Beyond romance novels: Amish and Mennonite women tell their own stories in Homespun

July 31, 2018

Beyond romance novels:
Amish and Mennonite women tell their own stories in Homespun

HARRISONBURG, Va.— Ever wish you could visit with a group of Amish or Mennonite women over a cup of coffee? In the pages of Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words (August 2018), edited by Lorilee Craker. Amish and Plain Mennonite women swap stories and spin yarns. Craker, bestselling author of Money Secrets of the Amish, collected these personal writings about hospitality, home, grief, joy, and walks with God.

“These essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church,” writes Craker. “There is something wonderfully elemental and childlike about the devotion expressed here, devotion even amid doubt. These pieces drew me closer to the One who calls all his daughters ‘beloved.’”

Chapters include stories such as a woman who struggles with feeling inferior to her sister; a woman longing for a baby; and a hilarious tale of a woman who accidentally bought stretchy material to sew her husband’s pants. Each woman’s story unveils a hidden side of a community many are curious about. Writers include Linda Byler, Sherry Gore, Lovina Eicher, Lucinda Miller and dozens more.

Behind Amish romance novels and tourist spots and television shows stand real people, with longings and loves just like the rest of us. In Homespun, readers no longer have to wonder what life is like for Amish and Mennonite women. They can read real stories from real lives.

Editor Lorilee Craker is the author of thirteen books, including Money Secrets of the Amish; Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me; My Journey to Heaven with Marv Besteman; and the New York Times bestseller Through the Story with Lynne Spears. Connect with her at LorileeCraker.com.

Homespun is available from Herald Press for $15.99 (paperback) and $12.99 (ebook) at 800-245-7894 or at www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877-846-1593), Parasource (800-263-2664), and elsewhere.

To schedule an interview with Lorilee Craker, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Some recipes “stick with you for life,” Amish cookbook author says

April 6, 2017

Syndicated columnist Lovina Eicher releases first solo cookbook

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Herald Press is publishing a new cookbook by prolific Amish recipe author Lovina Eicher: The Essential Amish Cookbook: Everyday Recipes from Farm and Pantry.

The cookbook’s more than one hundred recipes are accompanied by full-page color photographs—both of recipes from the cookbook and of Amish life—as well as tips to enhance and enjoy the dishes or memories associated with them. Many recipes include smaller color
photographs illustrating the creation of the recipe step-by-step.

While this is Eicher’s first solo project, she is experienced at sharing recipes. She is the author of Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, a syndicated column published in newspapers across the United States, as well as in a weekly blog hosted by MennoMedia. She has also collaborated with other authors or editors to create several other Amish cookbooks, including The Amish Cook at Home, The Amish Cook’s Baking Book, The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes, The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book, and Amish Cooks across America.

Eicher began her cooking career at a very young age, helping her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, in the kitchen. “One of my earliest memories was watching her knead the dough when she was making cinnamon rolls,” Eicher recalled in an interview. “When she’d go in the next room to do something, I’d quickly squeeze the dough. It just looked so fun.” Elizabeth Coblentz was also well-known for her syndicated column, The Amish Cook.

Eicher’s latest cookbook is divided into 13 sections, ranging from basic categories like “Soups and Salads” and “Meats and Main Dishes” to more specialized ones like “Amish Wedding Meals.” Some recipes are staples in any cookbook, such as for homemade bread or muffins. Some encourage users to get a little more creative in the kitchen, such as Rhubarb Coffee Cake, BLT Salad, and Amish Wedding Nothings (also known as Knee Patches), a fried, doughy, airy dessert often served at weddings.

Eicher chose recipes that are easy to follow and that use basic, everyday ingredients. “I went with recipes that I use and like,” she said. “Everyone has a recipe that they like best to make bread. I’ve tried different kinds, and I always go back to the one I started with, which was my mother’s [named Lovina’s Homemade Bread in the book]. Some recipes just stick with you for life, I guess.”

Eicher also recalls making pies with her mother. “When she would make pies, she would give us little strips of the dough that she didn’t need,” Eicher described. “She’d give it to us to play with, and we had a little toy rolling pin, and we’d roll it out and make little pies, and she’d put sugar on it and bake it.”

Eicher first began writing when she took over her mother’s syndicated column after her mother’s passing in 2002. “At first I didn’t consider myself a writer,” she said. “I just wrote a letter like I was writing to a friend. I just wrote about my family.”

She recalls feeling intimidated about following in her mother’s footsteps. “My editor told me that the readers will only read the column for so long because I’m the daughter [of Elizabeth Coblentz]. You have to make sure to keep their interest. I guess something I did worked,” she said with a chuckle.

Eicher now considers writing an important part of her life. “It’s like a diary,” she said about her weekly column. “There are so many things I write about that I would have forgotten. It’s something I have to do that I wouldn’t do otherwise. I think it would be so nice if every mother would just sit down every week and write down what happened that week. You think you don’t have time to sit down and write, but if you have to, you find time.”

Eicher also adds she receives a lot of encouragement from readers. “I just want to keep encouraging them,” she said. “A lot of people out there haven’t been blessed with the faith that I was brought up with.”

Sherry Gore, bestselling author of Me, Myself, and Pie, says, “I love this cookbook. Like thousands of others, I am a big fan of hers!”

Eicher and her husband, Joe, have eight children and live in Michigan.

The Essential Amish Cookbook: Everyday Recipes from Farm and Pantry is available for purchase from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 or www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources.

Luisa Miller, staff intern

To discuss interview opportunities, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

A number of book signings by the author and book launches are planned for the Midwest. See current list here.

High-resolution photos available. All photos here including those on the book cover photographed by Lucas Swartzentruber-Landis or Grant Beachy for Herald Press.

 

Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook Page Hits 1000 Likes & More

Several months ago Amy Gingerich, our editorial director, told you about Lovina’s Amish Kitchen–our new venture syndicating newspaper columnist Lovina Eicher. (She had previously written for 12 years as The Amish Cook, handled by a different syndicate.)

So in a step of faith, we launched her new column in July, started a website for it, and began a Facebook page and Twitter account. It is so curious and fascinating to personally use some of the newest media and technologies available while working alongside a writer who writes by gaslight and pen and paper. (I know, there are things lots newer than Twitter, but we’re running as fast as we can to keep up!)

Lovina-02

We’ve been buoyed and excited to see the growth of Lovina’s Facebook page for the column. Some of her friends with access to technology keep her a bit in the loop, so even though she does not engage directly through these electronic media, she knows what’s going on, responds to letters sent to her with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and is deeply grateful for the outpouring of support.

This past Monday the Facebook page for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen passed 1000 likes, which is a nice big marker. When Amy sent word to Lovina to let her know about the 1000 likes, she was extremely gladdened as well. It is amazing because we have not done anything special to promote the Facebook page: we have not purchased ads, have not run contests, have not begged people to like it (other than when it first launched, a few staff sent the typical “suggested likes” to some friends). It has grown organically, one “like” at a time.

IzzyCelebrating

Can you spot the dog? Izzy, the Eicher family pet, celebrates 1000 FB likes in the autumn leaves.

Curious, we posted a little poll on Facebook. Some 46 people responded to this question:

We love that this Facebook page is growing very fast and are curious as to how you find it. Comment please? 1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it 5. Random — you don’t know

Here is how people responded:

  1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column – 6 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen – 7 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan – 11 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it – 7 5. Random — you don’t know – 2

Of course some of these “stock” answers did not fit all situations so there were these additional categories that I grouped together.

  1. Searching online – 4 7. Came up on Facebook – 11 8. All of the above – 1 9. Other – 1

The fact that many are longtime fans (and some listed multiple numbers for their response) did not surprise me. Many had previously followed Lovina’s mother’s column. (Before Lovina wrote as The Amish Cook, her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, was the author of that column.) What did surprise me was that her page came up as a suggestion on Facebook. Like I said, we did not buy ads or sponsor the suggestions, so apparently the algorithms connected to people already liking other Amish-related Facebook pages caused the suggested “like” to show up.

To read the actual comments from fans, you can like Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook page and go to October 24. You’ll find some fun and interesting comments, including from friends, relatives, neighbors. My favorite was a comment from Cherie Kreutziger:

“Always used to see her column on another Amish site … used to race home from work to read her letter and see the recipe. When I didn’t see it, I was rather upset. LOVE it … thank you for getting her on the net and sharing on Facebook. Now I can visit her website each and every day and reread maybe what I didn’t see the 1st time. Thanks again. God bless.”

While we run two other Facebook pages with over 1000 likes (this morning MennoMedia has 1768 and Third Way has 1123), Lovina’s has grown the fastest and we hope and trust the trend will only continue. (If you’ve joined Facebook, we appreciate you liking these pages as well. It’s one small free thing you can do to help support this ministry!)

Why go on about this? What does the popularity of this column and Facebook page say about our culture’s fascination with the simple and hardworking life of our cousins in the Anabaptist faith tradition? Is it our yearning for simplicity, faith, values, family? All of the above? What do you detect?

At MennoMedia and our book imprint Herald Press, we don’t see ourselves jumping on a recent bandwagon. Over the years, we have published dozens of titles relating to Amish, plain, and conservative Anabaptist groups, helping people understand and interpret this precious and Christian heritage. Just last week one of our editors, Valerie Weaver-Zercher, wrote about our newest book series, Plainspoken, but before that there were many other titles. Below is just a sampling of them.

Novels:

Children’s books:

Cookbooks:

  • Amish Cooking (no longer in print)

Nonfiction and memoir:

Lovina’s columns really function as a letter from home. In our society, that’s almost a relic. Will your children have letters from you? Lovina’s columns all end with a recipe—the promise of a good home-cooked dish or treat. Will your children have memories of home-cooked dishes you served?

Pretzels

Lovina’s column hits on two basics of our stock in trade: faith and food. I wouldn’t want to live without either. Would you?

P1050565Melodie Davis, author of Whatever Happened to Dinner?, editor, columnist