My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yoder's Meat and Cheese

For years I drove by Yoder’s Meat and Cheese in Shipshewana without stopping by.  I didn’t think I wanted to shop for meat on a weekend getaway—it’s not a very vacationish-type of activity, buying meat!…  But then I stopped by one day with an Amish friend, to pick up her daughter’s W2 form.  One visit and I was hooked.

Since meat and cheese are their specialties, they have plenty of both—with free samples of the cheeses, and there are a million kinds, most of which I’d never heard of.  The meat cooler is packed with chicken, pork, beef, and even buffalo, all locally grown, all hormone and steroid-free.  The entire place is clean and organized and a pleasure to shop in. 

As for the bother of taking meat home—I have learned that it’s worth the trouble of tossing a cooler in the back of the Jeep.  My husband buys summer sausage there from the large selection of smoked meats (samples available there too) that he takes to work in his lunch bag with some of their cheese and a box of crackers.  And their thick-cut peppered bacon—when it’s cooked right, in a good pan of bacon grease—is the best I have ever eaten.  (My husband says it has ruined him for any other bacon!)  They sell bags of ice and inexpensive coolers for the unprepared, so it’s really not much trouble to take something home.   

But half the store has other food items, and we never leave empty-handed.  Yoder’s has nuts, preserves, seasonings, locally made noodles, and all kinds of stuff for good down-home cooking and baking.  I’ve found some unique sweet and salty snacks there, and the prices are better than where most tourists shop.  (The First Commandment of Shopping in Amish Indiana is this: The further you get from the tourist traps, the better the prices.)  It’s a good place to pick up things to bring home for yourself or for gifts.  We bring back jars of the horse radish for a friend of my husband’s—he says it’s the best he’s ever tasted.  Now some of his friends are hooked on it, too.

Out in front in the parking lot, a local Amish family, the Millers, make and sell kettle corn on some days, and free samples are offered to passersby.  The “fry pie” vendor is sometimes set up with his trailer.  You never know what you’ll find.  I never thought I could get excited about a meat and cheese store, but I was definitely mistaken!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Phone Shanties

It used to be that to communicate with my Amish friends, I’d have to write a letter.  And if my Amish friends needed to make a phone call, they would walk or ride a bike to the diner down the road.  But these days, phones are working their way into the Amish community—via phone shanties.

A phone shanty is a little building out by the road containing a phone which four or five families share.  Each family has a different voice mail extension, so this is what you hear:  “For Alvin Troyer, press 1.  For Merle Beachy, press 2.  For Noah Miller, press 3.  For Jacob Bontrager, press 4.”

When I phone my Amish friends, I leave a voice message.  They usually check their voice mail twice a day.  It’s still a strange thing to me to hear my cell phone ringing and see their name on the caller ID!  But it does make it much easier to plan things than in the old days, particularly since my husband and I sometimes head for Amish Indiana on short notice.

Some businesses have phone shanties closer to the building.  When you see print ads for Amish businesses in tourism brochures or The People’s Exchange, a phone number is often listed, but normally it will say “VM” next to the number—“voice mail.”  Some Amish businesses are permitted to have cell phones, such as builders or contractors.  And Amish young people ages 16 upwards who are in their “running around years” and have not yet joined the church might have cell phones.

Recently I asked my Amish friend Ruth how things are going with the phone shanties, and Amish phone usage in general.  She said that they share a phone shanty with three other families, and lately it’s been a struggle.  She will walk or ride her bike to the phone shanty and sometimes have to wait an hour for her turn.  Recently she had to make three trips to the shanty in one afternoon before it was free.  She said they are going to ask their bishop if they can split it up and have two phone shanties, one for just their home and the home next door.

Why are phone shanties allowed, but phones inside homes are not?  The long and short of it is, they want to discourage faceless electronic socializing rather than actual human contact.  They also frown on having endless hours frittered away, socializing on the phone.  (Not unlike what I’ve heard “English” parents say.)  They believe in doing your work when it’s time to do your work, and then when work is done, spending lots of time in social activities and fellowship—face to face and in person.  

I remarked to my friend that recently I’ve seen what I call “phone shanty creep”—the shanties seem to be moving farther up the lane and closer to the homes and businesses.  She agreed with that, and said that the local bishop has said that the shanty can be partially up the lane, but not close enough that you can hear it ring from inside the house.

What a slippery slope keeping modern technology at bay can be!  A 500-year-old religious and cultural group, trying to maintain their identity as a "separate people" while not creating undue hardship on their members...  But as I've said before, it's not my place to defend the Amish or try to explain their choices.  I'm glad they are as accepting of my contradictions as I try to be of theirs. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rise N Roll

Does my husband look happy in this picture?  You bet he does.  And what is the source of this happiness? A cinnamon caramel doughnut—one of the specialties at Rise N Roll Bakery and Deli in Shipshewana.

Bakeries are everywhere in Amish Indiana—but this one is special.  On Saturday mornings the line runs through the building and out the door.  But any other time it’s easy to purchase something freshly baked to eat there, and something more to take home.

I remember, not that many years ago (2001 to be exact), when Rise N Roll began in a white building on a farm on the Middlebury-Shipshe Road (Route 250N) near the county line.  I stopped by with a friend, and the eager young Amishman behind the counter, Orvin Bontrager, said that he and his wife had just started the bakery and they really hoped that it would do well. 

It certainly did!  Now Rise N Roll has a huge new building on Route 20, and they sell baked goods as well as local food products of every kind.  There’s also a deli with tables where people can eat breakfast or lunch, or enjoy a fresh doughnut with the always-free cup of coffee.  It is a great place to get gift items to bring back with you, since they carry so many things that will ‘keep’ on the trip home.

 Standing at the checkout counter, you can see the huge work area in the back where the goodies are made.  Sometimes if you’re very lucky, and you’re there in the morning, you can stand there and watch the young women making the baked goods singing while they work.

Rise N Roll’s original owners have joined up with outside (“English”)  investors now, so they have a website ( and a facebook page.  They have expanded to making gluten-free baked goods, all-natural pizzas, box lunches, and gift baskets.  They now have two stores (Middlebury and Nappanee), and their products are sold in local supermarkets, shops, and restaurants, as well as farmer’s markets around Chicagoland.  But when in Amish Indiana, it’s still a nice place to eat, shop, and relax for a few minutes with a free cup of coffee.  And for the happy man in the photo, a cinnamon caramel doughnut.