As the weekly auction was coming to a close, the local Amish set up a stand to sell baked items such as bread, pies, and cookies. Not far from Iowa City is a traditional Amish community in Kalona. Amish communities vary in their level of tradition and use of modern-day technology, but we don’t (yet) know much about Kalona’s township. Of course they still dress in hand-sewn black and white outfits with the women wearing bonnets and the men donning beards and hats. They also use horse drawn buggies as their primary form (and perhaps their only) form of transportation. I’m not sure if they use modern farming equipment that runs on gas/diesel or if they still use a traditional till pulled by a horse. And I’m not sure if they have elected to have electricity or household luxuries such as sewing machines. Some Amish communities do, surprisingly, use automobiles. So each community is faced with increasingly more decisions as the world around them “develops”.
From teaching intercultural communication, I learned that the Amish have a tradition called rumspringa. Upon turning 16, Amish teenagers are allowed the opportunity to venture to local communities and more adequately observe social interactions and ways of life. This is their time to weight the decision of whether or not to continue the Amish way of life. I don’t know if every community honors this practice, or it if always occurs at 16, or what happens if a young person decides to join mainstream culture.
Other sources, however, claim rumspringa to be an entirely different process. 16 year olds may begin to enter adult gatherings known as “sings” and enter into a courtship at any given time. There are, however, many variations to these accounts; so it is difficult to discern journalistic embellishment from the seemingly rich traditions that vary from town to town.
The baked goods available for purchase at the auction were made at Yoder’s Bakery in Kalona. Sim bought a pecan pie and a small loaf of lemon poppy seed bread with icing. Both were delicious. With every bite my suspense of the Amish grew. Did they travel the full 20 miles by horse and buggy? Did they ground the flour they used for this? Was it all baked in an electric oven? Probably, since they are running a bakery and all. But I don’t know!
I am obsessed, people. OBSESSED. The culture would be fascinating enough if it were completely the same, completely homogenous, throughout the entire United States. But it’s not. So far I have compiled about a million films, documentaries, books, and articles about the Amish. I have scoured the internet, my local library, and my university’s library like a crazed, caffeine stricken social scientist. I don’t know when I’ll have time make time to read all of this, but knowing it’s there is a nice feeling. And knowing I’m only 4 weeks away from eating more Amish baked goodness is an even better feeling.