Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Amish Cook At Home

One of my enduring memories of 2010 is the time that I spent working with the Amish and Mennonite communities, so on a recent visit to the library, The Amish Cook At Home seemed to call to me.

As co-author Kevin Williams says of Lovina Eicher: "I live in a world of BlackBerry PDAs, iPods, text messaging and e-mail. Lovina lives in a world of blackberries and raspberries, home canning, quilting, child rearing and the slow cadence of a buggy ride."

The book is a combination of recipes interspersed with glimpses of Amish life. It portrays a world where family is all important: a life apart from the hectic modern-day existence that is the norm for the majority.

Even Amish culture is not completely untouched by progress, but the changes which are allowed are governed by the Church in terms of what is deemed acceptable. Some Amish communities are not even permitted enclosed buggies for transportation, which makes travelling in winter difficult; whilst others are permitted to use enclosed buggies and even have portable heaters; permitting greater comfort as well as the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings in winter.

One of my personal memories of the Amish is the sense of calm in their presence. They accept their circumstances and their strong faith sustains them. Their families are large and they work together to get through the chores: children as young as three years of age copying their older siblings. To see them all gathered together and to be invited to join one family for lunch was truly an honour.

The recipes are homely and designed to feed large families, so they may not be best suited to smaller gatherings, but the book is worth reading for the glimpse it offers of another way of life.