Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.

From Virginia

Free Recipe Friday – Dutch Potatoes

I found this recipe in Wonderful Good Cooking from Amish Country Kitchens edited by Johnny Shrock. It’s a good, basic staple dish at any dinner table. One thing I’ve learned from hanging out with my Amish friends is when they say “add a few slices of cheese,” they don’t mean the Kraft individually wrapped kind. Amish in Holmes County, Ohio put a lot of effort into their cheeses, and they’re some of the best in the world in my opinion. In this case the cheese really does make the difference. The type of cheese selected gives the dish a character and flavor all its own. Trying different cheeses makes this a fun kitchen experiment every time.

Note the lack of measurements. That’s the sign of a truly good cook. They measure by sight and taste. For those of us trying to follow along, the lack of measurements presents a challenge. But hey! That’s what experimenting in the kitchen is all about, right?

Dutch Potatoes

Cook potatoes with the jackets and then slice thin by hand. Put butter or oleo (1/2 stick) in the skillet. Melt. Add potatoes and sprinkle with flour, and then add milk, enough to thicken. Fry slowly so milk doesn’t scorch. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a few slices of cheese about the last 4 to 5 minutes to melt over the potatoes. Turn very carefully. Serve at once.

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Amish Dog Immigrates to America

I picked up an interesting Amish book the other day. It’s called Amish Roots, edited by John A. Hostetler. Mr. Hostetler has put together an impressive collection of writings on a variety of subjects, from Amish history to Amish legends to views on child discipline. Every article, letter, and essay is written by an Amish person, or in rare cases by an Englisch person who is speaking out for the Amish on a certain topic. I love reading the personal observations.

For instance, there’s an article in here about a dog immigrating to America along with the Beck family in 1834. Apparently the children had a hard time leaving the family pet behind in Switzerland, so Papa Beck allowed them to bring it across France with them, with the understanding that when they boarded the ship to America, the dog would not come. (Dogs were not permitted on the immigrant ships.) So the morning they were to board the ship, Papa Beck instructed his oldest son to take the dog out and drown it. (I know. Harsh. But before this current enlightened age, dogs were treated like…well, like animals.)

Little John, however, did not obey, but snuck the dog onboard. The family kept the animal hidden for a while, but then the dog gave birth to a litter of six puppies. It’s kind of hard to keep six puppies quiet and under wraps on a ship. They were discovered when none other than the ship’s captain witnessed a puppy escaping from its confines and prancing across the deck. John thought for sure he would be ordered to throw all the dogs overboard. Thank goodness the captain turned out to be a dog lover. He picked out a puppy for himself, and paid John a silver dollar plus a daguerreotype of himself. Papa Beck promptly confiscated the money and the photograph, because it was wrong for Amish to have pictures. Not sure what happened to the rest of the puppies, but Mama Dog arrived safely in Fulton County, Ohio with her family.

Don’t you just love fun glimpses into history?

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The Sugarcreek Budget

The last time I was in Sugarcreek, Ohio, I picked up a copy of The Budget, a weekly newspaper that is called the “communication network for the Amish-Mennonite Communities Throughout the Americas.” It’s a regular newspaper with articles of local interest, such as the recent conviction of Monroe Beachy who cheated 2,700 people out of over $33 million through his fraudulent investment company. But far more fascinating to me are the more than 250 letters sent in from Amish and Mennonite “scribes” who live all around the U.S. and Canada. They faithfully send in a weekly letter detailing the folksy news of their communities. In return, they are given a subscription to The Budget. To the folks in Amish communities, a copy of the Budget is like getting a letter from home. It’s the only paper I’m aware of whose big news is in the letters to the editor, and Amish subscribers read it eagerly each week.

Consider this section of a letter from the scribe in the Amish community in Hestand, KY: “Two of Dan Bye’s girls went over to Joseph Troyers’ to get some pots to put plants in. It was windy and on the way home some pots fell off so both girls went after them and left their tame old horse standing. The horse decided they could walk home and left without them. No harm was done but the girls had to carry all the pots home.”

Or this one from Reedsville, WI: “Several weeks ago Leroys had some very anxious moments when 2 year old Matthias turned up missing. Linda had sent him out to the veal barn with a note for Leroy. Leroy finished his duties in the barn, snapped out the lights, hooked the door from the outside, and went for the greenhouse. Two hours later it was dinnertime and Leroy had never seen Matthias! A quick run to the school cabin and all the children joined the search party. They tramped through the muddy woods, checked the creek and fields. It was a grave concern with all the water from snow melt. Then one of the girls thought of checking the barn and there he was, what a welcome sight! He had traces of tears, but had snapped the lights back on and was putting barn lime in the calves feeding bowls and seemed none the worse for the experience. The 45 minutes they spent looking for him seemed a long time.”

And how about this one from Sugarcreek, OH: “Alta Beachy came home from the hospital and is doing better each day. She is able to eat again, although not staying alone through the day. We were over to visit her Sun. evening. Sara Beachy was in church on Sun. She is doing lots better since her fall in church 4 weeks ago. She wants to try and do her washing for the first time today.”

Oh, how I giggled when I read about those girls walking home, their arms loaded down with pots! I sympathized with poor Linda when her toddler went missing, and I wondered how Sara’s accident happened. When I read these accounts, I’m getting glimpses into the day-to-day lives of the people in these Amish communities. In fact, I think I might subscribe to The Budget. I’d rather read about Dan Bye’s girls than the latest exploits of campaigning politicians.

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