Sunday, June 13, 2010

Amish Country

Traveling an hour and a half south of Cleveland to Holmes County, we were transported back nearly a century, home to the world's largest population of Jakob Ammann's followers, the Amish Mennonites.

A few of my relatives came to town and had a wonderful idea of visiting Amish Country. It's quite shameful that Bug and I had not visited previously. I have been curious to go for a number of years, but always put it off for another day. The days turned to years, until their arrival.

Amish Buggy Almost

Modes of Amish transportation based on our excursion appear to be by horse-drawn buggy, bicycle, and foot. The drive within Holmes County was a bit harrowing as the roads leading to the area are hilly 2 lane highways, one lane going each way, with only a few feet of berm paved.

Horse-drawn carriages share the same road as motor vehicles and the speed limit is 55 mph. Of course, this doesn't mean that people have to drive the speed limit, but the roads are seductive, so beautifully paved with voluptuous curves, easily capable of handling much faster.

Amish As Time Goes By
One of the better pictures of a horse drawn buggy

Each time we passed over a hill, we slowed down considerably in the event a buggy was just over the crest. Even worse, we came upon disabled cars a few times that were parked at the crest of a hill in the middle of the lane we were traveling and were forced to move to the opposite lane to pass, unable to see oncoming traffic.

For most of the drive, we saw beautiful green farmland with barns dotting the landscape. Occasionally, there would be a home near the road and we'd catch a peek of a woman in plain solid blue dress with white apron hanging laundry. We squealed at a [50 mph] glimpse of a barn being raised by several men just ~40 yards from us. What were the chances of us seeing this? I wondered if the same barn was being just built every day as tourists drive through, as if we were in an Amish amusement park ride.

I realize it isn't PC to take pictures of people living their day to day lives because they look and sound different, but Amish tourism is one of the areas industries so, with that line of reasoning, I respectfully took just a few snapshots.

Mt Hope Parking Buggy
Parking lot near Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen

Arriving in Mt. Hope, we drove down what one imagines as "Main Street," a narrow street lined with storefronts. The streets and sidewalks are clean, and exudes small village but lacks the dusty and faded appearance of a town settled in the mid 1800s. I'm not sure if this speaks of how well the town maintains its buildings or if they were recently (re)built.

We unanimously agreed to stop in Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen, a restaurant that boasts Amish style home-cooking. Everyone quickly scrambled out of the van after being cooped up for ~2 hours and a bit hungry. Taking turns using the bathroom and hovering over the buffet to see their offerings, we quickly sat back down to order our mid-day meal. We all chose the buffet.

While keeping an eye on everyone's belongings, I noticed two bottles at the table that would normally be ketchup and mustard. Instead, the label read apple butter and peanut butter.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Apple Peanut Butter
Amazing apple butter and peanut butter

I couldn't wait to get up to grab some homemade bread. Using the word homemade for every dish they serve would get old quickly since they advertise that each dish is made from scratch and locally sourced when possible.

Upon everyone's return, I hopped over to see an interesting array of salads. Taco salad with chunks of onions, grape gelatin with a sweet, thick whipped cream filling, another gelatin salad with vegetables, salad greens, cole slaw, pickled mustard and beet eggs, various potato and pasta salads, and the typical salad toppings liked boiled eggs and croutons.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Bread
Delicious slate for peanut butter!

The bread smelled like it was baked today. It wasn't gooey or overly soft nor was it dry. I drew a squiggly line of apple butter and another line of peanut butter. The apple butter tasted like pureed apples, slightly sweet, viscous, with an applesauce crunch.

The peanut butter was an exciting discovery! I did not expect honey mixed into the peanut butter and mentally scribbled it under experiments to duplicate at home.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Pickled Eggs
Pickled eggs

This was my first time encountering pickled mustard eggs. They were tart, as expected, with a mellow yellow mustard essence. As far as texture, I expected the whites (yellows?) to have more boing. This is another dish I'd like to try at home.

My guilty favorite from the salad bar was the grape gelatin with a thick, sweetened whipped cream filling. What was not to like? Hush, that was a rhetorical question. I have already heard the evils of Jell-O. I forgot to try the vegetable gelatin salad.

When I go to a restaurant for the first time, I always check the soup selection. Chicken noodle and beef vegetable soups were listed. As it was a beautiful day in the 50s, perfect weather to be out and about, I easily entertained trying their soup.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Beef Veg Soup
Beef vegetable soup

The beef vegetable soup arrived partway through my salad. Sated at that point, I wished that I ordered a cup instead. It was beefy, with generous portions of vegetables and small cuts of beef, and had a delightful tang. If the salt could have been toned down just a notch and an hour and a half closer, I could see myself eating it weekly with a half sandwich.

Bug was giddy with excitement upon seeing chicken fried steak on the menu. The platter came with mashed potatoes and breaded mushrooms. He shared a bite of each item with me. I thought they were fine. The mashed potatoes were a bit refined to my tongue. I prefer mine lumpy and with skin. Bug warned me the mushrooms were hot so I waited patiently for it cool for 10 seconds and scalded my tongue. The steak was just crunchy to me after searing my taste buds.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Country Fried Steak
Country fried steak

Unfortunately, Bug was not wow'ed. He was suspicious the mashed potatoes were from a mix because of the texture. The country fried steak was technically all right. In his opinion, they tasted no different from a Redi-Serve OnCor entree preferring Cracker Barrel's instead.

The fried chicken in the hot case received a lot of praise, but I skipped all of their hot items to check out dessert. When I saw rhubarb pie during my once over prior to eating, I knew that was going to be mine.

By the time Bug and I returned to the table with our desserts, everyone had gone off in search of their respective interests -- wood crafts, quilts, and unusual snacks to take back as gifts.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Dessert
Rhubarb pie and root beer cake

This was my first time eating rhubarb, a vegetable that made its tart presence known despite its sparsity amongst the abundance of whipped filling. I'll need to further investigate rhubarb pies. The root beer cake was interesting. It was dry and faintly tasted of root beer like licking the foamy suds off a mug of root beer float. Bug and I shared the nut cake, which was fine and as advertised.

As we headed out, there was a refrigerator near the door with peanut and almond butters for sale. I was tempted to buy several for everyone but with it being refrigerated, they would have been more of an imposition to lug.

Walking down the street you hear the bustle of cars, clacking of horseshoes, see an occasional awkward sighting of a tractor trailer making an impossible 90 degree turn with skill, lingering smell of horses, and the chatter of what sounded peripherally of German, but just out of my reach of understanding.

Mt Hope Parking Buggies
Parking lot

Visiting Amish Country was a nice excursion. I look forward to visiting the other areas in Millersburg and Berlin Township. I can leave my camera at home.

- Cassaendra

Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen
8101 State Route 241
Mt Hope, OH 44660
Tel: (330) 674-0922

Mon - Sat, 07:00 - 20:00

2 deep thoughts:

Bruce Stambaugh 14 June, 2010 10:27  

I enjoyed your post about your visit to Amish country, especially the text and pics about Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen. I eat there a lot and can tell you first-hand that the mashed potatoes are real. If you doubt it, I am sure Mrs. Yoder herself would be glad to escort you to the kitchen to see for yourself.

Bruce Stambaugh

Cassaendra 14 June, 2010 13:10  

Hello, Mr. Stambaugh.

What do you regularly order at Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen? Also, are there other places you would recommend?

I really enjoyed the area and look forward to stopping by Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen again. If we do, I'll probably order soup and sandwich.

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