "Beer Drinkers Make Better Lovers."  The buggy could belong to a young person who's just rebelling a bit.  That might be the most plausible explanation.

This photo was taken by Dave Shaner, who offered a couple of other observations about where the photo was taken:

It's an old brick school house that was converted into a house. Not too many other Amish places near this one and made me wonder if this was some kind of outcast person living there. That's just my thinking. The location  would be west of the city of Berne approximately 4 miles or so  

Thanks to Dave for the intriguing photo. If anyone in the Berne area is familiar with this buggy and can offer any additional insight, email me at  

One Last Glimpse of Texas...

This quaint sign directs the way to homemade honey.  Several Amish men among the nine families around Beeville raise bees for making and selling homemade honey.  South Texas honey is known for being very flavorful and dark.

Clever Cupcakes....

I couldn't resist posting this photo.  No, this isn't the from-scratch simplicity you'll find in Amish kitchens like the pumpkin roll in the post below....but an old friend of mine is always exercising her culinary creativity.  I think she got this confection concoction from a cookbook (but what recipes don't come from one, and just because it's in a book doesn't mean its do-able, It'd take me years to perfect this).  So, these are turkey-shaped cupcakes.  The turkey legs are made from Pringle wheatsticks and caramel.  I think I need to be paying this old friend a visit soon.  Yum!!Smile