Amish Country


The Amish have always fascinated me. I used to go quite often to Lancaster, Bird in Hand, Intercourse and other Amish towns around Pennsylvania. The last time I went was probably almost a decade ago and this month I had an itching to go back and seek out local organic foods and also to take a closer look at the clothes they wear.

A lot has changed. Although they still ride in horse-and-buggies and live without electricity, there is a friendliness and an openness that I do not previously recall. In the past, they would hide behind their window shades or behind a bush. They would stare at you through the barn but not come outside. This time, they were more approachable.

Still, they will not let you take their picture and, of course, the whole point of my coming to Amish country was to photograph them and their food for my blog, so this became difficult. But my sly photographer, Erica Simone, has perfected the “Shooting from the Hip Cough Shot” which is exactly what it sounds like, she coughs…….and shoots from the hip.

So I came to Amish country looking forward to find somewhat of an uncomfortable, almost scary side of the Amish culture, as well as to find locally grown, organic corn and tomatoes, grass-fed beef and chicken. I found neither to my liking!

We started at the farmer’s market in Lancaster. This was a mixture of Amish, Mennonites, and English people (how the Amish refer to non-Amish). Compared to the farmers markets in NYC, it was barely a farmer’s market. There was only one stand selling organic vegetables, which was hardly a stand at all. The presentation was really depressing and there was not a lot of choice. The meat stand that sold organic grass fed beef and chicken was as depressing as the rest. It almost looked like an after thought and nothing looked that fresh. I wanted so badly to find something to cook for this blog and was not inspired at the market so we decided to hit the local Amish homes that have farm stands. This turned out to be just as bad. After hitting up at least four corn stands and being told that all the corn was sprayed, I began to become more and more un-inspired and, to make it worse, I had this itching to make a corn soup that I had tasted in Santa Fe a few months ago. Then out of boredom, I decided to find a local Amish outfit to bring home. This also became impossible. From previous trips out here, I had created two jackets that were inspired by the Amish: unconstructed jackets that you can roll up the sleeves on, pick up your carrots and sauté away!

With no corn and no clothes, a few organic peppers and tomatoes and a watermelon that came to a total of $3.62, we did what any self-proclaimed designer of food and fashion would do… we went to Hershey Park and saw middle America in its glory, where the marrying of food and fashion was overwhelming… just in a very non-Jay Kos sort of way.

Note: the corn soup will be posted next week and made from corn bought locally in NYC at the Union Square Market.

The above is reprinted with permission from The Jay Kos Blog.

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