Farmer's market in Philly. Where the Amish and Mennonites sell their delectable fare
This is Pennsylvania Dutch country. The cooking styles that originated here in the Eastern heartlands of the United States came from the Dutch, English, and German settlers. They formed a food pattern that gravitated easily into the mainstream of American cooking.Skip to next paragraph
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Some of these specialties need to be tasted at the scene to be experienced completely - like Philadelphia scrapple and that city's renowned pretzels, and perhaps best of all, the traditional foods of the Amish and Mennonite cooks and farmers of Lancaster County.
To do this the easy way, one has only to stroll through the Reading Terminal Market, a Philadelphia ethnic-farmer's market since 1893, where people sell their wares in a down-home manner - doing business in the old-fashioned way.
Once a train shed that hummed near the turn of the century, today this vast arena is filled with hundreds of stalls where there are snack foods from many countries to eat while browsing.
Hucksters with hoarse voices offer everything from pork bellies to strudel dough and chocolate tortes. Fresh peanut butter is made on the spot.
There are things to be sampled and tested. Or, you can head for the corner where locally grown produce, homemade breads, sausages, and pastries are brought into market in the early morning by Amish farmers from Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Going to market as stand-holders or preparing food to be sold have always been natural practices for Mennonite and Amish cooks and farmers. These disciplined nonconformists, who seem to have a preference for farm-related occupations, have a wealth of bounty to share - either from their truck gardens or their kitchens.
The Mennonite and Amish farm families make up a strong core of the market's character - men and boys in dark suits and hats, and women and girls in simple dresses and braided hair capped by white prayer coverings. Their credibility and the excellent quality of their wares is well known.
You'll see the women offering hand-rolled egg noodles, selling their famous shoofly pie - the regular kind and a chocolate variety as well.
Someone may be making funnel cakes by dripping batter through a funnel into hot fat where it swirls as it cooks into crispy curls. And there'll be hot apple dumplings and homemade apple cider.
You can find the makings for a true feast from this rich, rural region among these Amish food stands, which are open Thursday through Saturday, with a few farmers arriving on Wednesday.
David Esh, an Amish farmer from Lancaster County, presides over a staggering display of huge goose eggs that cost $1.50 each, large duck eggs, double yolkers, and eggs from free-range hens. His farm produces 20,000 eggs every day, and he has special equipment to make sure they reach market in perfect condition.
Hatville Farms is the name of Mr. Esh's operation, and on his counters you'll also find locally cured meats and good country ham, Lebanon bologna, dried beef, double hickory smoked bacon, and hot dogs.
At the other end of Esh's counter are his cheeses: low-fat baby Swiss, cream cheeses, blue cheese, smoked, Cheddar, and more.
There are Amish products to eat on the spot, too.