All of my life I’ve lived about 25 miles away from a small Amish community in Kalona, Iowa. It’s been an Amish settlement before Iowa was even a state. There are also Mennonites in the settlement / area, too. It’s the home of the Iowa Mennonite Museum.
For as long as I can remember we would go there to the cheese factory for the best ever cheese curds, or squeaky cheese as we called it when we were younger. It squeaks when you eat it, especially if you eat it fresh vs putting it in the fridge. It was always such a treat. Even in my adult life, I’d reach out to people and let them know I was going, did they want a bag or two.
I’ve always been fascinated with their way of life, even though it’s not for me. I’ve read many books about them. I loved driving around the country side and just gawking at the horse and buggies, their beards, plain clothes. I just loved it all! We have a family condo in Siesta Key, Florida and there’s a pretty big Amish community there – Pinecraft (it’s within Sarasota, the next town over!)
In college and for all the rest of my adult life, when I would hang out with my Grandma Eva on Saturdays we would often head to Kalona, then stop through Iowa City on the way home and grab her regular groceries. We would eat lunch at one of the main restaurants in town, hit up Stringtown Grocery, the bulk store, Golden Delight Bakery, and oftentimes the little shops in the middle of nowhere because they had the best plants, and farm fresh eggs! We just always had fun. We’d of course drive around and just look. The only time I didn’t mind driving on gravel.
After Grandma Eva passed, it was hard to go down there for a while, but I finally did, and it was still magical, just missed Grams! I still usually go about once a month on a Saturday or if I had a day off, but Covid has kept me home. Plus, I’ve heard its running rampant through their community. But man I’d give a lot for some cinnamon bread.
All this being said, I somehow stumbled upon a YouTube channel probably a year ago, of a mennonite family originally from Holmes County, Ohio – a very large Amish community. Her channel is a lot of cleaning, day in the life, thrifting stuff – none of which peak my interest but I just love their family. They recently moved to Sarasota to that community down there. Sometime this week she released a video about their time in Ohio, and all the splendidness that is the Amish community — and it’s essentially my dream road trip! Here’s the video: Visiting Ohio’s Amish Country. Someday I will venture out there, even if I go alone.
I’ve always half-joking, half-serious said that I would LOVE to live with the Amish for a weekend, but it would have to be fall. Not cold, not hot. I just want to bake and eat with them, and honest to goodness churn some freaking butter. I mean, I got the don’t shave my legs thing down… [kind of joking, kind of not… I’m single, razors can be pricy, so I just hold of for a few weeks] but I wouldn’t want to be without my iPhone, iPad to read, wifi + air conditioning. And let’s be so incredibly real here, how the fuck would I manage my curls!? It would be an absolute disaster!
I still look for books, and anything I can learn! Except for those over dramatized “reality” shows.
I’m also very aware that there are some shady and not so great things about the community. I’m not overlooking that, at all. I’m sure it’s very real. But let’s be real here, the sad truth is, in all communities, cultures, religions there are some very fucked up things are happening.