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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Whoopie Pies

Of all the treats that I buy and enjoy in Amish Indiana—and there are plenty—one of my favorites is the “whoopie pie.”

“What is a whoopie pie,” you ask?  According to Wikipedia, it is “a U.S. baked good that may be considered either a cookie, pie, or cake.  It is made of two round mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, or sometimes pumpkin or gingerbread cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them.”  Yeah, that describes it pretty well.  Yum.

Wikipedia goes on to say that the origin of the name is uncertain, but they are a New England and Pennsylvania Amish tradition, probably brought over from Germany by the Amish.  Women would make them from cake batter leftovers and put them in their husbands’ lunch pails or lunch boxes.  The whoopie pie is the official state treat of Maine (not to be confused with Maine’s official state dessert, which is blueberry pie).  I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

As with most food items, the quality varies, and the fresher, the better.  The best whoopie pies I’ve ever had were baked by the teenage daughter of one of my Amish friends.  She knew I loved them, so she made them whenever she knew I was coming—and sent me home with a plateful.  Now she’s in her twenties and married with a home of her own.  I miss those whoopie pies, so I’ve had to seek out another source for my addiction.  The best ones I’ve found are made at Essenhaus Bakery in Middlebury, where they have the basic flavors, and also a “whoopie pie flavor of the month.”  The flavor for this past January was mocha, and they were heavenly.

I see online that there is a bakery in Maine that specializes in whoopie pies called  They sell them for $26 a dozen plus shipping.  They look pretty good, and pretty true to the Amish Indiana tradition, except the filling is a little thicker, and they have some distinctly non-Amish flavors like “Lip Lick’n Lemon.”  They sell regular-sized whoopies, mini-whoopies, and a jumbo, five-pound whoopie.  The founder says she has made over four million whoopie pies in fifteen years, and her product was featured on the Oprah show.

Anyway—Should you find yourself in Amish Indiana, why not try something new and different?  And if you have a sweet tooth like I do, why not make it a whoopie pie?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Photo I Like

I like this photo of my niece Bee, taken years ago, helping my Amish friends with the farm work. (The horses were not moving here - my Amish friend had jumped off the wagon to open a gate. When they were moving, he and Bee were driving the team of horses. She loved it!) 

There are those who think the Amish overwork their kids (I don't agree, and I've seen far more Amish kids at work than most of those who are broadcasting their opinions about it) -- but a great thing about the Amish is the way even the younger children are made to feel like a part of things.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Olivia Meets the Amish

Last year I brought my boss and his wife to Amish Indiana, to help my boss cross something off his bucket list.  (I wrote about that subject previously.)  Accompanying us for this three-day trip was Olivia.

Olivia was not the typical visitor to Amish country.  She has lived her whole life in Costa Rica, where she is a language teacher—that’s how my boss and his wife had met her.  She had been one of their teachers and friends during the year they spent in Costa Rica a few years ago, and ever since, she had come to Illinois to visit them on a regular basis.  Our trip to Amish Country coincided with her month-long visit to Illinois, so we brought her along.

This photo shows a smiling Olivia getting ready for a ride in the buggy.  She thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the three-day trip—the animals, the food, staying in an Amish home (she had her own room there), riding in the buggy, meeting the children, helping in the kitchen, shopping at the local stores, and visiting Menno-Hof, the local Amish Mennonite cultural center.  At Menno-Hof they brought in a special guide—a former missionary to Latin America—to give her a tour of the center in Spanish.

Olivia’s English is what I would call “very spotty.”  But she did her best to communicate with my Amish friends, with my boss sometimes interpreting for her in a Spanish-English-“Dutch” language triangle.  We managed, though, and Olivia made herself useful around the house while we were there, and even taught the Amish some Spanish phrases.  She developed a particularly close bond with one of the daughters of the house who was in her early twenties.

The last day we were there, this same daughter brought out a gift for Olivia.  Inside a large plastic ice cream container was a white Amish prayer cap, the type that Amish girls and women wear every day, which she had made by hand.  (The ice cream container was to protect the fragile cap on the plane ride back to Costa Rica.)  This gift brought tears to Olivia’s eyes—or, truth be told, to more eyes than just hers!  It was a fitting end to Olivia’s Amish Adventure.