This week Lovina is busy with preparations for niece Elizabeth and Manuel’s Friday wedding, so she has asked me to share about the work being done in the days before the wedding. The wedding wagons arrived last week, so Saturday the tables were all set up in the barn and the china, silverware and glasses were all set. The wedding wagons include a cook wagon that has two sinks, five stoves and all the cookware needed to prepare for a large gathering. There is a refrigerated wagon and a wagon that has two self-contained washrooms. The church bench wagon supplied the benches for the dinner tables, and another church’s bench wagon was borrowed to set up benches in the barn of neighbors Andrew and Laura, where the actual ceremony will be held.
Wednesday morning it was raining heavily when the women arrived to start the cooking. On the wall inside of the cook wagon was a list of jobs to be done for that day. Each woman chose a job and quickly went to work. Bread was cubed and baked for dressing, and potatoes, carrots and onions were chopped for the dressing also. Rhubarb was chopped for pies and jam, pie dough crust was mixed, and chocolate and vanilla cakes were baked in round pans. The women enjoy conversation while they work, catching up on things like family activities, gardening and church events. They speak in Dutch (high German) but politely switch to English when I am in the conversation. There is a good amount of laughter and teasing, especially with Lovina’s sisters. There was even a little Amish “dancing” when a little mouse decided to make an appearance in the cook wagon in the middle of the food prep.
Lovina, sister Liz, and neighbor Laura are the head cooks for the wedding. After the menu is decided the head cooks determine how much food is needed and make a large grocery list. They help schedule the women who come to do the food prep and assign coffee time treats, lunch casseroles, salads and desserts for the meals they share on workdays. The quantity of food that needs to be prepared to make 1,000 meals seems overwhelming to an outsider, but they make it seem easy and the work goes along quite seamlessly. If one person steps away from washing dishes to get finished pies from the oven, another quickly steps in and takes over the dishes. There is a quiet and simple cadence to their work, which is consistent with their lifestyle.
Thursday morning began with a good storm, but by mid-morning the sun was shining. The pie crusts were made, pie fillings were prepared, and all the pies were baked. The pumpkin pie, rhubarb pie and cherry pie all baking at once make a delightful medley of aromas. The bread dough was also mixed, and after rising it was made into small loaves and baked. The fresh-bread smell is as mouthwatering as the pies! Outside the cook wagon the strawberries, grapes and blueberries are being washed for the fruit salad. Yesterday’s cakes are being frosted, and the orange cheesecake dessert is being assembled.
The men set up the tent outside the barn, and tables and benches were set to accommodate all the guests. In the house the young girls are playing with the small children and the house is getting a good once-over. Windows are being shined, floors swept and mopped, and furniture polished. Next week, Lovina will share more about the special wedding day.
I’ll share the recipe for the rhubarb pie that was served at the wedding.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
3 c. rhubarb, finely chopped
3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 c. sugar mixed with 2 T. of flour
1/2 c. half-and-half
1 t. vanilla
1 (9- or 10-inch) deep dish unbaked pie shell
In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or until middle of pie is set. Cool before serving.
Lovina’s Amish Kitchen is written by Lovina Eicher, Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Her newest cookbook, The Essential Amish Cookbook, is available from the publisher, Herald Press, 800-245-7894. Readers can write to Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply); or email LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org and your message will be passed on to her to read. She does not personally respond to emails.