Saturday, January 16, 2010

Winter Breakfast, Plain and Simple

Writers have always been intrigued with the lifestyle of the Amish, and the Plain and Simple people have often been characters in popular mysteries and romances. The group’s avoidance of electricity, minimal schooling, traveling by horse and buggy, and living rustic and simple lifestyles entices authors to choose Amish areas as a setting for unfolding their plots.

In the early autumn of last year, DH and I went looking for a country-styled furniture store we had heard about that was about 25 miles north of us. Once we turned off the main highway and began to travel a side road deep in to rich farmland, we began to notice the yellow horse and buggy signs. Veering off on a graveled lane and crossing a low-water bridge, we ended up smack dab on an Amish farm. Sitting along side a perfectly manicured garden was a metal building housing an Amish business that sold Amish furniture from Ohio and bulk foods. The woman clerking sold me some tapioca, bulk oat bran, and some unrefined salt. She said we had just missed the community breakfast and invited us to come to the next one.

Last week we came home to a message on our phone (they do have a phone in a small building outside the home built just for a business phone) that said this Saturday was the community breakfast; one is held about twice a year as a social and a money maker for the community. They only ask for a donation in a jar by the door. There are 31 Amish family that have settled in this gently sloping farmland raising row crops, cattle, truck gardens, and doing carpentry and baking. Despite dark low hanging clouds and a serious fog warning, we headed out this morning to check out the Amish breakfast. We had to go early because they start serving at 7:00 a.m.

The temperature had crawled up to the high thirties, making the land look like a spring thaw. There was a marriage of mud and leftover snow on the road shoulders. Once off the main road, the country side road was softer than Play Dough; a slide off in the ditch could have been axle deep mud. Three quarters of a mile down this narrow road, a right turn took you onto an Amish farm. Continuing on, passing the assembly of horses and buggies, we found the breakfast being held in a huge structure used for constructing smaller farm buildings. We parked, waded across thick, oozing mud and met earlier eaters leaving while carrying an armload of baked goods. “The doughnuts are extra good this morning,” said the man in farm clothing and cap, a satisfied smile on his lips.

Just inside the door, a sea of shades in black, ecru, purple and aqua unfolded. It looked like room wrapped in the rich colors of a velvet quilt. The bearded faces of men in bowl hair cuts helped the women with heads all covered in the same white cap, strings tied under their chins. Three rows of workers were set up at stations cracking eggs and stirring biscuits, flipping pancakes or frying on gas ranges, or serving from a long buffet table. Eaters got their own plates and sat at benches family style. The sausage was obviously Amish made and delicious. The biscuits were flaky, and pancakes were perfect. On all the bench tables were plates of warm, freshly fried doughnuts that were outstanding. The men and young boys were helping to cook, serve, and wipe tables along side the women. Dishes were being washed in another corner of the cement floored building. I had a nice visit with a young Amish girl who was eating her own breakfast before taking a turn at working at the food tables. After a wonderful breakfast with these gentle people, we peeked at the baked goods for sale and brought home some bread and a pumpkin roll. It was hard to leave the pies, fried pies and doughnuts that were left!

After breakfast a short detour took us by Prairie State Park, a favorite place that we have not visited much recently. Again we maneuvered on roads of mud and slush. This is a small state park that is maintaining a piece of what is left of the tall grass prairie that used to exist here. The rolling grasslands host many forms of wildlife including herds of elk and buffalo. The elk were fenced away from the public right now, but the buffalo were free ranging the park. Beautiful and majestic, two buffalo bulls were eating close to the road. We pulled up beside them and they never missed a bite. We could hear the tearing sounds of grass as the buffalo had their own breakfast. They looked well fed wearing thick dark coats with humps and shoulders the same flaxen shade as the faded winter grasses. Geese were honking wildly overhead as they flew from one pond to another. Easing the truck down the muddied roads, we scared up two white tail deer that bounced off as if on springs, heading from ditch to woods close by. In less than a quarter mile, a huge flock of wild turkey scuttled across the grass heading for a ravine. We were intruders on their world today.

The buffalo and wildlife, like the Amish farmers, were spending a winter day eating, resting, and socializing before spring weather and work returned. Neither was bothered by the ankle deep mud and misty air, as there was more winter yet to come.


BECKY said...

What beautiful words,(and photos)Claudia! You are so fortunate to live in an area of such "rich" people and pleasures! Thanks for sharing!

Bookie said...

Becky, we did not even know we had Amish this close to us until we ran into the area! We know there are some down by Seymour and Marshfield area which is pretty close. But these 31 families are just "up the road'! They speak so softly! My husband said maybe because they don't have loud machinery and televisons, mabye they can hear better and speaking is not soft to them. A thought!

BECKY said...

What a fabulous discovery!