By Kevin Williams
About 10 years ago, Amish woman Millie Otto picked up a pen and started writing a column in the News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois. The local newspaper wanted a "local version" of the Amish Cook column that I was syndicating and I can see why. I mean, the editor couldn't see using an Amish writer from Indiana when he had a huge Amish settlement in his circulation area in Arthur. So he found Millie Otto and she began writing. A couple of years later she knocked The Amish Cook column out of the nearby Mattoon, Illinois paper and I was none too happy. And I probably ranted online a bit more about it than I should have.
The reality is that it made perfect sense for Mattoon to run local Millie instead of The Amish Cook. That's business: may the best product win.
Over the years, I've come to appreciate Millie and her writing and I wanted to stop by and tell her so myself. So last week when I was in Arthur I sought her out and found her at her home, mowing her lawn.
We had a very nice visit, a very kind lady. I told her that I wasn't happy with her 10 years ago and she replied: "I know." So...ugh...I guess she was made aware of my displeasure. But I told her that my displeasure was misplaced and I wanted to stop by and tell her that she is a "good, good writer" and that there are no hard feelings on my part. And there aren't. The passage of time heals everything and I'm not one to bear a grudge. Grudges are silly wastes of time.
So, Millie and I visited a bit...she talked about the Amish community in Arthur.
"This is a very progressive Amish community and things are changing, almost too fast," she said, saying that the changes sweeping through the community have been relatively recent ones.
"I wish they would slow down," she said, lamenting that all the gadgetry and distractions have eroded the sense of community.
Arthur's progressive turn is interesting because I remember not all that long ago - maybe 15 years ago - the Amish in Arthur were upset over a proposed bikepath through the area. The Amish were offended by the thought of Lycra clad bikers pedaling through the area. I'm not sure whatever became of the bike path, but I doubt such a protest would erupt today.
Anyway, back to Mille. She is a great spokewoman for the Arthur community and a treasure. Her name is a common one in Arthur:
"It's pretty much Ottos, Millers, and Masts," she laughed.
And then we talked a bit more as a stiff October breeze blew across the fields. She thanked me for stopping by. It was a wonderful visit with a wonderful lady.
Oh, and asked I walked away, I thought to ask her for her favorite recipe. This is what she said is a favorite of hers right now for a meal: cornbread haystack. Here is the recipe:
- Crumbled Corn bread
- Meat Mixture
- cheese sauce
- chopped lettuce
- diced tomatoes
- cheese sauce
- corn chips
- shredded cheese
- sour cream
- Meat mixture for haystack:
- 5 lbs. hamburger
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- Fry until meat is no longer pink, drain grease
- 4-16 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
- 24 oz. ketchup
- 3 cans cream of mushroom soup
- 1 lb. Velveeta cheese - 1 part salsa
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- taco seasoning to taste
- Add everything to hamburger, mix and heat until hot. Add some milk if you want it thinner. Serve on a stack, corn bread, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa and chips. You may use ranch dressing instead of salsa and just shredded cheese and no cheese sauce. Any kind of chips, whatever strikes your fancy.
- This recipe serves 35. It can easily be reduced.