Gloria and her family are on the road this week, her column will return next week. But this is a good time to press pause and reflect and involve readers in continuing the journey.
As May begins its trek towards June I begin to think back to 25 years ago when I first conceived the idea of an Amish Cook column. It’s been an incredible journey packed with change. When the column launched in the summer of 1991 cell phones were relegated to the rich, the internet as we know it was still several years away, and George H. W. Bush was president. I was 18-years-old, having just finished my freshman year in college and if you had told me a quarter-century later I’d still be doing this I would have fallen to the floor in a fit of laughter.
Today some 1300 recipes later, well, I’m not laughing. And you can do the math as to how old I am. I have one 2 1 /2 year old daughter and a second one on the way this summer. Throughout it all, the column has been a constant as have the wonderful readers who still enjoy a weekly window into a world where things are simpler, life is slower and food is time-tested. During the ensuing years I’ve become an authority on Amish culture, having explored settlements from Rexford, Montana in the west to Fort Fairfield, Maine in the east.
The Amish themselves have changed too. Maybe not a ton to the average observer, but I’ve seen it. In some Amish settlements, smartphones are as common as buggies (one mystery I’ve never solved is: how do they charge them?). There are Amish with Facebook pages. In Grabill, Indiana solar panels can be found on most Amish homes turning the sun into selective electricity. I was once in an Old Order Mennonite fabric store in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and was asking the proprietor for directions back to the highway and a teenage Mennonite boy said to me, “Why don’t you just Mapquest it?” Many Amish have also grown more tolerant of photography since I first began this. I remember visiting an Amish settlement in Manton, Michigan a few years ago when an Amish man spied the camera on my shoulder.
“Would you please take a photo of my wife and I?” he asked sheepishly. I obliged, he gave me his address and I later sent him a photo. This is a far cry from 1991 when tales of some Amish men grabbing tourist cameras and running over them with their buggies were circulating. I’m not sure whether that was an old wives tale or truth, but it illustrated the deep dislike of photography at the time (many Amish still don’t want their photos taken, but there is a deeper tolerance).
Since 1991 we’ve seen the arrival of Amish romance novels and the rise and fall of reality TV. Amish Mafia, anyone?
The Amish Cook column underwent a reboot in 2014 with the arrival of Gloria Yoder, a dynamic 26-year-old Amish wife and mother who has brought her own style of faith and food to the column.
Newspapers are still the backbone of the column and I am one of the optimists in an industry with not many of them. I think there’s still a place for print and the savoring of something other than a smartphone.
The Amish Cook column has outlasted many media entities. Two-newspaper towns are largely a creature of the past, 14 newspapers that once carried The Amish Cook have closed their doors. The Amish Cook survives because of you.
The column survives off a patchwork on funding, from newspapers, to internet advertising, and book sales. We are working on a slate of new book titles in the months and years ahead, but they still aren’t quite ready. I’ll be excited to talk about Gloria’s upcoming cookbook in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, do you enjoy The Amish Cook each week ? I hope so!
It’s been a few years since we’ve opened The Amish Cook Friend Club and we are seeking some more readers now. Your joining the Friend Club goes a long way to making the column possible and gives me great insight on how readers are enjoying Gloria Yoder as The Amish Cook.