Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Amish Life

I just reviewed a book called The Amish Cook's Anniversary Book by Lovina Eichel with Kevin Williams for Story Circle Network Book Reviews (http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/amishcook.shtml). The book is a collection of newspaper columns first written by Elizabeth Coblentz in 1991 and taken over by her daughter, Lovina Eichel, after Elizabeth's sudden death in 2002. I found this oversize book with full color photographs not only beautiful but interesting far beyond the relatively few recipes scattered throughout. I think we're all curious about Amish life. This is what I found out: the Amish still ride in a horse-drawn buggy, but they can drive, particularly long distances, in a car driven by a non-Amish person, and they can stay in modern hotels that have all those conveniences they lack at home, like electricity. Some Amish farmers have bought mechanized tractors--the old ways may be fading a bit. Rules vary from region to region but in some places they may have small appliances--alarm clocks, radios, flashlights. And in Michigan they may have gasoline-powered freezers but not in Indiana. Since they butcher their own meat, freezers must be a huge help.
The Amish life is one of hard work, and women get together to feed several hundred people abundant meals at weddings and other celebrations. They generally rise at four or five in the morning and work until evening--sewing, canning, quilting, cleaning, washing, cooking. Their life is guided by their absolute belief in God's ways. At one point, Elizabeth writes, "God makes no mistakes." I am always envious of people with such absolute faith. My faith is strong but not quite that strong.
There are recipes scattered throughout the book, several that I think I'll try, but here's one that called out to me:
Amish Classic Ham Salad
3 c. diced ham                                                                  2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 c. sweet pickle relish                                                   1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. minced onions                                                         1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. prepared mustard                                                    1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. mayonnaise                                                             2 c. crushed potato chips
1 c. diced celery
Preheat oven to 425
Combine all ingredients except potato chips. Stir until well combined. Pour into 2-quart casserole and sprinkle with crushed potato chips. Cover and bake 20 minutes or until top is bubbling and golden.
I'm a big fan of ham salad, so I'm anxious to try a baked version. This serves eight.
Otherwise, a ho-hum day. I started by emptying the dishwasher only to realize I hadn't run it and the dishes were still dirty; this evening I did a rag and rug wash, belatedly realizing that the dishtowels I washed last night were still in the washer. So I had to fish out the rags and rugs, dry them, and wash the dishtowels again. Went to the audiologist at 9:30 this morning, thinking I'd be in plenty of time to volunteer at Bill White's campaign headquarters at ten. Wrong--the audiologist was overbooked for one thing, and for another he replaced the tubing on my hearing aids and adjusted the volume--it was, he said, too low for the amount of my hearing loss, something we did because I was so uncomfortable with the aids at first. I'm pretty used to them now. Then an hour at the campaign headquarters, most of which I spent calling people who weren't home. Frustrating. Proofreading this afternoon and doing a few odds and ends.Not an exciting day. Oh, and my agent forwarded, with regret, a rejection of my first mystery from a publisher--I think this is the fourth publisher that's turned him down. I try to be philosophical, but this criticism hit home--there wasn't a sense of urgency about the action. If there isn't in that novel, it's surely lacking in the next one and the one I supposedly have in progress. Well, I'll think abut that tomorrow. Meanwhile back to proofreading for a bit and then that mystery I'm reading that is really fun.

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