Sunday, August 03, 2008

Smitten by the Amish

Each week, at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, there's always several Amish teens selling their wares. I'm totally charmed by them - their conservative dress, the boy's rough hewn haircuts, the girl's bonnets, etc. I'll always buy what they're selling. The jaded part of me sometimes thinks that they are really a group of Community High drama students that are just dressing the part - while on break, they go off behind the school and take off their straw hats and light up cigarettes and remark "Fooled them again! I can't believe that woman paid $6 a quart for those ugly tomatoes! Let's do a Jaeger Bomb before our next shift".

I've always been enthused with the Amish - I can remember begging my parents to take me to Pennsylvania Dutch Country for a family vacation. My mother, being an expatriate of the coal mining region of West Virginia, could not understand why her kid would want to do such a thing. "When I was 18, I boarded a bus for Detroit and I never want to go back there", she replied. But I begged her, "It's not West Virginia, it's Pennsylvania." "Same thing!", she snapped. Her beloved Uncle Walter died of black lung after years of coal mining in Pennsylvania. So I never made it to Pennsylvania Dutch country - I never got to taste the horehound candy, eat the homemade chicken and noodles, look for hex signs, etc. Instead, I resigned myself to reading a tattered Harlequin romance book I had that featured the Amish and talked a great deal about bundling, and watching the movie Harrison Ford/Kelly McGillis flick "Witness".

I'm not sure where these Amish farmers at the market come from. According to a post I read on the internet, there are 24 communities of Amish in Michigan. (of course, the Amish themselves didn't post it, that would be verboten). I married a man from Montcalm County, where there is a large community of Amish. My in laws don't understand my infatuation with the Amish - there's so many of the Amish around there that they have special parking spots to tie up their horses in town. There's always collection cans around trying to raise money for Amish kids who got their arms cut off in a combine accident, or injured in a tractor rollover, etc. Evidently the Amish don't have insurance, and while they can't drive cars, they can operate gas powered equipment they don't own. It's complicated....anyway, having the Amish around is nothing special to them.

Yesterday at the market, an Amish young woman was selling all sorts of heirloom tomatoes. I asked her which one was the best, and she said "I have my opinions, of course, but they might not be the same as yours." What a refreshing attitude - someone that thinks their opinion isn't the right answer for once! I had to press her to tell me which one was her favorite....and she told me it was the brandywine. She called them "the brandies". I bought some brandies for $6 a quart, and I had them sliced for dinner last night. Delicious!

So, no post about the Amish would be complete without a hex sign. This design is "Sun, Rain and Fertility" and according to the Amish News, it features a large, eight-pointed star with a stylized "sun" center. The sun warms mother earth and lights our lives. Rain drops, shown in an endless circle, provide the unending moisture critical to life on earth. Together they provide all God’s people with a bountiful harvest and renewed life. Overall, this design offers abundance in field, barn and home. Here's to that!


Matriarchy said...

Hello, from Berks County, PA! We are headed to our Dreibelbis family reunion later this month near Kutztown. We are not Amish, but we are "Dutchy" and I make old local recipes all the time.

I suppose when you see Amish and Mennonite families all the time, they seem less glamorous. You can see the warts along with the marvels. But it's still fun to see the buggies, and a number of families are catching on to the organic movements. There is an organic herb farm near us, run by an Amish family, and a Mennonite man that produces compost for organic farms.

But we also heard of a family that grew conventional vegetables and sold them as organic, with the apparent reasoning being that it was "just the English" that were fooled. And we have heard some incredibly racist comments, probably out of ignorance, since many families do not educate beyond eight grade basics.

You know what I always notice? The women's hair. They twist the sides into little coils before pulling it back in buns, and in the older women the hair at the sides of their head is gone. As a kid, I always though their hair was pulled so tight it must hurt. I finally asked a girl I was playing with at an auction, and she told me it didn't hurt.

Jen said...

The families and workers at A2 market are definitely the real thing. No CHS kids there... ;-)

The noodles sold by that one family are amazing, btw.

Anonymous said...

The mental image of high school students dressing up as Amish people and then laughing at us IS really funny, but I'm glad to hear they are the real thing :)

I have to buy their noodles one of these days!!!

Diana Dyer said...

Have you ever read Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender? Something in that book helped me make the difficult decision to leave a job I loved but was too time and energy consuming for a healthy and balanced life. Ultimately reading that book led to meeting you and posting this comment (skipping over a lot during the past 13 years!). :-)

Maggie said...

Several years ago (4-6) there was a Amish stand at the Royal Oak market that had the BEST eggs. I was so sad when they stopped coming.

When I was a kid we went to Mennonite fair in Ohio with my parents. I remember the food was delicious and the quilts were awe inspiring.