Monday, October 4, 2010

amish world

This morning I was up and at 'em by 7:30am.

For me, any time before 9am is early (not a morning person).  The reward for rising before my usual alarm was a day in Amish Country with our friends (and tour guides), Jim and Alisa.  Getting an early start meant visiting more places and seeing more things.

Since I first heard about it, I have fondly referred to Amish Country as "Amish World."  Because I think I'm funny and my mind is a colorful place, I like envisioning it as the exact opposite of what it really is.  I talk about it so animatedly that I may have some of you persuaded I actually believe it's an amusement park.  

I don't, and it's not.  

However, there is cheese in Amish World.

Lots and lots of cheese.

And no power lines.  That was an interesting fact that Alisa pointed out to me when we arrived.  While I knew about the conservative lifestyle of the Amish, it didn't occur to me that they would be without power poles and electrical lines.  It is so much a part of our landscape that I hardly notice, but seeing a place without it is striking.

One of the first stores we toured was Heini's Cheese Chalet.  After 20+ samples of handmade cheese and fudge (I had my first experience of what it must feel like to be a judge at a food competition.. so many different types to try.. one right after the other.. positively dreamy), we purchased our favorites, and found our way to the Information booth where we met Adlai Miller.  Standing 5'5" tall, dressed in overalls and shades of blue, and wearing the signature beard-without-a-mustache facial hair, Adlai was an elegant spokesperson for the company and Amish culture.  He was more than happy to answer all of our questions and give us a tour of the cheese factory.  I suspect Adlai was in his 70s and could easily win a place in my heart.  His gentle demeanor, kind eyes and beautifully wrinkled skin, made me wish we could sit with him for hours and hear his stories of growing up Amish.

The stop before Heini's was Lehman's hardware supply.  Founded in 1955 as a one-room country store, this business has served the community well.  The craftsmanship of the tools, furniture and appliances is worth the trip.  I was amazed to see refrigerators, chest freezers and washing machines that looked modern but ran on batteries and gas and other methods to maintain the integrity of the Amish lifestyle.  Chris and I drooled over the rocking chairs, handmade hickory benches, and wood burning stoves.  Unfortunately, with such precision comes a higher price tag, so we'll be adding those items to our "When We Win the Lottery" list.

Throughout the hours that followed, we visited an antiques shop, two different markets (more samples!), a famous metal arts store, a chocolate factory, two shops with wine tasting, a craft & candle place, a bulk foods store, we drove around the gorgeous countryside, and ate our lunch at Miller's Dutch Kitch'n.  The special was broasted chicken, and my side dishes included potato salad and cauliflower soup (with chocolate angel food cake for dessert).

As day closed in on night, we said our goodbyes and unloaded our Amish treasures onto the kitchen counter.  What a bounty, and a very satisfying outing!  My husband couldn't wait to make a pizza with the cheese from Heini's and have a glass of the rhubarb wine we tasted that afternoon.  I ate some dried carrots and savored a hunk of fudge, while considering when I will cook up a pot of soup out of the bag of lentils and rice, and how soon I can make a no-bake cheesecake from the plastic container of black raspberry powder.

The Amish people we met today and the simplicity we witnessed were really quite nice.  And the landscape was delightful, even without roller coasters and ferris wheels.  

I will gladly visit the area and support their economy on future occasions, but for sure I won't be converting.  I hear some of the families start their work days at 4am.

Enough said.

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