Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amish Experience

We were coming home from town at night with my parents, the trees in the woods just beyond our road were all lit up a vibrant red. They face to the west. I thought it would be a perfect element to have in a book. I said to myself,”Ooo, foreshadowing.” Then a few days later I was thinking about the Amish. That day we had been to the Amish settlement about 45 minutes from our house. We’ve been there many times in the last couple of years. It’s one of those places that a lot of people know about, but it’s only by word of mouth that you really find out about it. It’s not like they do a lot of advertising. Essentially, it’s one road that we drive on. We’ve been to a lot of the shops there and my husband thinks that the guys who built our barn are from this area (or nearby Dalton) and some of the wood used could’ve come from the rustic mill on the road. It’s Barry Road. Which I find slightly amusing because it always reminds me of Barry Manilow or some geeky guy. I knew a guy named Barry in Dallas. Nice, but geeky, and always had a girlfriend.


Our first stop is almost always the grocery store. Gravel parking lot with a place for horses and buggies to park. The last couple of times we’ve been there, it’s been packed. Inside the rustic store, it’s dimly lit with three aisles. Repackaged bulk dry goods line the shelves. Priced affordably. Spices, noodles, high-gluten flour(this is the key to an airy loaf of bread), chicken soup base and really tiny marshmallows are some of our favorite finds. My mom likes to go before the holidays because she stocks up on some chocolate toffee that they have. She uses it on cookie plates that she makes and gives to her friends. My husband doesn’t understand why it’s necessary for her to go to such lengths to get the toffee given the price of gas to not only get to our house, but then to get to the Amish, it’s not really economical. I think it’s all the experience. They have small metal carts and the customers are mainly people like us who come in from “the big city or town” to get a great deal. They have a small bathroom with plumbing which is very good considering the alternative that is available at some stores. They don’t really use electricity or zippers for that matter. It’s so odd to think about.

One day we went to the settlement bakery. My mom, her friend, my daughter and I went up – a girl’s day. We had sketchy directions on where it was. We went down a road and saw a small sandwich board sign that it was a bakery and it had the hours listed. We turned onto a long driveway. I was having a hard time comprehending what was going on because there were so many cars coming and going and lining the driveway. It was crazy. Think of a house with a walkout basement. And not a walk out basement with French doors. More of a screen door. So we stood in line for a few minutes (maybe 15-20) and the line wound around the house, past some kids and a ring of puppies in a fenced off area. We also passed a picnic table. People who biked there would open the jars of fresh salsa or jam and put it on chips or bread depending. How odd to buy food at someone’s house and then sit at their picnic table and eat it. We finally made it to the “store”. There were baskets and crude racks of fresh bread, cinnamon rolls as big as a head of lettuce, other quick breads, jams, jellies, pies and cookies. The most remarkable and unforgettable moments were those of the workers in the oven area. All young girls except for the man filling the ovens with wood. They were wearing their work dresses and bonnets. And they were singing as they kneaded the bread and coached the loaves from the ovens. It was a beautiful sound. Something so pure and innocent. We bought a few treats and left, but it was a place that lingered even though you’ve left. My daughter bought the biggest cinnamon roll she could find. It was so large. And she was determined to eat it all herself (this means no sharing).

Since it was a beautiful day with blooms ready to pick, we stopped at a farm that had produce and fresh flowers for sale.  We drove down the quiet driveway and parked.  When we exited the car, we walked up to a wooden building with nails randomly pounded into the wood - each with a pair of scissors hanging from it.  It took me a minute to figure out why the scissors were hanging there.  They were designed to have patrons cut their own flowers in the field - 25 cents a bloom.  An older man with a beard, straw hat and overalls was sitting on the porch of the nearby house with a young girl.  They were putting bunches of dried flowers together - it just looked so relaxing.  They nodded as we drew a pair of scissors and made our way to the colorful maze of flowers.  So many varieties to choose from.  Some were flowers that I knew - they all seemed even more vibrant.  We delighted in picking our bouquets and deposting our minimal cost into the slot of the honor system wooden box.  Inside the building fresh fruit and vegetables filled crates.  An antiquated scale sat on a table next to the wooden money box with a handwritten list of costs. Their silent slogan hung in the air -just weigh and pay - we trust you.  We left that day with full tummies and fragrant flowers to help us remember to keep it simple, respect one another, trust one another.

No comments: