Living in an Amish paradise

There is little more I love in northeast Indiana than the Amish who roam it. During my previous trips to Indiana, I just observed them from afar. Whenever we'd see a horse and buggy on the road I would point like a 2-year-old at the zoo and repeat "Amish! Amish! Amish!..."

Last week I had the privileged opportunity to see the Amish up close and in person and interact with them. This is somewhat similar to jumping in one of those shark cages in open water.

I have a lot of respect for the Amish and am crazy fascinated by them because they manage to thrive living an unconnected, more simple life -- the exact opposite of my native computer geek culture. According to Wikipedia, the Amish have church rules that cover most aspects of day-to-day living, and include "prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing." Amanda's dad, Roger, tells me that they have their own albeit primitive independent banking and health care systems (they loan money and land to each other and take care of each other when they're sick).

My first exposure to the Amish was actually in middle school when Weird Al Yankovic parodied Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" (and Stevie Wonder before him) with "Amish Paradise." I have to say, Weird Al wasn't too far off portraying the Amish style. All of the guys look and dress like Abraham Lincoln (the men wear beards when they're married) and all of the women wear bonnets and look like they just got off The Oregon Trail.

There are several sects of Amish thoughout America, but the Amish in Indiana are hardcore. As Wikipedia notes:

A subgroup of the Old Order Amish, known as the Swiss Amish, speak a dialect of German known as Swiss German amongst themselves instead of the more common Pennsylvania Dutch. They are found primarily in Allen and Adams County in Indiana. The Swiss Amish only use open-top buggies and are more conservative than most other Old Order Amish districts. They also are the only Amish group to practice yodeling.

Guys, Amanda's family LIVES IN ALLEN COUNTY. Do you see now why I am so excited by this?! Yodeling! And to put in perspective the open-top buggies, imagine commuting to work this morning in a convertible towed by horses. Impressed? I thought so.

On our last night in Indiana, we went to the Noldt House - an Amish buffet restaurant. This isn't like saying you're going out for Mexican food at a strip mall. This is in rural Indiana on a farm. You park next to the horses. The entire house/restaurant is hand-built. It's easy to forget that when you see the commercial-quality craftsmanship.

The food, oy, the food. AMAZING. It's old-fashioned Americana. You got your salad bar, the most amazing mashed potatoes and gravy you've ever had in your life. You got ribs, fried chicken and some crazy, peppery fried noodles, canned green beans, corn and everything else you'd picture being turn-of-last-century-covered-wagon American food. We had black raspberry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. EVERYTHING was homemade/homegrown.

Amanda's mom, Sheree, said this is traditional wedding food. It made me rethink our caterer.

Of course I wanted to take pictures of everything, but Roger told me that the Amish think if you take their picture you take their souls with it. Obviously this isn't true (Right?), but I respected that they didn't want my technology up in their face.

Naturally, I pretended to take a picture of Amber with my iPhone to capture the scene instead.


Check out those bonnets!

Everyone coming to Indiana for the wedding, we're going to the Noldt house.