Amish Reality

I recently came across a book cover—albeit a spoof—for Amish vampire kittens in outer space.

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While it may seem farfetched, there are an awful lot of crazy Amish tie-ins these days. It seems that everyone wants to tell the reality-TV, sci-fi, or romance-novel version of the Amish story.

But at MennoMedia we have been offered the opportunity to help Amish writers tell their own stories for a change. Through conversation prompted by one such published Amish writer, we were eager to begin syndicating a weekly newspaper column called Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

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Lovina Eicher, author of a long-running and well-loved column about her Amish life, is working with us to start a new column syndicated by MennoMedia, Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

Lovina is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Lovina inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002.

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Through Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, Lovina will continue to connect weekly with her huge base of readers and fans. And she will continue the tradition of reaching readers with dispatches and recipes from her Amish home.

Lovina’s winning combination of tasty family recipes and writings about her daily life and faith as an Amish mother, wife, and cook have earned her a loyal audience with thousands of readers across the United States.

Each weekly column opens with about a 600-word reflection on the events of her household, community, and church district, and concludes with a favorite family recipe. She will follow this format weekly. Total column length is between 700-750 words. The rate for the column depends on a newspaper’s circulation, and we are open to hearing from any newspapers in your area who might be interested in such a column! This is not our first venture into syndicating a newspaper column. Perhaps you already read the long-running Another Way newspaper column by our staff member Melodie Davis, which has been syndicated since 1987.

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We at MennoMedia are honored to work with Lovina in bringing her authentic Amish voice to both her loyal readers, and also readers who have not yet discovered her work. We are confident that Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, with its homespun Amish wisdom and hearty recipes, will greatly appeal to readers and give people a glimpse into authentic Amish living.

Lovina’s Amish Kitchen just launched July 1, and a new column will be posted online every Friday afternoon (after running earlier in the week in newspapers). Here is the recipe for sugar cookies in her first column:

Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups lard (or use 1 cup margarine, softened, and 1 cup lard)
  • 3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9–10 cups flour (just enough that you can handle dough)

Mix all ingredients except flour. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Chill dough for a few hours or overnight. Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until bottom is golden. When cool, frost if desired.

You can read more about Lovina and her new column at her website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter! You may be interested to know that she writes her columns with pen and paper and mails them to us. We then get them ready for electronic publishing. She is happy to correspond with readers who write to her at the Post Office box given at the website and elsewhere.

Amy Gingerich

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Forty Days of More-with-Less: Promises Made

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.

(*Don’t forget the fine print at the bottom for a Mennobyte discount that’s also available to anyone who just stumbles onto it.)

By Ben and Heather Kulp

There comes a moment in any type of resolution where the promises you made to yourself are tested or challenged.  The initial rush of changing and forging a new way fades away and you are left with the feelings of how easy it would be to sink back in to the habit or habits that you were looking to change.

This was the thought process for both of us as we shifted in to the newest phase of having a little boy in our lives.  Heather went back to work full time, and Ben adjusted to running his business from home, freelancing, and teaching cello while taking care of the new baby.  The days were a lot longer for both of us, and when new stressors appear, it’s easy for old habits to emerge.  We live in the Allston neighborhood in Boston, and within a two block radius of our house we can go and eat Afghani, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Japanese,  and Thai, to name a few.  Such were the temptations as we dealt with a screaming child in the back seat, and a clogged, rush hour public transit system.  How nice and gratifying it would be to simply stop in and get (Ben’s favorite) Pad Thai, or (Heather’s favorite) Red Curry at the end of a long and busy day.

But, dear reader (Ben has always wanted to write “dear reader,” so thank you indulging him) we only sampled the smells of our favorite restaurants as we drove or walked by.  Once back home we dutifully opened More With Less, and looked to the recipes.

After the stress of the day had been left outside on the sidewalk in the hustle and bustle of city life, we were able to focus more on the task of preparing dinner for one another. The first dish we made was the Soybean Curd Sauté (page 115). We also received an unexpected gift in the mail that day of a bottle of wine from friends in Budapest, and decided to open that with dinner. Ben lit the candles as Heather put our son to bed, and turned on Ben’s favorite John Coltrane album, Blue Train.

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We discussed Heather’s first day back at work, and Ben juggling practicing, business phone calls, and giving the needed attention to our infant son. After the meal was finished, we continued talking and relaxing after our busy days. It struck us both that we were much more relaxed and fulfilled than if we had gone to a restaurant. Going out to eat can be a wonderful experience as someone will bring to your table exactly what you want. There is no cleaning of dishes or wiping away of crumbs. However, as we sat and decompressed from our days, it struck us both that we gained more by cooking for one another and intentionally spending the time at home together. The recipe Soybean Curd Sauté did not take any more effort than waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant, and after the meal was done, we were able to share a few moments together in the comfort of our apartment.

With this lesson in mind, we approached the rest of the week’s meals with the same intention. Breaking the habit of stopping in for lunch or dinner at a restaurant or café is one that continues to cross our minds as we trek across Boston for our jobs. The decompressing from our days was even more needed the second day that Heather was back at work, as the initial rush and newness began to wear off. Heather loved the mental stimulation of her job, and Ben appreciated so many private moments with an incredibly cute little baby boy.

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However, as evening rolled around, all we wanted to do was take a break and have someone else prepare our food. New habits are built in very small increments, and we stepped up on to the small block of cooking homemade food from the evening before. This time Ben rocked the baby to sleep, and Heather made Yaksoba (page 139). We both love Asian cuisine, and instead of going to our favorite noodle shop in the neighborhood, we felt more wholesome at the end of the meal having made it at home and shared it with one another as we discussed the happenings of the day.

This past week was about renewal in our lives. Heather went back to work and renewed her focus on her professional life, and Ben renewed his commitment to his business and baby boy by earning how to balance both during the day.  Neither of us was perfect at the new steps we took after Heather’s maternity leave.  However, after having shared food and conversation around the recipes from More With Less during our evenings together, we were able to continue and renew our Lenten vow, and feel like we had a community –both together and through the recipes- that would help us move forward in to the next phase of our lives.

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Ben Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with their newborn son, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Thursday from now through Easter, under the special series category, Forty Days of More-with-Less. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

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*If you are like Ben and Heather and enjoy eating foods from all around the world, watch for the newly revised Extending the Table Cookbook coming in May, now with helpful color food photos, now on pre-publication discount.

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And buy the More-with-Less cookbook here!

This entry was posted in Books, Forty Days of More-With-Less, Publishing and tagged , , by Melodie Davis. Bookmark the permalink.

Thank a Sunday School Teacher

By Mary Ann Weber

When teaching middler Sunday school a few years ago, I decided to have the class do a few activities to give them an idea of how Abraham and Sarah lived. First, we made fry bread. We mixed flour and water and a few other ingredients and made dough that we flattened and fried. It was a hit because the children were learning to cook simple meals at home, plus they wanted to eat the fry bread.

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Second, we used blankets and chairs and made a tent. It was a sorry-looking tent and I’m sure it was nothing like the tent in which Abraham and Sarah lived. But when we got inside the tent it gave the children a good idea that Abraham and Sarah did not live in houses made of wood and stone.

Third, we built an altar. I gathered field stones that surround the flower gardens at my house, placed them into buckets, and hauled them to church. It was heavy work but I knew the children would enjoy building with the stones. I was right. They crafted a lovely and sturdy altar next to the tent.

I left the altar and began walking to the next activity but soon noticed that I was alone. I looked behind me and, to my surprise, the children were kneeling around the altar! Their eyes were closed, their lips were moving, and their hands were folded in prayer.

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(From www.publicdomainpictures.net)

My preparation for that Sunday school session included retelling a story about familiar Old Testament characters and preparing activities to go along with the story. I informed the children, but I forgot about faith forming in their lives. Fortunately, the Sunday school class hadn’t forgotten—they knew what an altar was and they wanted their moment with God.

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Teaching Sunday school takes dedication. Finding resources that take information to the next level and allow formation are key. So are finding resources that fit the theological framework of the congregation and denomination. Other considerations include the right mix of learning and fun, the learning styles of the class members, how easy the materials are to use, among other things.

Two evaluation tools, MennoLens http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens1.pdf  and MennoLens2 http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens2.pdf,  help congregations choose materials based on Anabaptist Mennonite perspectives.

Teaching Sunday school is no small task. Find a Sunday school teacher this week and give the teacher a big thank-you. Hats off to Sunday school teachers everywhere!

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The main Sunday school materials we have for children are published with Church of the Brethren and are called Gather ‘Round. A new curriculum to follow Gather ‘Round is Shine, well into planning and writing,  to launch fall of 2014.

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Mary Ann Weber
Curriculum editor