I don’t claim to know much about the Amish community, and that’s probably how they want it. What I do know is that they are a large community of over 350,000 in thirty-one states in the US, and they make fantastic food. Really fantastic.
I think there will always be some fascination for the Amish as they manage to live so differently. Maybe we romanticise it? They live in their own largely self-sufficient communities, they work together, grow their own food, keep their own animals, build their houses and furniture, and school their children. There’s something that seems so organised and stable about their lives. But while I love the sound of their lifestyles, I love the city and conveniences more, so I’ll stick to visiting their stores, and eating my way around them.
Before we left North Carolina, Jim took me to the Shiloh General Store in Hamptonville. I was so excited as I had heard so much about their delicious home made food. We’d already visited a beautiful Amish furniture store in West Jefferson, NC, but not the general store. When we arrived, on a Saturday around noon, it was packed. People were spilling out from everywhere. The large verandah was filled with people enjoying lunch and a cold drink on what was a really hot day. We made our way through the crowds, into the store, and it was like being in Wonderland. There was so much to look at — small goods, cheese, dairy fridges, fresh baked goods, nuts, dried fruits, herbal tinctures, kitchen tools, and so, so much more. We easily filled our basket and then made our way to the sandwich counter. The store is run by people from the Amish community, the women resplendent in their aprons, long dresses and bonnets. The food counter was so busy, but they had a really good system where you ticked boxes on a piece of paper of what you wanted to order (it was a set sandwich menu), and you handed the order in at one counter, and in less than ten minutes your order came up on the other end of the counter. All sandwiches were served with a packet of chips, which is a pretty standard thing in the US. You took your lunch and basket of goodies to the front cashiers, where two men served cheerfully and efficiently despite the crowds and long lines. The wait was minimal.
The first time we went we lucked out on finding a spot to eat on the verandah as it was so busy, so we ate in the air conditioned comfort of the car. It was in the nineties so such a relief to be out of the heat. Now let me tell you about the sandwiches! I ordered chicken salad, mayo, relish, mustard, and salad veggies. The bread was slightly warm as it was freshly baked, and so fresh that it was falling apart as I scoffed it. Jim ordered the pulled barbecue pork with a range of condiments and salad, and it was hot, and melted in his mouth. The sandwiches were quite honestly, amazing. The best sandwiches we’d ever eaten. We went back two weeks later and I also ordered the pulled barbecue pork sandwich and it really was outstanding. So much flavour, and I ordered a bit of raw onion and every condiment I could get, and it just worked! Every combination works because the food is so fresh and well made. We had bought a huge cinnamon roll as well, which we ate later that night.
Now that I’m in Texas I don’t have to miss out on the goodness of Amish General Stores or their amazing sandwiches, but I do have to drive over four hours to get to one! I’m hoping there’s one tucked away around the corner from me and I’m just yet to discover it.