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Cooking In Kansas


The Amish Cook

By Lovina Eicher

It was 9:30 a.m. and I was due in Jetmore in 30 minutes. So as I sat at a computer terminal in Dodge City's public library, I looked at my watch and muttered to myself "time to get the heck out of Dodge." As someone from Ohio, being able to utter such a worn cliché and actually mean it was a thrill beyond description. As Dodge City disappeared in my rearview mirror, I tried to get a signal on my cell phone and called my fiancé back home, saying "guess what? I'm getting the heck out of Dodge right now." But I didn't really want to. This was my second visit to Dodge City in the past two years. Regrettably, this was a shorter stay than last time. I travel a LOT, and there are many towns and cities that all blend together or that I'd simply rather forget. Dodge City is not one of them. I was in town last week to give a couple of talks about The Amish Cook column. My schedule included stops at the libraries in Jetmore, Cimarron, Garden City, Ness City, and Hays.

The allure of this column for many is the sense of self-sufficiency that the Amish represent, a sense that the Amish are a living link to another time. Perhaps my Amish Cook affiliation and my affection for western Kansas are not a mutual coincidence. I hope I'm not being condescending or cliché, but there seems to be a self-sufficiency that still exists in Dodge. Yes, Dodge has the requisite chain stores and cookie cutter eateries (a neon godsend on Wyatt Earp Avenue after three hours of lonely driving from Wichita). But, at least as an outsider, there seems to be a sense that all you really need is right in Dodge City. This sense of self-containment and community is one I've always longed for, and one that I miss when I leave the western Plains of Kansas.

As I headed to Jetmore, the treeless terrain gave way suddenly to a yawning valley and a sign warning me of a 5 percent grade in the road. Nestled below, I could see the town of Jetmore, clinging to a courthouse crossroads. A warm, wonderful audience of Amish Cook readers asked intelligent questions and served delicious food (another godsend after a week of eating taste-free truck stop fare).

The same vast openness stifled my cell phone signal and captivated my imagination on the journey from Jetmore to Cimarron, where there was another audience of kind Kansans filling the library meeting room. There was Leah from Kinsley, the Amish Cook's #1 Kansas fan. And there was the woman in Cimarron who showed up the following day a hundred miles a way when I gave a talk in Hays. And I can't forget the niceness of Ness City. I was un-deserving of such kindness at each stop. My repayment will hopefully be to continue to bring you Lovina's Amish Cook column for many, many years to come.

Some Globe readers called the libraries after my talks to ask about purchasing cookbooks. For reasons that those in attendance at my talks only know, books will not be available much longer. But here's the information:

Lovina's first book, The Amish Cook's Family Favorites, a 200-page cookbook filled with family-friendly recipes and Amish insights is now available through ordering by mail. Send $28 to: Oasis Newsfeatures, PO BOX 2144, Middletown, Ohio 45042. Books will be signed by Lovina. The Best of The Amish Cook, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Family Favorites (three cookbooks) can be purchased for a package price of $60 by sending to the same address. Allow 3 P 5 weeks for delivery.

I hope you enjoy Lovina's recipe for homemade peanut butter cookies. Her column will return in its regular format next week.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1 cup shortening (or margarine)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup peanut butter

2 P 3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons soda

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 package of chocolate chips (optional, or M & Ms can be used instead)

Thoroughly cream shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter then all dry ingredients. Drop by large spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press with the back of a floured fork to make a criss-cross. Bake in 350 oven for 8-10 minutes or until brown on edges, but undone in center. Take out and leave on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Yield: 5 dozen.


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