The Amish in the Heartland

Given that a previous post on Kalona Supernatural discussed the Amish and Mennonite farms that supply them with milk, I thought I’d briefly chat about the Amish in the Flyover States.

I grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, part of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Though domiciled in a clichéd suburbia, I nonetheless frequently encountered Amish buggies on drives through the admittedly beautiful countryside. Amish (and their brethren, Old Order Mennonites) are certainly cultural manifestations of southeastern Pennsylvania, perhaps even more than their actual numbers imply. Lancaster County has built a veritable tourism industry based on Amish culture. But one can argue that the Midwest is a locus of the Amish, certainly as much as what is sometimes called “Amish Country”—Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and its environs.

Ohio—The Amish Capital of the United States

Yes, Ohio (especially Holmes County in the northeast), not Pennsylvania, is the Amish Capital of the United States. As of 2010, according to the U.S. Religious Census, 7 of the 10 states with the largest absolute numbers of Amish were Flyover States: Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois (the other states in the Top Ten are Pennsylvania, New York, and Kentucky). This is certainly unsurprising, as the Amish are a predominantly agrarian population and settle where affordable farmland can be found. Even in Pennsylvania, they are no longer found solely in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch country (Lancaster, Lebanon, Berks, and Chester Counties), as population pressures are driving land values up (and Amish out).

The Amish in Indiana

Northern Indiana (particularly Elkhart County) serves as Amish Central in Indiana, although they can certainly be found elsewhere. Indeed, I’ve seen buggies on US-35 between Richmond and Muncie; southwestern Indiana’s Daviess County is home to a quite sizeable Amish settlement. And, as in Pennsylvania and Ohio, there is a veritable industry focused on “Amish” tourism (in quotes because it’s typically the non-Amish that promote it).

The Amish in Iowa

When I lived in Iowa City, I went to Kalona (home of Kalona Super Natural) to get my buggy fix. Okay, I went once–I wasn’t missing them as much as I thought I might. But the day was lovely (a sunny, low-humidity June morning) and the drive was pleasant. Kalona is one of the centers of Amish (and Mennonite) life in Iowa, with Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, and Beachy Amish represented. Mennonites, from which the Amish are an offshoot, are also represented in the Kalona region.

And Food?

Well, the Amish are a farming people, hence Kalona SuperNatural getting their milk from them. There is an Amish cuisine, the likes of which William Woys Weaver extracts the truths from the (tourism-driven) fantasies in his delightful book As American as Shoofly Pie: The Foodlore and Fakelore of Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine. There are foods associated with the Amish, but they’ve certainly adapted foods and dishes of the English (as non-Amish are called) for their own (such as the Whoopie Pie, which has its roots in New England). I’ll be revisiting the Flyover Amish in the future!


And It’s Finally Finished–A New Flyover Kitchen Beckons!

After almost 8 weeks without a working kitchen, my remodeling project is finished! The contractor’s been paid and I’ve placed dishes and spices and measuring tools, etc., in the new cabinets. The place has been dusted and vacuumed (and I’ll have the carpets professionally cleaned shortly)–it got to the point where I was able to write “wash me” on the living room’s coffee table. Initially I tried to keep up with the dusting, but the exposed surfaces got too filthy too fast. So, I’m going to share with you some BEFORE and AFTER pictures.

Where It All Began

Yes, it was dated. Very dated. For all I know, the cabinets were original to the 1961 construction of the house. The range was a cheap electric coil model circa 2003). The dishwasher, also 2003 (before I bought the house and moved in), did a great job of getting dishes wet, though not necessarily clean. The bulkhead lighting was bright and brightly unattractive. The vinyl floor showed every cat hair (and I have a black cat).

That said, I was happy. It was the largest kitchen I’d ever lived in on my own. Many happy times were had in that space, including the preparation of a 4-person Sabayon1. I figured that if I was happy in the OLD kitchen, I’d only be happier in the NEW one!


Old stove, old dishwasher, old cabinets
Not the most stylish of cabinets!
Still Life with Old Porcelain Sink and Latex Glove
The door (flimsy and lightweight) from kitchen to garage

And Where It All Wound Up

Gone are the old cabinets, replaced with flat panel maple cabinets extending to the ceiling (which also means the bulkhead lights were replaced with recessed can lights in the ceiling). The old IKEA table (not shown) with its rickety four chairs was bid farewell (in the family for over 20 years!); a hand-me-down from my parents, they’d resided in four states (PA, DE, IA, and IN). In its place, an island was constructed (with pendant lights). The flooring was replaced by porcelain tiles and the doorway between kitchen and dining room was widened by 16 inches (thus opening up the entire area). And a gas line was plumbed so I could get a gas range. This, plus a dishwasher that actually cleans dishes even when you forget to add a detergent pod, was installed. Finishing the look was a glass-tiled backsplash.


The widened doorway replaced the wizened one
New appliances, new backsplash (there hadn’t been one previously), new cabinets, new countertop (quartz, replacing laminate), new sink
Check out the semicircular range hood!
My desert kitchen island (with pendants!)
Pendants up close
View from behind the island–note the undercabinet LED lights
Now We’re Cooking with Gas! And a new range hood!

Well, now to relearn cooking. I’m still getting used to power burners, etc., but Flyover Tapas will return to its regularly scheduled programming of the Culinary Geography of the Midwest shortly!


Kitchen (and Blog) Update

Almost finished! The backsplash goes on this week, and then some final trim, and (hurrah!) the range will be hooked up and I CAN COOK AGAIN!. Alas, that will coincide with some REALLY busy work weeks. So, I’ll be posting sporadically for the next few weeks.