By Kevin Williams
I found this video I did from Pinecraft, Florida back in 2008. Man, several observations jump out at me. Okay, I look 10 years younger. Sheesh. I have had to have been in a hurry because if I could do it over again there are so many other things I would have shown you. I have been to Pinecraft 3 - 4 times over the years and that must have just been a quick visit through. Still, my video gives you a brief flavor.
In a nutshell, for newbies, Pinecraft is a section of Sarasota, Florida where some Amish go to spend some of the winter. It's very laid back and comforting for a people so used to rigid rules back home.
AMISH IN FLORIDA: The Amish have been wintering in a sleepy subdivision of Sarasota since at least the 1930s and for much of its history, it was a quiet, off-the-radar backwater where Plain people could wait out winter under the warm west Florida sun. One of the reasons Pinecraft is special to me is back in the 1990s when I was a young magazine writer I did a short article about the Amish enclave for Florida Retirement Living magazine. I wrote the article and my late grandfather, who lived in nearby Venice, took some Pinecraft photos for the piece. That was a bit of joint generational effort that is a cherished memory.
Today Pinecraft is in the glare of a much brighter spotlight. It's been featured in places like the New York Times and on the Food Network over the past few years.
Pinecraft is a place where Amish can go to “chill” (actually to escape the chill:), to figuratively (if not literally) let their hair down and escape some of the most restrictive rules of church and community life up north. Some Amish have mixed views of Pinecraft. An Amish woman in Indiana chuckled that Pinecraft “is for the newlywed and half dead,” meaning it seems to attractive the very young and very old. That makes for an eclectic mix on the sunny streets of Sarasota. On a sometimes negative note, the more laid-back atmosphere also makes Pinecraft an attractive roving ground for reality TV shows. Some episodes of Nat Geo’s “Amish: Out of Order” were filmed there (a reality show I actually thought was pretty good) and the much more odious “Breaking Amish” season two was filmed there.
Pinecraft features a collection of Amish-inspired restaurants of which my favorite, hands down, is Yoder’s.
So what does the future hold for Pinecraft? As the Amish population grows up north it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a “second Pinecraft” come to bloom in Florida. The first one would still go strong, but maybe a second one sprouts up simply because Sarasota’s Pinecraft will become too crowded during the winter. The Amish population will continue to grow up north over the years ahead, by some estimates doubling each generation. So at some point, Sarasota’s Pinecraft may get too crowded for comfort. And as more Amish live year-round out west, a similar “Pinecraft West” is taking root in Arizona. I think that area will continue to grow. Pinecraft will always be a special and favorite place to visit for me and if you ever find yourself in Sarasota, check out this unique neighborhood!
This is a recipe given to me by Sherry Gore, an Amish-Mennonite author and cook. This will brighten up your winter day! And, obviously, most of you can't get "Florida tomatoes", so use whatever you can find.
- 6 - 8 small Florida squash, sliced
- 6 ripe Florida tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 6 Florida onions (sweetest you can find), sliced
- salt and lemon pepper
- 1 /2 cup water
- grated sharp Cheddar for garnish
- Place a layer of sliced squash in a large skillet.
- Then add a layer of tomato wedges and a layer of sliced onions.
- Continue layering until all vegetables are used.
- Sprinkle with salt and lemon pepper as desired.
- Add the water and steam over medium heat for 12 - 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Serve in a pretty dish with cheese sprinkled on top.