Thursday, May 5, 2011

Religion is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions

I have a good friend that I’ve had since childhood.   He lives in the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania.  He once told me a story that I found surprising.  He passed a horse and buggy parked on the side of the road  . . . clearly not an uncommon sight.  What was so unexpected was that two teenagers . . . a boy and a girl emerged from the woods . . . that the girl was wearing a short skirt, a revealing top and make-up, the boy was wearing jeans and a t-shirt  . . . they tossed their proper Amish garb into the buggy and walked down the road.    Amish boys and girls do not wear common English (English is the world that exists outside the Amish community) clothing and certainly not make-up.

The Amish maintain an 18th century lifestyle in the modern world. They are very devout in their faith. They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God. They take seriously the Biblical commands to separate themselves from the things of the world. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and can introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life.

The more traditional groups are called 'old order'. They do not permit electricity or telephones in their homes. They also do not own or operate automobiles.  They do this because they believe that these things are destructive to their simple way of life. 

They do not permit the use of tractors in their fields; however, they do use modern farm equipment pulled by teams of horses or mules.

These traditional groups wear plain clothing styles, which has earned them the name "Plain People". They are a simple people that believe in God, family and community . . . in that order.

Amish communities who are members of the old order practice what is known as Rumspringa, which literally means running around. The Amish believe that adulthood begins at age 16 . . . exactly on the 16th birthday.  It is the day to put away childish things and become an adult.  It is when young men and women are allowed to look at members of the opposite sex with romantic interest and boys are given their own horse and buggy . . . just like getting a new car! 

Unlike what has been portrayed in the popular media, Rumspringa is not a time when teenagers are permitted to run amok . . . in other words, just because they ‘an adult’ they are not allowed to experiment with drugs, alcohol, sex and other practices that decidedly go against the Amish belief system. 

Rumspringa is for young adults who are age 16 and beyond and not married.  This running around is going to sings, attend youth gatherings and dating.  The purpose of Rumspringa is a time to socialize with peers and to find a marriage partner. Once married, Rumspringa is over.

It is true that the youngsters deviate from acceptable behavior but stowing away a transistor radio or changing into English clothing and sneak off to see what the English world is like.  Some even decide to join that other world . . . but the majority stays within the Amish community for the entire lives.  


Amish Bread Pudding

(I made two versions of this recipe.  One with dates and one with raisins. Both yummy)

This bread pudding recipe, from an old Amish cookbook, is absolutely incredible.
 You can substitute golden raisins or dates with equally delicious results.

2 cups whole milk (or 2 cups half & half)
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark, depending on taste preference)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Version with dates:

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, heat milk (or half & half) just until film forms over top. Combine butter and milk, stirring until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm.

Combine sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add milk mixture.

Place bread in a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart casserole.  Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Pour batter on top of bread.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

Version with Raisins:

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