Asians in Amish Land

Fri, May 7, 2010: Road trip

Tardiness and holidays always go hand-in-hand. Whenever we get time off, we always end up late and off schedule. We were supposed to leave early for our trip and I even woke up at 6 for it. But hubs didn’t budge from bed until close to 8, and even insisted on taking the car out for a wash before we left. We didn’t leave the house until 11-ish. Lucky for him, patience is my middle name, or so it seem just for that day.

By the time we reached our hotel in Lititz PA, a new Holiday Inn Express (HIE) on Crosswinds Drive, it was past 2 pm. After checking-in, and dropping off our bags, we drove straight into Lancaster, which was 15 minutes away. Even Jessie, our Cocker Spaniel, has her own travel bag, filled with her own food, bowl, brush, poop bags, shoes and rubber band. That’s my little princess for you. First stop, Central Market (downtown Lancaster) on Market Street. Jess came with us; she was excited but very confused with her new surrounding and probably the new smells. Seeing as most places didn’t allow dogs indoors, we had to take turns in going in and out of the stores.

We were also starving and opted for a quick and easy bite. However, after walking inside the Market, hubs decided he wanted nothing in there. The Market is a cleaner version of wet market found indoors. There were vegetable sellers (with very little wares – 5 bell peppers, 3 bunches of bananas, 6 brinjals – you get the picture), bakeries, delis, coffee-house, butcher, Italian cookies and more. Even though hubs didn’t want anything, I bought some munchies though:  oriental mix and dried mango (which we tried a two days later and decided it was very fresh and good. Unfortunately for us, nothing was open on Sunday and we couldn’t go back to the Market to get more!!).

We roamed the streets of downtown Lancaster and came upon a tropical smoothie place. I went in to get a mango smoothie and a small chicken pita to quell our rumbling stomachs. Since it was so late, we didn’t want to eat too much, but saved out stomachs for dinner instead. We walked around the city (making sure we made it a quick run as the car was parked at a very expensive running meter – a quarter for 16 minutes – just as expensive as NYC) and even stopped at an Italian bakery on Prince Street to pick up an almond-cinnamon twist and a white chocolate, macadamia nut cookie (which we kept for dessert that night).

Wandering around downtown Lancaster with Jess is akin to having a celebrity next to me. Everyone was enamored with her. A black woman even screamed (I swear!) when she saw Jessie and started giggling when she saw Jessie’s booties and how adorable she is. Crazy people in the boonies!

After that, we headed to the Outlets, as Lancaster is well-known for. What a let down!  We took turns sitting with Jess outside the stores, while the other went into the shops. We enjoyed the nice weather outside with Jess more than the stores. So quiet and peaceful – without crazy Chinese people trying to attack the goods.

Then we decided it was time for dinner, and to head back to the hotel to feed Jess.  Thanks to tomtom, the GPS system, we took the scenic route instead to a restaurant hubs chose from my list of recommended restaurants. As we pulled away from Tanger Outlet, we saw a farm filled with pygmy goats and sheep, which got me so excited that we just had to stop for pictures. When I saw a sign that read, “$1.50 for a dozen free-range eggs,” I made hubs reverse the car. I walked into the garden (thank goodness the white folks didn’t pull out their shot gun) and was greeted by three young girls letting their chicks out to play. I asked about the eggs. The oldest of the girls looked at me quizzically. Finally it dawned on her that I wanted to buy the eggs that were “advertised.” Before running into the house, she asked me, “How many dozens?” I never thought about it. “Two???” I offered.

I didn’t want to offend her by telling her I only needed a dozen. The mom finally peeks out through the storm door and hands me two dozen eggs. Then she chats me up. She tells me about and shows me her kid pygmy goat that she bottle-fed. Her daughter carries the kid out for me to pat, as I catch something dangling from the backside of the goat, and reluctantly tap on the kid’s head. Then she shows me her farm with her other goats.

The husband shows up from inside the house, tosses a few slabs of meat on the grill, and asks me, “Which part of Jersey are you from?” pointing to my Jersey license plate.

“North Bergen.”

Too fast? Maybe I shouldn’t have told him that. They may look us up.

They told us they were originally from Bergenfield, moved to South of Jersey, proceeded to out west to Utah and finally ended up in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t let myself hog all the fun with these nice people, so I called hubs out from the car to “touch” the kid goat too. We finally left, and the moment we got into the car, we pulled out the hand-sanitizer. City kids.

A few blocks away from the farm, I saw a nice, newly built brick neighborhood. The neighbor on the right was mowing his lawn, but so was the neighbor on the left. EXCEPT, the neighbor on the left was mowing his lawn with a HORSE-DRAWN mower. I wish I had a picture to prove this, but we were on a one-car-lane with a car following behind us closely.

Don’t worry though, that image is etched in my mind.

We finally found the restaurant, an Asian bistro, which turns out to be a Malaysian restaurant. It’s called the Olive and Jasmine Asian Bistro at 2323 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA. We received an additional 10% off with my AAA card. Since Lancaster County has brewed beer since the early 1700s, hubs wanted to have a taste of the local brew. We stopped at the Lancaster Brewing Co. at 302 North Plum Street, Lancaster, PA to pick up a case of locally brewed assorted beer.

We drove back to HIE with our take-out food and after feeding Jessie, we attacked our food. When it comes to food, we always act like we have not eaten for ages. Why is that, I wonder? Either we were really hungry or the Penang noodles and curry chicken was really good. The chicken satay wasn’t good though, in fact, the peanut sauce smelled fermented. My choice of Strawberry Wheat Beer was passable, but the Amish Four Grain was just bitter. Note, I am not a beer drinker, but still, it’s not good. Stuffed to the gills, we proceeded to the swimming pool to work on our new gut, but ended up in the hot tub instead. My skin started peeling and drying out from the chlorine and boiling water after that. Yes, I complain a lot. Is it that obvious?

Even Jessie was tired and fell asleep watching us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010: The adventure begins!

Saturday morning began wet and dreary. Luckily the skies cleared early enough for us to start our little tour around.


First stop, the Wilbur Chocolate Factory on 48 North Broad Street, Lititz PA. It began as a candy business between Henry Oscar Wilbur from Philadelphia and Kendig Chocolate Company from Lititz. It later became known as a chocolate company with more than a hundred years of old-fashioned hard-work in a small town. It is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

We purchased almonds sprinkled chocolate squares and bars of milk chocolate covered almonds. On our way to the factory, on Rt. 501/Lititz Pike, we saw a quaint bakery and a park closeby. We decided that we were going there for lunch later while bringing Jess along too to enjoy the park after we return from the vineyard in Manheim and Hershey’s Chocolate World.

After dropping off the chocolates back in the hotel, as we were afraid that the day was going to get warmer, we headed to Mt. Hope Estate & Winery on 83 Mansion House Rd, Manheim PA. This site also houses PA’s Renaissance Faire and many other year-round celebrations (all associated with drinking yourself into a hole).

On the way there, we acted like country bumpkins the first time in a big city, except reversed. We were the city slickers in the country, and every horse and cow herd grazing was a reason to stop for pictures. Oh yes, and the aroma drifting around was just priceless. It started as a whiff of fertilizer and we giggled about it. The deeper we went into the countryside, the stronger the horse manure and cow dung resonated, until finally, I wanted to throw up from the stench. What surprised me was people were actually hanging their fresh laundry and bed linens out to dry. Let’s see, I’m going to snuggle into bed with my clean linens and yes, the smell of cow dung will just put me straight to bed.

We finally got to the vineyard and purchased a bottle of Ice Wine ($40), a Honey Wine ($14), and a Merlot ($14), after tasting a few and pretending like we knew what we were doing. We even got them to direct us to restaurants we should sample. They told us to stave off the heart-clogging, comfort food called Dutch food, aka Amish food. I had my heart set on those pot pies…

After packing up our bottles for our travel, we left for Hershey’s Chocolate World at 251 Park Boulevard, Hershey PA – The Sweetest Place on Earth. The founder and owner, Milton S. Hershey (1857-1945), is what the American dream is all about. He had no formal education, was raised in rural Pennsylvania, failed thrice over and was nearly bankrupt by 30. He, however, never gave up on his dream and went on to become one of America’s wealthiest individuals, a builder of a town that bears his name and a philanthropist. Hershey town has its own school (Elementary through Secondary School), its own fire and police department and hospital, church, parks, a convention hall, a community building and even a department store. It is a model community providing for the welfare of its resident workers.

Getting there was a little puzzling. We didn’t know which address to follow – the park or the one to the Chocolate World, which also leads to the park. All we wanted were chocolates and the cheap-o in me refused to pay for parking in what looked like a theme park. After circling the area like vultures a few times, I relented as we drove into the parking lot, only to realize that parking was free for 2 hours. All the agony for naught. When we finally got into the Chocolate World, the wind started picking up. I held on dearly to my dress, afraid that the wind gush would turn me into a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. That, according to hubs, will not be a pretty sight. Whatever!

We got our Pot o’ Gold and kisses for my parents, miscellaneous bars of chocolates and left.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were starving – yet again. We ran back and got my precious parcel and drove straight to the bakery/deli. It’s called the Dosie Dough (Bakery) on 45 S. Broad Street, Lititz PA and it has seats set up outside the store for people to enjoy the good weather. It is a good stop for breakfast, warm/cold lunch sandwiches or just a quick afternoon snack/smoothie.

Hubs had a chicken wrap filled with raisins, pine nuts and extras, while I had a vege wrap consisting of grilled squash, brinjal, peppers, mushrooms and onions. I also ordered a green tea chai smoothie, which didn’t taste as good as it sounds. Seeing dog treats too, I bought two 75¢ carob cookies for Jess, which turned out to be too hard for her delicate palate – translation too spoiled to chew on hard food. The temperature began to drop, even with the sun shinning. After our blustery stroll in a nearby park, we went back to the hotel where Jessie was dropped off and I changed, once again, to fend off the dropping temperature.

The last stop for the day was the Amish Farm in Lancaster. The Farm, located right next to Target and a busy Outlet strip mall, was once owned by a Quaker, bought over by a Mennonite and finally ended up in the hands of an Amish. The Amish are known for their simple living, strict adherence to the bible and a reluctance to adopt modern technology. This religious sect was originally a group from Switzerland led by Jakob Ammann in 1693. In the early 18th century many of these Amish and Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania because of religious wars and persecution, and poverty. To this day, the Amish continue to converse and pray in Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Dutch). The Older Order of the community, especially in Indiana (and Canada), uses a dialect of Swiss German and have withdrawn from mingling with the general Amish community since the 1860s. Many of the first Amish settlers eventually took roots in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (others spread around the country and even up in Canada).

This community chose to distance themselves from technology: electricity, phones, automobiles and instead, embrace the old ways of lifestyle where one literally reaps what he/she sows. They have their own plantation, and farm to see to all their needs. They even go as far as to reject assistance from the government by refusing Social Security and medical insurance, but they do pay taxes. Most Amish who don’t tend to their own farms, are businessmen and they supposedly have a 90% success rate in the business (quilting, crafts, carpentry of furniture, etc.).

The Amish even operate their own one-room schools within each community and the children discontinue their education at grade eight. Manual labor is prevalent and because of their relatively compact community and smaller original population, intermarriages occur. This has caused an increase in inheritable conditions. (In Lancaster County, marrying/courting first, second and once-removed cousins are not permitted). Amish weddings are held on Tuesdays or Thursdays in November to December after the harvest. There is no white bridal gown, and neither are there rings exchanged. I guess they haven’t heard of Vera Wang or Tiffany.

The Amish believe in large families. Due to their choice of living a “simple life,” everything from the daily food consumption, to the clothes they are wearing, down to the furniture in their homes are hand-made. Because of this labor-intensive lifestyle, many hands make light work. Thus, the bigger the family, the better it is for everyone. Individualism in this case, is frowned upon. The family is the center. This family unit, in turn, is part of a church district. Membership into a church begins with baptism (between 16-25 years old), and only through this affiliation can one marry within the faith. Worship services are held in a member’s home (rotated amongst 20-40 families). Every other Sunday, the host family will have to provide a meal after the service for the visiting families – this is where catering services will come in handy, or in this case, about a dozen plus children in the kitchen will be sufficient. In this gender bias society, more so than the “outside” world, the boys toil the fields while the girls play in the kitchen.

Before baptism, the youth a permitted a period of Rumspringa (lit. running around) to ascertain their true faith in returning to the community. Only a small percentage (about 10% +/-) leave the community and are then shunned and excommunicated after this period. After their return, the boy most likely will receive a new/used one-seater sports buggy (almost like a coming-of-age present for a boy receiving his first car). A brand new buggy costs anywhere from $2000 and up. The horse, usually a retired race horse, could up the ante even more.

Their attire are simple, and in solid, muted colors without adornment (buttons and zippers included) to call attention to the wearer. A clothing is either sewed shut, or hook and eyes are used for clasp in men and straight pins as fasteners for women. (That’s one VERY pokey dress to wear!) The women’s attire consist of a cotton dress in solid colors (black, white, dark blue or aubergine) pinned over with an apron on the waist and a bib over the chest depending on the event/occasion and completed with a cap on the head. The men have their white shirt, pants without belts but held up by suspenders-like trimmings, black vest, a coat and topped of with a hat; straw hats for summer and black felt hats for winter. (Even their pants have no zippers or buttons! I checked.) In the winter, the men have a heavy long coat to cover themselves with, while the women only have a light shawl to drape over their shoulders. Shoes are black laced-up Oxfords, even for the toddlers! However, during the warmer months, many children go barefoot even to school.

The Amish bury the dead by embalming them.

After the very interesting talk in the Farm House, hubs and I walked around the farm – stopping at the milking yard to do some milking ourselves and the tobacco drying shed.

We also stopped at the carpentry shop, where the master carpenter showed us his skills as he whittled a small twig into a daisy for me. Aww! Even hubs doesn’t risk his fingers like that. He told that us the classroom at the end of the walkway was closing soon, so we hurried over.

We even visited the animals in the barn. They had pygmy goats, freshly sheared sheep, peasants, wild turkey, chickens and even donkeys. There was supposed to be a huge sow and piglets. But we searched high and low in the bitter cold for this gigantic and smelly animal with her babies, but never saw it.

We also stopped at the enclosed pen for the pygmy goats where I “bonded” with a kid. However, a pregnant nanny went came up to us, and suddenly rammed the unsuspecting kid. The poor baby flew on the other side. She could have been protecting the kid from me, or she was jealous that the kid had all the attention.

By the time we picked up our Greek food from Spyro Gyro at 241 North Queen Street, Lancaster, the winds were gusting at 30-40 miles per hour and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Thank goodness for my extra prim, long dress and my sweater zipped up to my neck. Otherwise I would have been a human icicle.

We got back to the hotel, and after feeding an overjoyed Jessie, we wolfed down our cold, but delicious food. We were recommended the Meze Platter for less than $12 that fed both of us quite well and then some more. The platter consisted of Keftedes meatball, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Spinach Pie, Gyro Meat – lamb, Tazatziki Sauce, Pita, Kalamata Olives, crumbled Feta on a Greek Salad topped with a seasoned red egg (almost like a full-moon egg for Chinese babies).

Sunday, May 9, 2010: Homeward bound

We were going to head to Intercourse, PA, or the market, or somewhere before heading back to Jersey, but everything was closed. Oh well, it was a very frigid morning/day anyway and we were feeling the effects of a full day the day before. We hung around the hotel room instead, and watched, of all things (since they didn’t have HBO like that reportedly said they had) VH1’s “Tough Love Couple” and their morning countdown. Trashy!

By the time we packed and got Jessie ready, it was close to lunch time. Not wanting a repeat of the last road trip from Providence back to NJ, where we were caught in a 2-hour traffic jam and had nothing to eat, I suggested a quick stop at the Sandwich Factory on 250 Lititz Pike Neffsville (can’t go wrong with sandwiches right??!?). WRONG! My Santa Fe Chicken Wrap was just spicy. You wouldn’t think I would complain about spiciness. This wrap consisted of only chicken and a wrap. No veges and the sauce was a mess. Hub’s philly cheese steak wrap wasn’t even worth mentioning. On top of that, the store’s staff must have broken a zillion cleanliness rules . The cook was not the only one touching the food, but he was the only one wearing gloves. Meanwhile, everyone was touching everything from the money to themselves. I even saw the cook touch raw chicken, and then merely wipe his hand and not wash it but continued touching the rest of the sandwiches. Salmonella poisoning anyone?

On our way back, on Route 222, we stumbled upon a group of Amish people gathering. Curious, we stopped to ask others who were parked on the side of a major highway what the ruckus was about. Turns out, Make-a-Wish foundation was having a Mother’s Day convoy with truckers and fire-fighting units in the area. Even the Amish came out in their Sunday’s best to take in this sight.

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