Good Food & Family Values
Weddings, frolics, and church services all have one thing in common in
the Amish world. There are special foods for each occasion. Snitz pie,
made from dried apples, is often served at Amish church services. Amish
"roast" (bread filling with pieces of chicken or turkey, and
gravy) is served for the wedding feast along with creamed celery, mashed
potatoes, and numerous other dishes. A picnic or frolic means a table
spread with chunks of cheese and relishes, such as chow chow and pickled
Most people have heard stories of the large meals served to hundreds of
people at Amish barn raisings and weddings. With over 300 people at a
wedding, it is not uncommon to need gallons of mashed potatoes and gravy,
many quarts of coleslaw and applesauce, many pies, and hundreds of
doughnuts. Good food and family values are the recipe for Amish meals both
large and small.
Eating at Home
Unlike many families today, the entire Amish family sits together to
eat at least two of the three meals each day. After the milking is done,
and before the children leave for school or an off-the-farm job, the
family gathers for breakfast. This might consist of eggs, fried potatoes,
fried mush or scrapple. They often finish with cereal topped with fruit.
Cooked oatmeal could also be served. Farm fresh milk is always available
to pour over fruit or cereal. Cold cereal is bought in bulk and might be
eaten as a snack before retiring at night.
Most Amish women do not spend lots of time cooking creatively. Their
cooking is often done "on the run," as they have other chores
around the house or may even help in the fields or in the barn. The garden
and lawn all require lots of attention during the summer, so the recipes
are very basic. The large meal at noon might consist of meat and gravy,
mashed potatoes made with lots of butter, noodles, and a vegetable served
with either browned butter or melted butter as a garnish. Applesauce is
served with the main course as a salad.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is another dish that can be prepared while doing other
chores. The chicken is cooked earlier and then the potatoes are added
along with a few chunks of carrots and celery to simmer for about one
hour. The pot pie noodles are added as the final step and then cooked
another 20 minutes.
Amish women prefer to make their own pot pie noodles by combining one
cup of flour and one egg. The egg is dropped in a hole made in the flour
and mixed with a fork. Just enough water or milk is added with a half
teaspoon of salt to make a stiff dough. Some women add a dash of baking
powder. This is rolled very thin and cut into squares to be added to the
If they are in a hurry, they will resort to store-bought noodles.
Noodles can also be added to beef stew. The meat in an Amish home is
usually cut rather small and served in stew or gravy, and meat loaf is
Treats from the Garden
Annie, an Amish mother of six, said that she really appreciates the
"treats" from the garden to round out her supper or
"snack." These treats from the garden are usually watermelon,
cantaloupe, or fresh tomatoes. Cheese and pretzels would also be on the
table. Ice cream would be an appropriate dessert, although this may not
always be available. To be Pennsylvania Dutch is to enjoy a salty pretzel
with your ice cream.
In the hot summer months, the afternoon meal might consist of cold
sandwiches of bologna and cheese. As an alternative to sandwiches, many
Amish have "bread soup." This is simply homemade bread torn into
pieces in a soup bowl, with fresh fruit over top and fresh milk poured
over it. If fresh fruit is not available, they could use some of those
canned peaches or pears stored in the cellar.
Gas grills have made an impact on Amish cooking. Chicken has always
been a staple meat, and now many Amish prepare barbecue chicken for a
picnic, family gathering, or even to sell to tourists. This could even
complement a "corn roast." The corn is left in the husk and
steamed on an outdoor fireplace over a wood fire, with lots of butter
available to put on the corn.
A salad would also be served at a picnic. This is prepared on a large
platter with layers of lettuce, shredded carrots, onions, tomatoes and
cheese, topped with dressing. Fresh garden vegetables are readily
More Than One Dessert
Desserts are always popular at gatherings. Banana pudding, vanilla
cornstarch, caramel pudding, as well as cracker pudding are all well
received. Layered desserts with fruits like peaches or pineapple with
Jell-O are often seen. When entertaining, four or five desserts at one
meal would not be uncommon. Finally, shoofly pie is a staple that can be
served for any meal of the day, including breakfast!
Christmas is the time for the family to spend those long winter days
making candies and cookies for the holidays. Many pounds of coating
chocolate are bought at the local store to be melted down for Christmas
candies and cookies. One favorite is made by applying a layer of peanut
butter to a graham cracker, topping it with another cracker, and dipping
it in melted chocolate. These are then placed on wax paper to harden and
dry. Caution: if the finished cookies are not well hidden, they will
The Amish remind us of the simple joys of gathering the family together
for special times. To have a good time, the Amish do not need food that is
exotic or expensive. Celebrating together as a family is a trait of the
Amish that we can carry into our own homes.
* * *
A Sample Amish Menu
Below are three actual meal menus from an Amish family. Each meal
includes homemade bread, butter, and jelly.
Breakfast - Eggs, cornmeal mush with ketchup, oatmeal with
Dinner (lunch) - Beef and carrots, scalloped potatoes, gravy,
baked corn, carrot salad, graham cracker pudding, cookies, peaches
Supper - Vegetable soup, bologna, tomatoes and Chinese cabbage,
apple sauce, chow chow, apple dumplings with milk and sugar
Amish Country News
Article by Joyce Hershey (1992, 2002)
Return to the Amish