Home. Safety. Love. Dinner.
These are some of the things that readers of Amish romances and other books in the “Amish” genre are seeking: cozy reading with home-loving traditions and time-tested values.
I am now a grandmother. One of the most gratifying things I see my daughters doing (two are married, with four preschool boys between them) is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see. They are doing a very decent job of keeping our family’s long standing tradition of sitting down to dinner almost every night as a family, and putting a homecooked meal on the table (even with the help of convenience foods as needed). And even when one parent is away working.
My daughters share home chores with their husbands who usually take care of the dishes, and both guys help with cleaning their homes as well as do outside work—but our daughters do most of the cooking. Eating together at home speaks love, a safety net, comfort, and traditions their children will grow up to value. Even when mealtime gets hectic or sometimes chaotic (kids not liking what they’re served, allergies, misbehaving, or getting down from the table early), the good times outweigh the bad in the memory banks of most kids.
September is the month when Family Day is celebrated (the last Monday in September, this year on September 25). I relied on the research of CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) at Columbia University for my book, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). CASA research has shown less involvement of teens in drugs and other negative activities in families who regularly eat meals together. CASA also helped to begin a day which earlier was called Family Dinner Day. I love the concept and the practice.
More recently, in working as an editor with Amish columnist and cookbook author Lovina Eicher, I see in her writings and recipes the frequent use of easy-to-make homemade bars—in place of cookies. Bars generally take less time to make than cookies because you only have one baking pan to clean up. On Labor Day—in the middle of canning beans— I quickly made a batch of my favorite homemade bars we call Blondies or Butterscotch Bars to go with our dinner. They are made with brown sugar, flour, and butter, and are sure to bring kids running to the kitchen with their delicious scent. They help to say “I love you” —even when you of course want to limit the number of “I love you” homemade treats you offer, to keep from gaining too many unwanted pounds.
A recipe for Blondies is found in Whatever Happened to Dinner along with over 100 other family recipes as tested by awesome foodies Carmen Wyse and Jodi Nisly Hertzler (five children between them). I’m guessing Lovina uses a similar recipe for her family of eight children. Carmen said this was one of the first and most frequent recipes she made as a child, and it was one of the very first I learned to make too. If you try it with your children or grandchildren, they may need some help spreading the rather thick batter into the baking pan.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together dry ingredients. Make a well and pour in melted butter, beaten eggs, and vanilla. Mix together. Add nuts. Batter will be very thick. Put in a greased 9×13-inch pan. Use your hands to press it into the pan if necessary. Sprinkle extra chocolate chips or nuts on top, if desired. Bake for 20–25 minutes.
Melodie M. Davis is the author of nine books, most recently, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). She writes the syndicated column, Another Way, serves as a managing editor for Herald Press, and is also editor of a local family publication, Valley Living. She keeps a blog where she features frequent recipes from her home, family and church life. She is married and the mother of three adult daughters and four grandsons.