Thursday, May 16, 2013

I (Heart) Yoder's

Manifest plainness. Embrace simplicity. reduce selfishness, have few desires-
-Lau Tzu

I don’t know why I thought visiting an Amish community would give me a clearer picture of what simplicity looks like. My friend Paige and I headed down to Pinecrest yesterday, a Florida retirement community for 3,000 Amish and Mennonites who can’t handle winters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. I should have known that the kind of Amish who travel by bus to their second homes in Florida are not quite the traditionalists who model simple living. There were no horses or buggies. There wasn’t a farm for miles. But there was an advertisement asking passing cars to “like” Yoder’s on Facebook. When you walk in to Yoder’s, a family-owned Amish diner, there are racy magazines advertising the decadence of Grandma Yoder’s pies and a video clip from Food Network playing on a continuous loop. It seems Adam Richman, the host of Man versus Food, “likes” Yoder’s too. He recently taped an episode there, putting the already well- known tourist attraction in the
spotlight even more.  Grandma Yoder made 50,000 pies in this kitchen before she retired a few years ago. She admits in one of the many newspaper articles about the well- known eatery that she was exhausted form getting up at 2:30 in the morning every day to make pies. Her life didn't  sound so simple.

You can buy a postcard of a smiling toddler in traditional Amish dress for
only $3.  You can buy an “I (heart) Yoder’s” t-shirt or mug in the gift shop. If you want to play dress up and pretend your name is Mary or Sarah and your married to a Jacob or Abraham, they have hats and plain sack dresses for sale too. Costume jewelry and all the Florida chachkes you would expect at a Tourist trap.  Yoder’s gifts, Yoder’s diner, Yoder’s market and Yoder’s deli all fall under the Yoder’s brand. Yoder’s is not to be confused with Der Dutchmen or the three other Amish restaurants nearby. I expect Yoder has a sharp marketing department. I half expected Yoder to come tooling up in a Benz or at the very least a Cadillac.

How can I complain about the commercialization when my flawed plan for finding simplicity centered around consumption? The produce looked amazing, even if it came off a truck.  I loaded up on maple syrup, baked goods and of course, home made pie. I really wanted a waitress to shyly answer my probing questions about what it’s really like to live with no electronics or modern conveniences. I really wanted to ask about the long dresses in the heat of summer. But there were no Amish or Mennonites working in the diner or the gift shop or even the market or deli. There wasn’t even any reality stars sipping iced coffee while taking a break from taping shows like Amish Mafia, Breaking Amish, Amish in the City or Vanilla Ice Goes Amish.

We did see one man cracking nuts in his front yard. He gave a friendly wave even though we were staring at him as one looks at a bear in the zoo. I spotted one woman cruising through the mobile home park across the street on her three-wheel bike and another hat-covered woman walking with her groceries past the golf shop. Golf? Do Amish golf? There was no one to ask.

A little research on-line confirmed my suspicion that there is an Old Order Amish that shun all technology because it may create inequality or weaken the family structure. These Florida settlers, who pose for pictures and make TV appearances, are considered New Order. They have a different take on humility and simplicity than the 17th century founding fathers of their faith.

Atleast, we enjoyed the pie!

What does simplicity look like to you?

For today’s “sky’s the limit” on what you can learn: A bit more about the Amish: According to Wikipedia, there are 249,000 Amish through out North America. Reality shows have focused on rumspringa or “running around”. This term refers to the period in which teenagers are allowed to break from the confines of the Amish rules before choosing to become baptized and joining the church.  As you might imagine, after living under such strict conditions, many go crazy wild, making them perfect candidates for cable stardom. 

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