A Mole Inside Lovina Eicher’s Test Kitchen
Another Way for week of January 27, 2017
A Mole Inside Lovina Eicher’s Test Kitchen
To say people are fascinated with the Amish or Old Order Mennonites is a great understatement.
In September 2015, I got to spend a day in the home of Lovina Eicher and help her and her daughters cook a flurry of dishes to be photographed for Lovina’s forthcoming cookbook, The Essential Amish Cookbook: Everyday Recipes from Farm and Pantry.
One of my great privileges of the last several years has been working with Amish columnist Lovina Eicher. I say privilege because I know that thousands of her followers would be fascinated to be in my shoes.
Yes, it takes a long time to make a real cookbook and now I feel even more fortunate to be an editor bringing it to birth. We’re excited that it comes out April 17, 2017.
I’m grateful for my background growing up Mennonite among the Amish of northern Indiana where one of my friends in first grade was Bertha—same name as my mother—who had a big brother named Vernon—same name as my father. Bertha and Vernon were Amish and rode my bus along with numerous other Amish children in the days before there were very many parochial schools. Amish now build their own schools and provide their own teachers in most Amish communities, sparing children some of the teasing, different-ness and religious/cultural discrimination they surely felt going to traditional public school. My grandparents and father could talk Pennsylvania Dutch quite fluently and loved using the dialect in visiting our Amish neighbors, doing business, or encounters in town.
So it wasn’t altogether strange to walk into Lovina’s kitchen where no electric lights or stoves, mixers or blenders were running even though she and two of her daughters were already busily mixing and baking. The younger children had already left for school. There were gas lights of course, and a gas stove (often preferred by fine cooks everywhere), and a modern bathroom and running water.
I knew it would be a special day. The main food photographer, Lucas Swartzentruber-Landis and wife Tara, who is a part-time food stylist (making food and dishes pretty for photos), would be there shortly. I was there mainly to observe, be available for consulting as to final choices on recipes, and pitch in where and when Lovina needed another set of hands.
Dishes, pans, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and spoons were constantly being used and needed rewashing, so helping out with the dishwashing and drying seemed like as good of place as any to plug in and feel useful. I picked up a towel and went to work.
Oh and did I mention sampling? Of course everything was to be tasted. Such a hard job, and I was up to the task.
Lovina had around nine or ten recipes lined up to be made that day—a breakfast pizza in the morning, a vegetable soup for lunch, and cookies and pies woven into the menu and baking plan for the day. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find her so well organized: she’s been part of co-authoring four other cookbooks for previous editors and publishers.
Lovina’s loyal friend Ruth Boss soon arrived bearing sweet rolls and long johns (rolls, not underwear) to keep us well supplied. Ruth is not Amish and lives at some distance, but organized a team of some 27 women to later test all of the recipes for the book.
Not all of the dishes turned out quite like Lovina wanted: perhaps too many hands spoiling the outcome? She was teaching as well as directing the cooking and it was a joy to observe how hard her older daughters worked on this project of their mother’s. They seemed to enjoy the cooking and the interaction with those of us who came to photograph and “help,” but standing on your feet eight to ten hours wears anyone down.
Even more than the food, what impressed me about spending the day in Lovina’s kitchen was how authentic she is: she is the real deal, a busy and caring mother of eight who was taking on a daunting project. She is good spirited, funny, natural, leaving no question that her Amish traditions and faith in God are genuine. I didn’t expect anything else and I was not disappointed.
We wish this new cookbook all the success in the world!
You can get a free 16-page sampler of the cookbook with recipes by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850. (If you send for it, including two first class postage stamps would be helpful, but not an envelope because it is larger than a normal envelope.)
You can also download the sampler in a PDF document right here!
To reserve your copy of the actual cookbook, you can purchase it here and it will be mailed to you upon publication around April 17, 2017.
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.