Mmm…there is nothing better than a homemade Amish dinner. So say my taste buds, my appetite, and my tummy! But not my waistline.
Fortunately for me, that Amish dinner is a quick 30 minute drive from home because I live in Illinois, which is home to the 4th largest Amish community in the States. Yet, until recently, I didn’t have any Amish friends as they tend to stay within their own community and are not extremely open to the English (as they refer to us).
This is no longer the case thanks to an amazing Amish couple, Sarah and Marvin, and some Japanese visitors. My friendship with Sara and Marvin started about a year and half ago when we had guests from Japan. Whenever we have oversees company we always plan a day trip to Arthur to “see” the Amish. Normally we would just walk around the small quaint downtown, area admiring the handmade quilts and furniture. A highlight was always enjoying a made-from-scratch meal featuring a ton of gluttonous carbs in an Amish restaurant. Our outing included shopping for yummy baked goods, especially my favorite cinnamon rolls, in a gas-lit Amish owned stored. If it was summer time we would also visit the museum at Rock Home Gardens, so our guests to learn about the Amish culture and if possible, I’d arrange for a dairy barn tour. When planning this particular trip, I found a couple of tour companies that offered lunch or dinner in an Amish home rather than my standard fallback plan of a crowded restaurant.
We ended up with a lunch reservation at Sarah’s Home Cookin’. Marvin greeted us when we pulled into the driveway and showed us into his simple, yet practical home. After introductions were made, he told us that he welcomed any and all questions we had about the Amish lifestyle, though he joked he might not have all the answers. He also said he hoped we wouldn’t mind if he asked us and our Japanese visitors questions as he likes to learn about different cultures too.
After praying, Sarah brought out the food which was a good thing because my mouth started watering at the heavenly smell of the food as soon as we walked in the door. The sight of the food had me drooling. She always serves salad, baked chicken, meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles, bread, apple butter, and peanut butter spread. The vegetables and pies vary, but there are always two of each. Beverages choices are tea, water, and coffee. The noodles are homemade by one of Sarah’s neighbors and she buys the salad dressings, but the rest of the food is made from scratch by Sarah and her family. In the summer, she often cooks with the vegetables out of her own garden. The food is served family style and every item is passed around the table at least twice, ensuring no one leaves hungry.
The food is beyond amazing! The top layer of the salad is corn chips, adding a unique flavor and a bit of crunch to the salad greens. Sarah tops the meatballs with her homemade BBQ sauce; it’s that perfect combination of sweet and tart. My favorites are the peanut butter spread and the peanut butter pie. They both have creamy and rich flavors that tickle the taste buds. (No surprise, dessert is my favorite!)
With his quick smile and great sense of humor, Marvin brings any size group together as he partakes in the meal and entertains the group. If the group is small enough, Sarah will sit and quickly eat in between passing the dishes and refilling the drinks. If the group is large, Sarah and her grandchildren spend the whole time serving and clearing the tables. I think Marvin has the better part of their arrangement; his personality is well suited for his contribution to the family business. He is a true people-person and the conversation just flows. It turned out that a good amount of information I thought I knew about the Amish lifestyle wasn’t 100% accurate. Fortunately Marvin clarified misconceptions I had about Amish life. The most shocking to me was that the Amish in central Illinois don’t practice shunning, when a family or community member is “disowned” for a set period of time after he or she breaks any of the rules of their religion.
We had such a wonderful time at our first lunch in Sarah and Marvin’s home that my family has been back a number of times in the last year and half. Sometimes for special occasions, like mom’s no more chemo party (if only that hadn’t turned out to be wishful thinking), and other times for no reason at all other than to enjoy good food and wonderful company.
If you would like to eat in an Amish home, you can call Sarah directly at (217) 543-5182. More than likely, you will have to leave a message because in keeping with Amish traditions, the phone is in Marvin’s woodshop, not the house. Marvin returns the phone calls within a day’s time, unless that would require him to return your call on a Sunday. Sarah accepts reservations for parties of 4 – 76 people for breakfast, lunch, or dinner Monday through Saturday. She doesn’t have a set price for a meal, but accepts donations. She doesn’t accept credit cards, so bring cash.