Board game and popcorn are recipe for Amish family fun
As I write my Amish romances, I often ponder how different life is for most youngsters growing up in an Amish community. Have you ever sat in a restaurant and watched a family that is—from parents to toddlers—glued to electronic device screens while they wait for their food and sometimes even while they eat their food? I have and it makes me a little sad. I’m not passing judgment. My daughter has two toddlers who often entertain themselves with movies on a “tablet” while they wait for their food. It helps them be patient and is a boon to the diners around them. Still, it’s a far cry from the days when crayons and piece of paper did the trick.
How different life must be in an Amish home with no TV, no laptop, no tablet, no cellphone. What do families do on evenings after chores are completed? That question fueled a scene I wrote in Beneath the Summer Sun, my latest release. I wanted my widowed heroine to interact with a Mennonite book salesman who stops by to show her some books and stays for dinner because her seven children insist. I decided they would play a board game called “Life on the Farm.”
Of course, that meant they needed a bowl of popcorn and a pitcher of water for refreshments. It occurred to me younger folks might wonder how the Amish make popcorn without a microwave or electricity. I’m older so I actually have experience with this. I won’t say how old I am, but I didn’t have a microwave until I married my husband at age thirty. And I’m a huge fan of popcorn. I love to curl up with a good book and a bowl of warm popcorn. Here’s the recipe I used in my pre-microwave days:
I pour 3 tablespoons of oil (vegetable or canola) in a heavy sauce pan, add 2 or 3 unpopped popcorn kernels to the oil and let it heat. When tiny bubbles start to sizzle around the kernels, I add the rest of 1⁄2 cup of kernels and cover the pan with a lid. Occasionally I shake the pan and I stay close to the stove, listening for the popping sounds. You want to wait until the popping stops, but not too long because we all know how bad burned popcorn smells. It’s a thin line to walk. Add salt to taste, and voila!
It’s easier to make popcorn on a gas stove because you can adjust the flame, but you can do it on an electric stove. You simply have to experiment with the heat until you get it just right. It takes patience, but for popcorn connoisseurs, it’s worth the time and effort.
If you really want to get fancy, melt some butter in a small sauce pan and pour it over the popcorn in a thin stream. Stir quickly and eat before it cools. Yum!
To write this scene, I also needed to know how to play “Life on the Farm”. In order for the scene to ring true, I had to do some on-line research. “Life on the Farm” is a perfect game for the Amish because it involves buying and selling cattle. My character doesn’t know anything about cattle, but neither do I. According to the makers of the game, Keith and Lori Gohl and Eve and Erik Johnson, WE R Fun Games, Inc., everyone starts out with $10,000 and no cattle. During the game when they land on the cattle auction square, players have the option to buy as many cows as they want for $500 a piece. When they pass the barn, they collect checks for milk. The more cattle, the bigger the check. But also, the more expenses. You learn all sorts of information about raising dairy cattle by playing the game—expenses, repairs, feed costs, cost of accidents, all sort of problems determined by rolling the dice.
The object of the game is to build the herd up to 60 cows and earn back the money you started with so you can retire. That sounds really good to my character, Nathan, but he plans to start a new job as a farm hand, so retirement is a distant dream.
For now, he’s content to play a game with seven fatherless children who are excited to have his attention. While Nathan is figuring out how to play the game, the object of his affection is sewing on the treadle machine nearby. He uses that moment to impart some important information.
“’I feel like retiring so I want to win. Just watch. I’ll get my cattle in no time.’ Nathan glanced at the back of Jennie’s head. She bent over the sewing machine as if her eyes were going in the dusky evening light. ‘In fact, I’ve given my two weeks’ notice. No more selling books for me.’”
A paragraph later, Jennie’s reaction:
“The thump, thump stopped. Jennie’s head came up, but she didn’t turn around.
Turn around, turn around, look at me. Please look at me.
The thump, thump began again.
He’d taken the easy way out. Telling her by telling the children. Instead of to her face. Lord, forgive me for being such a coward. I’ve never done this before.”
The game is the authentic detail that also allows me to move my story forward. A few minutes later, Jennie goes to make the popcorn. Nathan follows. In her nervousness, Jennie burns the popcorn. Simple life isn’t always so simple, even for the Amish. Sometimes, more than board games are being played.
At least they are in Amish fiction. In the meantime, the children can swing on the tire swing in the front yard, fish at the pond, or play volleyball. Most of all, they have fun together as a family.
To learn more about “Life on the Farm”, visit the makers’ website at http://www.werfungames.com/
For a fun video of an Amish gentleman making kettle corn at a fire department fundraiser, check out the video on youtube.
More about Beneath the Summer Sun:
Jennie Troyer knows it’s time to remarry. Can she overcome a painful secret and open her heart to love?
It’s been four years since Jennie’s husband died in a farming accident. Long enough that the elders in her Amish community think it’s time to marry again for the sake of her seven children. What they don’t know is that grief isn’t holding her back from a new relationship. Fear is. A terrible secret in her past keeps her from moving forward.
Mennonite book salesman Nathan Walker stops by Jennie’s farm whenever he’s in the area. Despite years of conversation and dinners together, she never seems to relax around him. He knows he should move on, but something about her keeps drawing him back.
Meanwhile, Leo Graber nurtures a decades-long love for Jennie, but guilt plagues him—guilt for letting Jennie marry someone else and guilt for his father’s death on a hunting trip many years ago. How could anyone love him again—and how could he ever take a chance to love in return?
In this second book in the Every Amish Season series, three hearts try to discern God’s plan for the future—and find peace beneath the summer sun.
Kelly Irvin is the author of more than a dozen Amish books. Her latest release is Upon a Spring Breeze, the first novel in the Every Amish Season series from Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing. She is also the author of the Amish of Bee County series that includes The Saddle Maker’s Son, The Bishop’s Son and The Beekeeper’s Son. This last novel received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” The Beekeeper’s Son was a finalist in the national 2016 ACFW Carol Awards Contest in the romance category. Kelly is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
Her novella, One Sweet Kiss, included in a novella collection, An Amish Summer, released in April 2017.
Kelly’s novel, Love Redeemed, was a 2015 finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Carol Awards contest.
The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She retired in 2016 after working 22 years in public relations for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. She is a member of ACFW and Alamo City Christian Fiction Writers. In her spare time, she blogs, reads fiction, and loves her family.