Love your blog but . . .

She emailed me, "I love your blog but I have questions."

Great! I love curiosity.

She wanted to learn about the young men who leave the Amish. Since it's common for Amish women to do the cooking and home care she asked, "How hard is it for these young men that leave learn how to cook?"

The answer varies among particular families - but those I've met from the Swartzentruber order knew nearly nothing about food preparation to sustain their appetites.

When I met Dan, Andy, Mosie, and Ura, they were sharing a broken-down, poorly-insulated trailer. While they were contented to be independent and out of Amish, my "mom" heart broke for these young lads' struggling to survive. 

Visiting one summer Saturday, I entered their tiny kitchen where the oven didn't work. Being self-sufficient the guys boiled water on the stove top to make boxed macaroni and cheese . . . every day. They had a coffee pot - which pleased Andy the coffee hound - and a couple jars of instant coffee. In the rusty, compact refrigerator was peanut butter, bologna, bread, and condiments. Basically, they sustained themselves on mac and cheese, peanut butter, and bologna sandwiches. 

None had the income nor financial reserves to eat at restaurants. And few families invited them in for a home-cooked meal.

At Thanksgiving, I loaded a box of variety foods - easy to prepare - to take to the guys. For a nanosecond they were excited, then their Amish inspired self-reliance kicked in and they expressed embarrassment for accepting the handout. 

"C'mon guys, look at all this meat, cheese, canned soup, fruits, micro meals, and yummy food. It's for you, Happy Thanksgiving!" 

I invited each to our home on Thanksgiving Day (they love turkey), and anytime for cooking lessons. I watched as they scarfed down enjoy cottage cheese and homemade applesauce.
Since that year they've each learned to maneuver in the kitchen and make different foods, graduate up to more involved foods or married . . . depending on his wife to cook. 

Twenty-one-year-old Josh - Chapter 3 of Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish - asked me to come to his apartment one Sunday and teach him how to bake a cake.

fter church and our noon meal, I gathered up some of my cooking utensils and trekked over to his place. In his kitchen he showed me the box of cake mix he wanted to bake along with a casserole he thought he could make and eke out as a week's worth of meals. 

"I'm proud of you for wanting to learn," I told Josh

Most of the former Amish guys or gals I know, now hate lunch meat sandwiches and mac & cheese . . . wonder why? *wink*

Your turn: What would you feed a hungry former Amish guy or gal?


  1. Since my culinary skills are nil, I guess I'd have to resort to carry out. Seriously, Brenda, cooking is not my thing. But, if I did cook, I'd introduce them to some puertorican cuisine. Loved the article!

  2. I would teach them to make soups & stews...easy to do and very fulfilling :)

    1. Good idea. And from what they've told me soups are common Amish foods.

    2. Soup yes, I love soup and used to eat lots of it, it was cheap and easy, vegetable soup with cheese and milk heated yum! I also ate a lot of cereal, for dinner! My wive Sarah is a great cook so I'm in good shape.. Josh

  3. Brenda - I'm with Dali - my culinary skills include Hamburger Helper and Stouffer's frozen lasagna so I guess I'd not do much better than the ex-Amish men. But then you know that about me.

  4. Sweet story, Brenda! I'm glad they had you looking after them!
    Wonder if maybe the Swartzentrubers men are less kitchen-savvy than some? The ones I know I think would be a bit more creative and are often put in charge of grilling the meat or making ice cream.
    Thanks for sharing this lovely story! :)

  5. Growing up Swartzentruber us men had very little to do in the kitchen, morning after chores, lunch and dinner, 3 times a day we would go in the house and women would have a meal on the table, we'd all sit together to eat and back to work we'd go and they would do the dished, everyday for as long as I can remember. . Josh