Editor’s Note: Dorcas Raber, mother of Amish Cook columnist Gloria Yoder, is filling in this week.
His daughter Gloria is very busy getting ready for a wedding at their boutique next week. And now my dear little Joshua (1+) is sick, so she has her hands full. It’s a blessing to see how people come to help with the preparations. From what I hear, their house is sparkling, inside and out. I can’t wait to help out a little next week. Right now my husband David and I are in Florida. We arrived on February 1 and I plan to return home on March 11. David has health issues and we thought a getaway and some warm sunshine might be beneficial.
Come with me to Pinecraft – a one-of-a-kind Plain community! It’s tucked away in Sarasota, Florida, and throughout what we call the “winter months” it teems with a multitude of hundreds and hundreds of people, all kinds of Amish and Mennonites. Many of these people arrive on large charter buses. The most I ever heard of buses arriving was 15 in several days!
I had the opportunity to join a gaggle of spectators one day as a bus was coming and people from the “north” were getting off the bus into sunny Florida!
Transportation, for the most part, is on foot or by bicycle.
In high season, there are bikes literally everywhere! Cars crawl through the streets, make their way through the maze of people on bicycles, etc. Three-wheeled bicycles are particularly beautiful. They have a large basket in the back and have a wide comfortable seat. Because it’s on three wheels, you can stop, stay in your seat, and the bike stays balanced whenever you feel like stopping to chat with someone along the way. This morning I jumped on a 2 wheel bike and traveled on one of the bike paths. There are some very nice paved biking/hiking trails. These trails cross busy four-lane highways. Even the often heavy traffic is always so considerate. All I had to do was push a button when I wanted to cross a road, then a red light above my head turned red, and with a grateful heart, I crossed the four lanes in completely safe.
The busiest and most famous place in Pinecraft is Pinecraft Park. It’s not a fancy place at all, and there’s a big pavilion where people gather to chat, play cornhole, or hold meetings. Another highlight is that programs (singers) and services are held there on designated evenings.
David and I attended some of these programs/services. I simply loved it! All kinds of ordinary people gather – there are plenty of people under the pavilion, and often many hang out outside, sitting at picnic tables or on their 3-wheeled bikes. I’ll give you an example from one night. We arrived at the park for a benefit meal and programs. As we walked through the food queue, African missionaries sang (the product went for a mission). Dinner was so good. Grilled chicken, rice and beans, green salad and ice cream were on the menu. We found seats at a picnic table outside and ended up having a chat with a Mennonite couple sitting across from us who we had never met before (“Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”). After supper we found seats in the pavilion. A man (who grew up in a former Mennonite colony in Paraguay) played his harp and his wife the keyboard. Impressive! The harp was giant and the music was beautiful. The man told us interesting stories from his childhood, etc. He made it real; we “went with him” as the stories were told.
Adjacent to the pavilion on one side is a play area with swings etc. for kids.
Beyond is an area where Bocci Ball is played. The shuffleboard arena is another side of the pavilion, with eight large shuffleboard games. Besides those playing shuffleboard, many other people are often found in this area, those lounging, watching, and chatting. Some stand by the fence, enjoying the Florida sun. I find it intriguing to reunite with old acquaintances at the park and catch up for a bit, or at least smile and say hello. This morning David played two shuffleboard games, and he was paired up with our good friend Elmer, who is 86 years old. Another area of the park has several volleyball nets, where the young and the young at heart congregate.
But we’ve also discovered that Florida isn’t just about ‘fun and sun’. We have met single people, people in mourning, people who have lost their partner, people who have experienced the drama of an unfaithful partner, etc. And so, I would sum up, yes indeed, there are lots of warm friendships, skies and smiles, soft ice cream and pretzels, unbeatable fresh fruit, Amish cuisine, etc. And yes, there are also tears and sorrows. Because wherever there are people, there is the reality that life is real. And there is only one answer to life’s perplexities and problems. A word. Jesus! He heals broken hearts.
We ate at Yoder’s restaurant and I ordered chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy and stuffing. A large piece of garlic bread was served with this, along with bread, butter and apple butter. Phew! What a meal ! I want to share a stuffing recipe with you.
1 loaf of homemade bread
3 cups of milk
4 beaten eggs
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1 C. Chicken soup base
1 ½ cups cooked and grated potatoes
¼ cup cooked and grated carrots
½ cup cooked celery, grated
Sage seasoning, optional
*Cut the bread into cubes. Grill in a pan with a little butter
* Mix everything and let stand 1 to 2 hours
* Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Once the butter is golden, pour the stuffing into the pan. Flip occasionally until you’re ready.