Our interest piqued, we made the trip to Nappanee. Upon arrival, we were somewhat disappointed to learn that Amish Acres is more of a history museum than a place where Amish people actually live. The 80 acre farm had been owned and inhabited by Amish families but was sold several years ago to a company that left most of the buildings intact. Since we had already arrived, I revisited happy childhood memories of visits to Sturbridge Village (a Massachusetts model of a Colonial Village) and Mystic Seaport (a Connecticut replica of an old whaling village) determined to enjoy it. We learned much from their video about the Amish culture and history and from two horse and buggy tours around Amish Acres. The Threshers’ Dinner included in the visitors’ package was even tastier and more filling than advertised.
We were given a map of the general area and followed it to the Rentown General Store where our eyes feasted on all sorts of delicious baked goods, cheeses, preserves, and other country food. (Since we’ve come back, we’ve also been feasting on some great preserves, cheese, and pumpkin butter.) Several brochures advertised the Fifth Annual Rentown Garden Walk and Bake Sale which fortunately for us, was that very day. This annual fund raiser for their small community’s school was where we actually met with people in the Amish community. Besides the Store, the school and eight people's gardens were open for people to visit. As we went to the school and each house, people were very open in talking about their lives and welcomed us. As a result, we had some good conversations with them.
In the beautiful countryside, with families close knit and communicating, it seemed so idyllic that I was almost tempted to stay awhile. Even as I watched people unplugged seeming (they speak to each other in a Pennsylvania Deutsch dialect so I can’t say for sure) more attentive to one another, I knew I couldn’t last there without connection for more than a few days.
Even the Amish have not successfully separated themselves from the rest of the world entirely. While they fear their children will grow up and leave their community if exposed to the “English” world, some of the adults work in jobs nearby. Several of the men with whom we spoke work at RV factories. As charming as these people were, I wondered how their children will manage with eighth grade educations as all the unskilled jobs in our country disappear. Will they adapt and allow their children to finish high school? That’s a question they must be asking each other because the world is too interconnected for any group to be able to totally shut it out.
We were greeted at one of the gardens by a woman who invited us to try her pesto sauce on crackers. “What kind of things do you like to cook?” I asked her.
“Oh, everything. My kids really like pizza.”
So yes, even in Amish country, the world intrudes. I don’t think she’ll mind if I share her pesto sauce recipe. It was really great. She was very open in sharing it with me. As the world intrudes on the Amish, I hope that we can all get to know them.
Amish Pesto Sauce2 cups fresh basil leaves chopped
1 cup raw cashews crushed
11/2 cups olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cups grated Swiss cheese
Mix the ingredients together and chill.