For my upcoming Amish mystery novels, I’m doing a lot of research about the Amish culture, religion, clothing, and food. I’m trying my best to get the facts right. My biggest fear about these projects is misrepresenting the Amish and their ways.
Surprisingly, the food has been one of my tougher assignments because I’m a vegetarian, and well, the Amish aren’t…not even close. In fact, the Amish come from German roots, and they have kept very close to the meat and potato German cuisine. They are famous for their roast beef, meatloaf, country fried steak, and country ham—none of which I will eat. I’m more of a salad and cereal kind of girl. (It should also be noted that I can’t cook, not even a little. That’s a topic for another time.) The Amish meat-centric diet is troubling because readers love to read about food in novels. I think that has been proven over and over again by the popularity of cooking mysteries. Also, descriptions of Amish food attract many readers to Amish novels.
So what do I do? Will I give up vegetarianism for my craft? Nope. Sorry. Instead I’ve gotten creative.
My creative solution—I take tasters with me, usually a family member, who will order the meaty dishes. This will give me a chance to take a picture of their meal and question them at length about the taste and texture.
My most recent trip was to the Hartville Kitchen in Hartville, Ohio. I order a salad while my mom, the drafted taster for the day, ordered beef and vegetable soup and fried fish with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Hopefully, I will be able to translate her experience to my readers.
By-the-way, the Amish can make a pretty mean salad, just in case you were wondering.