By Kevin Williams
AVA, ILLINOIS: First of all, kudos to the Southern Illinoisian newspaper for a really nice story/photo package about the growing Amish population around the small town of Ava. I like the way the reporter didn't dance away from some of the misconceptions of Amish culture and treated them with care and nuance. The photos with the story are superb. This is the type of story about the Amish that used to be more common (and I loved them), but as newspapers have trimmed back their reporting you don't see as many Amish community visits anymore by reporters. Also, I thought the reference to Union Grove, North Carolina was telling. That's one of the more liberal Amish settlements, so that would explain why photos, photos, electricity, and the like are more tolerated in Ava than other places. Click here to read an excellent article about the Amish community in Southern Illinois here.
LEAVING THE AMISH: The media likes these "leaving the Amish" stories but, statistically, if the Amish keep growing as fast as they are, these stories will continue to occur. It's just statistically inevitable. But I tell you some of the most "dramatic" stories that I keep hearing about usually involve Amish teenagers leaving Amish settlements in western Wisconsin. I've heard about some traditions and customs in the communities around Cashton, Wisconsin that seem especially draconian, so I'm guessing the Amish kids are fleeing these Amish churches. But that's just a guess. This article leaves a lot of gaps, such as how these Amish ended up in North Dakota, but otherwise it is a pretty good read. Click here to read more.
MY AMISH HOME: Let's check in with Illinois Amish writer Millie Otto who tells us what is going on with her life this week and serves up a recipe for a homemade apple pie, but this one has a healthier bend to it. If I'm going to do apple pie, I think I want my lard-infused crust and lots of sugar and cinnamon please, but not this one. Click here for the recipe and Millie's musings.
YODER SCHOOL: A new book about a Mennonite woman's experiences going from a conservative three-room Plain school in Amish and Mennonite country to Flint, Michigan, and then to fiery liberal Antioch College in Ohio sounds fascinating, but this book review leaves so many gaps that I find myself with more questions than curiosity. I know they want us to buy the book, but I wish this review would have given us a little more to go on.
BELLEVILLE SALE: A great article where you can get an amazing taste of Amish culture every Wednesday, far from the tourist kitsch of Lancaster County, PA. Click here to read about the weekly auctions in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Click here.
PEACH RECIPES: Okay, this isn't really an Amish entry, but these recipes were published in the Freeport, Illinois newspaper. Man, I have a lot of fond memories over the years of the Rockford-Freeport, Illinois. These are just classic hard-luck Rust Belt cities and I've always enjoyed my visits there. I'm not sure about the recipe for grilled peaches, but "peach dump cake", I think I am in heaven....I love dump cakes, and I love peach and have never seen the two combined. Wow. Click here.