Book Review: The Amish Cook

I’ve been reading this book for about a week and a half. During that time it has been extremely hot here in northern California – upper 90s and 100s. While my body has been hot, my mind has been on the Amish farm, imagining their life in all this heat. Only thing, is I know Indiana heat can be worse than what I’ve been suffering. They have all that humidity and it doesn’t cool off at night.

If I were an Amish housewife with no indoor plumbing or electricity, I would be a miserable, whiny, grumpy person. I would want to take my horse and buggy into town and hang around inside the air-conditioned stores. Of course, at some point I’d have to go home and fire up the wood or kerosene stove to cook meals for my family. By then I’d be beyond whiny.

If Elizabeth Coblentz is a whiny-wumb, it doesn’t show. She is The Amish Cook and the author of this book. In it she tells of life among this northern Indiana Amish community. Elizabeth married, raised eight children, sewed all their clothing (treadle sewing machine), helped at slaughter and milking times, planted and harvested a large garden and then put away all that food for winter (via canning or cold-celler storage). In her spare time she managed to write a weekly column (by hand) for the Amish newspaper.

Mrs. Coblentz’s weekly columns contained news about her family and her local community. She talked of the garden, the weather, weddings, funerals, and other important events, as well as meals and food preparation. She always included a recipe at the end of each column.

A collection of these columns and seventy-five of the recipes have been published in this book. Since so much of Elizabeth’s life centered around food, the book is divided into meal chapters. There is Breakfast, Dinner, Supper, Desserts, and Sundays and Special Occasions. In addition there are nearly eighty stunning photos, some two-page spreads like this one.

Each chapter takes the reader through what happens at that time of day the chapter covers. I liked reading about all the various foods fixed for each meal. It was generally very hardy. Some of the recipes were new to me but many were quite familiar.

The chapter on Special Occasions had a list of the food (and amounts) they cooked and served at one of Elizabeth’s daughter’s wedding. It was staggering. It must have taken an army of women to carry that off. I liked that some foods are only served at weddings.

This book is a delightful visit with Elizabeth and her community. This past week as I tried to put myself into her life, I developed a tremendous respect and admiration for Elizabeth and the women of the Amish communities. As I’ve thought about their life I shake my head and say, “I don’t know how they do it.”

The truth is, I do know how they do it. It’s a way of life that is infused with a tremendous faith in God and the acceptance of whatever comes their way. They live a life of gratitude and set a wonderful example.

I first heard about this book from Staci. She told me I would like it and she was right. Thanks Staci. Read Staci’s review at her blog: Life In the Thumb. Last week JoAnn also reviewed this book and you can read her review at one of her blogs: Lakeside Kitchen.

I borrowed this book from the library. It’s also available at Amazon. (I’m an Amazon Associate.)

The Amish Cook: Recollections and Recipes from an Old Order Amish Family by Elizabeth Coblentz and Kevin Williams. Photography by Laura Smith. Published by Ten Speed Press, 2002.

Talking about food is a regular feature on my blog and others as well. Visit Beth Fish Reads for other bloggers who are participating in Weekend Cooking.

This entry was posted in 100+ Book Challenge, Books About Food, Food Talk, Weekend Cooking. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Book Review: The Amish Cook

  1. BooksPlease says:

    It certainly sounds a hard life and very different from mine!

  2. I probably told you one of my favorite places to go in Wisconsin was Amish country. If nothing else, the food is wonderful!

  3. Rural View says:

    I don’t work hard enough to eat like the Amish do. I do admire their tenacity to their life with all its hardships, but I couldn’t do it. For one thing they get only basic education and read only the Bible and other approved reading.

  4. JoAnn says:

    The photography in this book is stunning, and you’ve chosen one of my favorites to share. The lifestyle is certainly very different from what we are used to. I’m glad you enjoyed this so much, Margot – great review! And I’m glad Staci brought this one to our attention.

  5. Robin says:

    Sounds like a very interesting book and will have to check it out.

  6. Beth F says:

    I don’t understand how they do it either. I’ve always been grateful that I do not have to keep a wood-burning stove running 365 days a year. But, of course, that’s what a summer kitchen is for, I guess — the main house stays relatively cool. I am definitely going to look for this. I bet it is a captivating read.

  7. caite says:

    from the road, the farms of the Amish are very picturesque, so tidy and neat but I imagine the reality is a very long day with a lot of very hard, physical work…which is why they can eat all that food.

  8. bermudaonion says:

    I really do admire the Amish and their way of life. At times it looks so attractive to me, but I know I’m not strong enough to work like they do.

  9. Staci says:

    I loved reading your thoughts about this book as you read through it Margot. I was reading everyone’s comments and how they wondered how they were able to live that way but I’m sure if any of us were born Amish this would be a normal way of life and wouldn’t think twice about the amount of work required. Living close to several Amish communities all my life I can honestly say that their faith is what pulls them together. I will never forget what I saw one night after leaving my grandparent’s house. They lived in Quincy, Michigan where there are a lot of Amish. I was going down their dirt road heading home when I passed an Amish house. There in the window I saw an older couple reading by their lamp at the dinner table. That image has always stayed with me for some reason. I’m sure he was reading the Bible and she was listening. I’m glad that you enjoyed this one!!

  10. I love this review Margot. We stayed quite a while on one trip in Ohio and Indiana Amish country and we were fascinated and amazed by these people. You could pick up a little weekly free Amish newspaper (sort of a newsletter if I remember correctly) in several different places and I remember a food/cooking column — I wonder if it was the one by this lady. I am going to try to find the book as soon as I can.

  11. Cerrin says:

    Well We have gotten pampered by air conditioning. I bet they dont think the heat is that bad. They have adapted to the temperatures. Unlike us that have adapted the temperatures to suit us.

  12. boliyou says:

    I’ve put this on my library request list. It sounds so interesting!

    I personally can’t manage high heat, so I can’t even imagine what those poor folks go through, especially given that they can’t even wear tank tops and shorts. blech.

  13. Meg says:

    I have tremendous respect for the Amish community — and often find myself chatting with the many women, men and children selling unbelievably homemade delicious goods at local farmers’ markets here in Maryland! (And the spices I get from a local Amish grocery store are incredible. And incredibly cheap.)

    This sounds like a cookbook I would enjoy — thanks for sharing!

  14. Belle says:

    This sounds like a great read – the food of any community always gives such a fascinating look at community life itself.

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