At this point in my life any time away from my desk or the kitchen is spent caring for my chronically-ill daughter. If I had free time, the one thing I would most like to do is spend a sunny afternoon swimming in a pool. The gulf beaches are just 10 minutes away, and they are ridiculously beautiful.
I grew up on the coasts of Florida and California, but my pathological fear of sharks limits my excursions in the Gulf of Mexico to quick swims in shallow water. After three shark sightings by my son at Anna Maria Island my concerns have heightened.
Tell us about where you live – Pinecraft, Florida. It’s a major vacation destination for many Amish – why do you choose to live there year round?
Pinecraft didn’t originate in the 1920’s as a vacation destination for Plain folks. It was much later that the village would become what we call the “Plain People’s Paradise.” Those who had settled here for work opportunities sent letters up north boasting of year-round sunshine, white sandy beaches, and a quiet haven of R&R in the village. Despite Florida’s scorching hot summer months that are practically unbearable for some, Sarasota became my new ‘hometown’ many years ago. You can read more of my Sarasota story here.
Tell us about your funniest cooking or baking mishap.
Sharing my kitchen with others is nothing out of the ordinary, but there was something that made one particular Thanksgiving day extraordinary: A National Geographic film crew was in my home, filming a documentary called Amish: Out of Order. A researcher for the show called me and asked if I would be willing to host a young lady in my home for the holiday who was considering joining the Amish or Mennonite community. 16-year-old Michaela was not only looking to hone her culinary skills; she was on a quest of finding where she belonged in this world.
As soon as I hung up the phone, visions of dry, tough turkey breast and less than eager dinner guests flashed through my mind. I thought it would be good to brush up on my own skills for such a public display, so I decided to make a practice turkey a few weeks beforehand. Time slipped away from me though and before I knew it, Michaela was leaning over my counter loading up a casserole dish of mashed sweet potatoes with the entire contents of a one-pound bag of marshmallows.
“One of the most important rules of cooking,” I told her. “Never, ever, walk away from the broiler. Keep the oven door open a couple inches if you have to. Just keep your eye on your food at all times.”
I placed the heavy baking dish she’d filled under the broiler and closed the oven door. Michaela got busy transferring the broccoli salad into a glass serving dish.
“Uh, oh,” I said to her. “We forgot to add the sunflower seeds. ”
I turned and reached up to get the seeds from the cabinet. As I took the clip off the top of the bag, I heard a shriek from across the kitchen.
“The sweet potatoes! Check the sweet potatoes!” Michaela shrieked.
With wide eyes, I quickly turned back around and peered into the glass on the oven door. Little orange flames were licking upward from the top of the marshmallows. I needed to get it out fast so I grabbed my oven mitts off the counter. The second the oven door opened, the flames seemed to take on a life of their own. In the next moment they were as high as the roof of the oven. The whole dish was a bed of flames!
In my distress I’d forgotten all about our “audience.” As I leaned in to get my gloved hands on the pan, a camera man appeared over my left shoulder to capture the entire incident on film. (Later, I learned he had to steady his camera as his shoulders were bouncing up and down in silent laughter.)
I was horribly embarrassed. What would viewers think of my “cooking skills?” Would I lose their respect? Would anyone ever buy a cookbook from me again? I hoped with all my heart that part would be edited from the final cut, but it wasn’t. And I survived to tell the story.
Is there any “downside” to being a part of the Plain community?
The misunderstandings people can have about my Mennonite beliefs can be tough sometimes. Some think I’m not a born-again Christian. Others will ask, “Why aren’t you allowed to do or wear such and such?”
I’d like people to know I don’t live by a set of “rules.” I live by the convictions in my heart. I’m fortunate enough to make my home among others who share the same beliefs and convictions I do. I live a practical life that reflects choices I’ve made throughout my 18-year relationship with Jesus Christ.
Adjusting to the cultural aspects of the Anabaptist church was challenging for me when I joined the church. The quaint culture wasn’t what drew me to this church, rather it was discovering a group of people who adhere to the same conservative lifestyle I was striving for. My decision to live as I do was a personal choice motivated by my connection to the Plain community. I’m thankful I found the exact place where I flourish in my personal walk with Christ.
Tell us about your upcoming release, Me Myself and Pie.
This book project transpired from my affinity for pie. Me, Myself and Pie is much more than a recipe book. On every page you’ll find gorgeous pictures of each magnificent, made-from-scratch pie, along with practical advice on creating the perfect flaky crust and mouthwatering filling every time. It’s the prose throughout the pages filled with my adventures in traveling across the country in search of pie epiphany though that has me most excited!
Do you have a favorite recipe in your new book?
My favorite recipe is definitely the one for orange pie. I could eat cherry pie every day, but the orange pie is special. Like Christmas, it’s something you look forward to all year long, but know the season for it is short. I made one for a friend once and he told me the flavor of the pie was so big, he had to go outside while eating it because there wasn’t room inside for him and the pie.
The recipe I shared in Me, Myself and Pie is an adaptation of two orange pie recipes you’ll find on in the kitchens of several Amish homes here in the village.
This is the pie I want in heaven.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever ate?
The best thing I ever ate would have to be a bowl – better make that two bowls – of chicken and dumplings. It’s a dish I grew up eating and one I make for my family to officially usher in the cooler season each year. Our version is super easy to make, and calls for few ingredients. You start by preparing a kettle of thick and hearty stewed chicken that creates its own lightly-seasoned gravy. Top it off by dropping generous spoonfuls of biscuit dough into the boiling stew making plump, pillowy dumplings so full of steam the last bite is always just as piping hot as the first. You can find the recipe in my first book with Zondervan, Simply Delicious Amish Cooking.
Sherry Gore is the author of Simply Delicious Amish Cooking and is the editor-in-chief of Cooking & Such magazine. Sherry is also a weekly scribe for the national edition of the 120-year-old Amish newspaper, The Budget. The National Geographic Channel featured Sherry prominently in the 2012 debut season of their documentary series, Amish: Out of Order. Sherry is a year-round resident of beautiful, sun-kissed Sarasota, Florida, the vacation paradise of the Plain People. She has three children and is a member of a Beachy Amish Mennonite church. She’s a caregiver to her twenty-three-year-old daughter, a Sunday school teacher, a cooking show host, and an official pie contest judge.