Monday, December 12, 2011

One Big Weekend - Four Small Posts...Part 2

The Amish Relatives

One joy of family hardship is the coming together of all the relatives. My husband was never Amish, his parents were never Amish, but beyond that, all bets are off.

After the funeral, the local tradition is for the church to provide a meal for the family and anyone else they wish to have as guests. It's a nice way to allow more time for visiting and a chance to maybe get cheerful again after the goodbye in the church. About 20-30 Amish relatives stayed for this (as well as the 50-75 non-Amish) and my husband made a beeline for them as soon as he did his fatherly duty by eating with this household. He thinks they are fun and sassy and "good people." I agree.

At his grandmother's funeral dinner several years ago, Michael trotted some of these ladies over to me saying I wanted to ask questions about why Amish women did the things they did. Indeed, I had been asking a lot of questions during our years of driving through the Amish countryside in the area where we live. These women seemed reluctant and a bit suspicious, not hankering to answer a bunch of ignorant questions from a worldly English girl. (I don't have ancestors from England... English is just what the Amish call the non-Amish.) But my husband had forced the issue. I furrowed my brow intelligently and leaned in to ask, "Why are your gardens in the front yard?"

They looked at one another and shouted their laughter at me. One howled, "Well I'm not about to put it in the back where the horses poop!"

[Not long ago, an Amish relative passed away who had been close enough to my immediate in-law family that we all went to the funeral. My formerly-Amish friends advised me not to take the kids - Amish funerals are long, uncomfortable and not in English. But I decided that cultural issues were not valid reasons for not paying respects which you would ordinarily offer, so I put my kids in their starched collars and drove them to the farm where the funeral was held.

The service was held in the family's pole barn/shop where an open space was cleared for rows of backless, wooden benches for the bereaved. We sat on those benches and, yes, the service was long and, yes, impossible to follow for a non-Pennsylvania Dutch speaker. But what a rich experience for me and my kids - who were PERFECTLY behaved as I recall - to have. Without being too detached and academic over the sad loss of a close family's beloved, I certainly watched the proceedings with interest as well as compassion, wanting to commit it all to memory.]

Anyway, our interaction at Aunt Bonnie's funeral dinner was lighthearted with those fun Amish relatives, to whom we refer by long, geneology-informed descriptive names (Elmer T.'s Larry Mary) and who know all our relatives, too, even the ones we didn't know we had. When Michael and I were first married and I was a substitute teacher in the school system out in the country, an Amish boy approached me in the hall to say he had read the paper and seen our wedding announcement and that we were now cousins.

This time Michael had called us over because our formerly Amish friend, Dean, had told me that his mother's best dish was was "grimmle boi," (Margo, do you know what I mean?) a phrase which has subsequently become a catch-all in our home because it is fun to say. It's now used as an all-purpose swear word, a replacement for forgotten song lyrics, whatever the situation requires. The Amish wanted to hear us say "grimmle boi" and laugh at our accents and discuss their own recipes for "bois" of all types.

Ooh, how I want to hang out in their kitchens, rummage through their pantries, remove their bonnets and inspect their hairpin configurations!

I'll post the recipe after you've have a chance to wonder and Margo a chance to answer!

Updated 12/22

Grimmle Boi (or Crumb Pie)
In a saucepan, combine:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T flour
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 c. hot water
1 t. vanilla

I mixed this before turning on the heat so that the lumps were removed from the flour. I brought it to an easy boil, stirring constantly, until I was sure the sugar was dissolved.

Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Cover with crumbs.

1 c. flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.


  1. Love it. You write just like you talk! You have a great sense of humor, but your intellect and compassion shine through as well, right along with sincere respect for a people different from you.

    Great post!

  2. I should have known you would be the one other person who wonders about hairpin configuration.

    I was staring at an Amish bun in a grocery line when I noticed, "Hey! If the pin is too long for their bun, they leave the rounded part to protrude instead of the pokey ends!"

  3. oh my word, I WISH I knew. But my limited Dutch does not include that dish. Sorry to be so tardy in answering.


I write my posts imagining that I am already in the middle of a conversation with you. I hope you will comment and be a part of the conversation.