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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Amish Peanut Butter

I’ve not been a big fan of peanut butter, at least not as an adult…  As a child I was a pretty finicky eater, and I ate way too much of the stuff when whatever was on the table didn’t suit me.  Since then, I’ve had no taste for it—or at least, I didn’t until my Amish friend Ruth introduced me to something they make which is commonly known as “Amish peanut butter.” 

When it’s sold in the local stores it’s often called “Amish Church Peanut Butter.”  This is because it is made as part of the standard after-church meal.  The Amish don’t have church buildings—they hold church in their homes, barns, or out in the yard under a rented tent.  After the three-hour service, the host family feeds everyone lunch before sending them home. 

The meal is pretty standard and unchanging.  I never understood this until I gave it some thought, and then it made all the sense in the world…  Hosting church (a task that may fall to a family twice a year) is a stressful task.  Everything is cleaned and scrubbed as the family tries to put their best foot forward for their guests.  Imagine the added stress if the hostess had to try to equal or outdo the lavish spread put on by the previous hostess, always competing to try to “keep up with the Yoders.”  (And that kind of pride or one-upsmanship is anathema to the Amish.)  It makes more sense to standardize the meal.  And part of that meal is Amish peanut butter.

How does it differ from what we’re used to?  I’ve seen various recipes in Amish cookbooks, but in the Amish community I am most familiar with, it is a blend of peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and Karo syrup.  So it is lighter and sweeter than regular peanut butter and it is oh-so-good.  It is sold all over Amish Indiana, and it’s not cheap—although it’s more reasonably priced at the places the locals shop, like E&S Foods.  It’s also on the table in many local restaurants.

 My friend Ruth saves me a few margarine-tubs of it whenever she makes it for church, and sometimes I just get a spoon and eat it out of the tub like ice cream.  Lately I’ve taken to breaking off little pieces of dark chocolate Ghirardelli bars and dipping them in the peanut butter.  I suppose a person could also eat it on bread or toast, like it’s meant to be eaten.

Amish Church Peanut Butter.  One more reason I like Amish Indiana.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Close Call

Sometimes scary things happen to good people.

Yesterday my husband Gary and I were in Amish Indiana, getting quotes from several local aluminum fabricators on an aluminum box that Gary wants to have custom-made for his hot rod trailer.  Our Amish friend Glenn had recommended three local Amish-run places, and after we made the rounds, we went out for supper with Glenn and his wife Ruth at an Italian place in the next town (Rulli’s in Middlebury).  Ruth mentioned a recent event that nearly ended in tragedy.

It seems that their sixteen-year-old son was out in the gravel driveway a few days earlier.  Several of their buggy horses were hitched there, and the young man reached over to pet one of them.

To digress for a moment:  Buggy horses are not all the same in temperament.  I know this from reading the “horse for sale” ads in a local Amish publication I like to read, called “The People’s Exchange.”  Some are very good-natured and laid back.  They are described in the ads with phrases like “broke safe for women to drive” and “completely traffic safe and sound.”

But others are more high strung and unpredictable.  They are often described with words like “a little uneasy at corners” and “does shy at things beside the road.”

Back to my story:  The horse our young man was petting was of the first type.  But standing near that horse was another horse—one they had just acquired from one of their married daughters.  She had told them to be careful with that one, as it could be skittish.  When he petted the first horse, it jumped a little, startling the second horse—who lashed out with both back legs.  (And this horse was shod with steel horseshoes, being a buggy horse.)  Our young man was right in the path of those legs, and he took a hard kick to the gut and fell to the ground.

Fortunately, Glenn was nearby and saw his son crumpled on the ground.  When Glenn turned him over, the boy had a deathly pallor and looked as if he was dead—but after what probably seemed like an eternity to his dad, the young man started choking and gasping and caught a breath.  But then he immediately started vomiting and couldn’t stop.

One of his parents rushed to the phone shanty and called for a hired driver, and soon they were on their way to the local trauma center.  Not long after that, the three of them were en route to South Bend in an ambulance.  That must have been the longest 53 miles they could remember!

Once in South Bend, the young man was given a CAT scan, which showed internal bleeding, and then put in the Intensive Care Unit.  His blood count for a certain enzyme which should have been about 40 was at 1200 and rising.  The doctors said if it didn’t come down during the night, it might be fatal.

By the next morning our young man was rallying, and later that day he was sent home and told to rest.  I talked to him briefly yesterday, and he seemed none the worse for wear and had a smile on his face.  But I would imagine that every time his parents look at him, they breathe a silent prayer of thanks for their youngest child and the doctors who took care of him.