Editor’s Note: Lovina Eicher took a vacation while her children were on spring break. Guest columnist is Melodie Davis, one of the editors at MennoMedia/Herald Press which syndicates Lovina’s column.
I walked into Lovina’s kitchen on a beautiful October morning last fall to a hive of women cooking up a storm. A breakfast casserole was in the oven and some cookies were already cooling—and the coffee was on. Two huge bushels of apples sat over at the edge of the kitchen. Lovina, plus her daughters Verena and Loretta, were busy mixing and stirring.
A man by the name of Lucas Landis was taking pictures as the Eichers worked—all without actually photographing faces or even backs. Most of us understand that Amish generally do not pose for any photographs as part of their faith and custom, aiming for simplicity in life and spirit (avoiding pride and boasting).
What was the kitchen hum about that morning? If you haven’t guessed it yet, Lovina is producing an Amish-themed cookbook, the first one of her own in about four years. We at Herald Press are thrilled! It will be all her own recipes (aside from some, of course, sent by readers or obtained from friends and relatives—Lovina has more cousins than we can count) but each recipe will be tested and adapted by Lovina and her “English” friend Ruth Boss, plus a clutch of volunteer cooks from Ruth’s church.
I was pleased to also meet Ruth that morning, who arrived a bit later and had stopped at a nearby Amish bakery to buy sweet rolls, long johns and other delicacies for the work day. Ruth quipped, “They’ll have to carry us out of here,” because she knew just how plentiful and delicious the food would be that day. You may recall Ruth writing a guest column for Lovina late last summer on daughter Elizabeth’s wedding so Lovina could catch her breath.
Some of the dishes Lovina and daughters made that day included Shoo Fly Pie, Apple Pie, Apple Danish, Carrot Cake, M & M Cookies, Potato Pancakes, Vegetable Soup and more. She had scheduled three such “cooking days” last fall—in addition to everything else that Lovina does in a normal busy week.
Let me add that I was utterly amazed at how well and how much Lovina’s teenage daughters helped—they were in the kitchen all day cooking various recipes—all under Lovina’s watchful instruction. When they weren’t cooking, they were constantly washing dishes. Which is where Ruth and I jumped in—rinsing and drying the dishes, pans, and utensils! I put my hands in that steamy hot water and it felt like home—the wonderful hot water I love for cleaning dishes.
The name of Lovina’s new cookbook is The Essential Amish Kitchen: Everyday Recipes from Farm and Pantry. A cookbook takes extra-long to “cook up” so it comes out in April 2017. We hope you’ll want one to use whenever you want a taste of good home cooking from farm and pantry! The book will be sold online and at bookstores everywhere. Lovina’s column, along with her blog and Facebook page, will keep you posted on when it’s available for preorder.
Writing her weekly column and producing a cookbook like this is Lovina’s way of earning extra money for her family—which she can do right in her own home like many other Amish women in their cottage industries. And so many men too have businesses on the side or full time, now that it is so difficult to support a family on farm income. Family farms are small these days and land is hard to come by. We appreciate readers—and newspapers—being part of this extended family and community. We know readers enjoy sitting down once a week to enter into a little of Lovina’s family life, and learn from the strong faith she shares with us all. One man, who reads Lovina’s column online, said, “I [find] myself greatly blessed and refreshed.”
I’ll share one of my own favorite recipes, adapted from another classic Mennonite cookbook, More-with-Less Cookbook, for Oatmeal Bread.
1 cup quick oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Combine above ingredients in a large bowl.
Pour 2 cups boiling water over mixture, stirring to combine.
2 packages dry yeast in
½ cup warm water
When batter is cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture. Stir in 5½ cups white flour (you’ll probably add another ½ cup in kneading). When dough is stiff, turn onto a floured board and knead 5–10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again. Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased 9x5x3-inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25–30 minutes. Cool on rack. Brush loaves with butter or margarine for a soft crust.
Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.