Friday, October 8, 2010

Thirty years ago marks the very first group of Amish to be 'recruited' to 12th and Arch otherwise known as the old Reading Terminal Market. Along with the market's anniversary festivities and the hustle and bustle of goodies, there was the offering of FREE slices of Shoofly pie. So the special 30th-anniversary discounts tended to be for thick banana pudding, chicken sandwiches and giant blueberry pancakes, turkey scrapple and chunks of fudge.

The plainness of the Amish people is whats so beautiful and now that old order has rearranged itself a bit. At one time you could choose from a jewel box full of farm-fresh goose, chicken, quail and duck eggs- now there's a stand with scary colored salads and and an array of pickles. "No money anymore in eggs," a vendor nearby explained.

Aside from at Benuel Kauffman's, the stand beyond "the Amish corner" that was stacked high with peppers and bins of beets and snowy moons of cauliflower, there was a perfect little farm bounty. Nowadays, fresh and local meats and produce tend to congregate a few aisles over at the Fair Food Farmstand. Where as new-season apples, cabbages, sweet potatoes, and eggplant (many from Lancaster County farmers) were on sale last week.

In fact, these days little fresh produce is being sold at all by the "Amish," which has become the tag for the dozen merchant families of Amish and Mennonite background, not to mention some of the other Pennsylvania Dutch who trek in from Lancaster County. The roles haven't so much reversed as transformed in the Amish Quarter: The bottled milk and full-fat yogurt still comes from the precious Jersey cows on the farm and the beef tongue loaf, liverwurst, and ring pudding are made deep in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Thirty years every Wednesday through Saturday, the straw-hatted Amish (and often their children) have come to define the character of the market itself. Hopefully that comes with a free side of respect.

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