Monday, September 24, 2007

Eating the Amish

Food is the great equalizer. Everyone needs to eat to stay alive, everyone experiences hunger. However, we all eat different things. Food is very indicative of the customs, traditions, and belief systems of different cultures and I find it simply fascinating to learn how/what other people eat. That being said, I decided to take a little adventure out to Pennsylvania Dutch Country this weekend to accomplish two things: ride in an Amish buggy and eat traditional Amish food. Check and check.

I had done extensive research (read as: checked a few web pages at work) on what the Amish eat. They eat foods that are laden in calories and fat in order to sustain them when they are hard at work in the fields. Vegetarians and the health conscious beware. But apparently the Amish have long life spans, so they must be immune to the artery-clogging that plagues the rest of us unfortunate Americans…?

They are a hearty people and so is their cuisine. They are of the fried chicken and potatoes persuasion, but it was the desserts that particularly interested me. Pie seemed to be the Amish dessert of choice and we had quite a selection that ranged from all the fruits to other denser, sugary fillings. With names like woopie pie, bear claws, and shoo-fly pie, how could you go wrong? Though there was an unfortunate deficiency of chocolate in Amish grub, sugar and sweets abound in traditional bakeries that seemingly present themselves every few feet on the road.

Our fearless group indulged in shoo-fly pie, an almond bear claw, and a sugar-free cranberry loaf for good measure. The Amish are best known for their shoo-fly pie, which is a simple, though fulfilling, dessert. It is basically a pie that is stuffed with no more than dark molasses and sugar, which oozed out of the side of the crust with the consistency of glue. Though I was initially hesitant about how it would taste, I found that the gooey, molten molasses was actually quite tasty (though very sweet). It had a very flaky and crumbly crust that broke easily, but it was easily harnessed onto my fork thanks to the paste-like consistency of the molasses.

Although I left Lancaster, PA with a stomachache, I think that the lesson here is clear: if you are going to eat your way through Amish country, do not eat a bar of chocolate for breakfast before you go.

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