On one of the evenings I was in Lancaster County, I asked the proprietor of the Limestone Inn, where I was staying, if she knew of any Amish families who might have an Englisch person in for dinner. Well! Ask a fabulous cook about food, and you’ll get a fabulous answer.
Before I knew it, I was a guest at the King farm, where Verna King served a four-course dinner for ten Englisch folks, plus her four strapping sons. What was on the menu, you ask? This:
- Bread and jam
- Layered salad (lettuce and cucumber, shredded carrot, and crumbled egg)
- Pickles and applesauce
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Fried chicken
- Meatballs in barbecue sauce
- Shoofly pie
- Strawberry pie
- Ice cream
It goes without saying that by the end of this, we were groaning in our chairs. And behind us, in the sink and along the counters, was the biggest stack of dirty dishes I’d ever seen in my life. My research had told me that the Amish place more value on action than words—and denki (thank you) hardly seemed adequate to a meal that had likely taken all day to prepare.
So I got up and started clearing dishes. Two of the other guests did, too, and one of them ran hot water into the sink and rolled up her sleeves. “Oh, no,” Verna protested. “The boys will do these. Please sit down.” “The boys” were John, 14, and Henry, 12. But we Englisch refused. “You did the hard part in making this wonderful dinner for us,” I told her quietly. “This is the easy part. Please let us help.”
Being a practical woman, Verna gave in. “The boys will be happy,” she said, and went back to her place at the head of the table. With four women working together, that mountain of dishes only took about fifteen minutes to deal with. And the boys? They gave us a tour of the farm, including their Mamm’s huge vegetable garden, the barn where their sister’s wedding was to be held in the fall, and the chicken yard.
And I had the delight of catching a runaway hen, who was headed off into the cornfield at twilight. She was a lovely bird, though Henry said he would have to clip her wings if she was going to be a flyer.
All in all, a rewarding experience that I won’t forget.