The Amish Chef, p.1
THE AMISH CHEF
Copyright 2016 Sandra Becker
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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Sarah Graber: A young Amish lady who dreams of owning her own restaurant
John Graber: Sarah’s brother.
Martha Graber: Sarah’s eldest sibling. She is a teacher at the local school.
Abraham and Mary Graber: Sarah’s parents.
James Stolzfus: A young man in search of a wife.
Sarah Graber awoke to the crowing of the rooster, yawned, and then got on her knees to pray. She thanked God for the beautiful sunshine and for being able to see another day. Then she went to her closet and pulled out one of her dresses. They were so close to being the same, there was no confusion. She held it in front of her and twirled around, excited about the new day.
It was Sunday and therefore the day would be filled with many activities, including meeting with her friends at the after-hour singing. Sarah ran downstairs to start breakfast which was what she delighted herself in. First she went outside to the garden to pick fresh fruit and to gather the eggs. Then she came inside and imagined what she was going to cook. For her, each day in the kitchen was an adventure. She always enjoyed cooking, ever since her mother first showed her how.
By the time Sarah was six years old and baked her very first cake, she was in love with cooking. She knew what she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing – cooking. The problem was that cooking didn’t seem like anything special in the Amish community. It was what every woman did, young or old, married or unmarried. And for the most part, everyone cooked the same things in the same ways, but Sarah liked to use new ideas for her cooking. There were so many innovative ways of doing things but she did realize that where she was from, innovation was not a good word.
Sarah liked being alone in the kitchen because it gave her time to try out her new recipes, which her parents kept quiet about, for fear that they would get in trouble with the bishop. Sarah stirred fresh strawberries into the pancake batter and added a touch of honey. She smiled as this gave her great satisfaction. Then one by one, her parents and siblings joined her downstairs for breakfast.
“Sarah, it smells like you’ve outdone yourself today,” her sister, Martha said as she sat down at the table.
“Jah,” Sarah answered, smiling humbly.
Martha was the oldest, looked like their mother and had a small house of her own, although she wasn’t married. But she came over to eat meals with her family on Sundays. She was a teacher at the local school.
Her brother, John, sat next to Sarah and poked her playfully in the ribs when her parents weren’t looking. “Webishtew?”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders and said, “Gut.”
Martha made a face. “John, you never ask me how I am?”
John chuckled. “Okay. Webishtew, Martha?”
“Stop all of the murmuring at the table,” Mary scolded.
“Yes, Mudder,” Martha and John said, simultaneously.
But Sarah was too busy daydreaming.
She still remembered the day she rode into town with her father. Although they’d travelled by buggy through Lancaster, Sarah was eager to fit in. She noticed all of the big, beautiful restaurants with all of the beautiful people going in and out. When they went into a store, she overheard a conversation between two strangers about how great the food was at a particular restaurant and that it only compared to food they had tasted in Paris. That was when Sarah decided that she would be a professional chef and own a world class restaurant one day.
The problem was that when she opened her eyes and saw her parents looking down over her, frowning and shaking their heads, her future didn’t seem so clear.
James was a simple young person who looked forward to being a man. Unlike some of his peers, he was ready to settle down, get baptized and take on a wife. The idea of having responsibility actually appealed to him because he had always been mature, even at a young age. Many believed that losing his mother to cancer at a fairly young age caused him to grow up fast. But James had not yet found anyone that he connected with. He took the idea of marriage very seriously and wanted very much to marry his soul mate.
During rumspringa, he had talked to a few girls but none had really been able to keep his interest. It wasn’t that he was demanding or anything. In fact, he was only looking for what he thought were the usual things: someone who was kind and hard-working. He also wanted someone who was rooted in the Amish community and would love Gott with all her heart. But the most important thing James wanted was that the woman he married would have joie de vivre, a joy of living life to the fullest. And that turned out to be the tricky part.
The girls that he talked to seemed to be more interested in having a beautiful wedding, or in having children alongside their friends and neighbors. But none of them expressed the kind of devotion to Gott or the spark that he was looking for.
James lived alone with his father, Samuel, and as the baptismal and wedding season approached, it brought on unnecessary pressure. James’ father was a widower and James was his last unmarried child. His sole wish for his son was that he would find a good Amish mate to live out his days with.
Samuel patted his son on the back. “James, you must find yourself a wife; the days for searching are growing thin.”
“Yes, Daed,” James said, pouring the coffee for his father.
Samuel took a bite of his biscuit. “What about that nice girl you were last seeing?”
James shook his head as he thought about her. “She wasn’t interested in me. “
Samuel raised his eyebrows. “She wasn’t?”
“No; she was more interested in quilting with her friends.”
“But women like to do those kinds of things.”
“That’s very true but I wanted her to enjoy being with me just as much. I wanted to know that there was more in her heart than quilting but that didn’t happen.” James sounded frustrated.
Samuel chuckled. “I’m sure there was more to her than that but you will keep looking then?”
“Yes, I will keep looking,” James agreed.
“So you will attend the singing this evening after church?”
James sighed. He had been to the singings a couple of times. He didn’t think he had a good singing voice, and he felt conscious in the presence of the beautiful girls. His father insisted that he should attend the singings more often. And while he knew that his father wouldn’t force him to go, John knew that his father was keen on seeing him married soon. He couldn’t let his father down. “All right, I will go.”
“One day soon, Gott will bless you to meet the right one. You will want to be baptized and married in the fall so you two can be settled by the winter.”
James couldn’t believe his father was talking in terms of ‘we
During the church service, it was Sarah’s turn to help with serving lunch. She enjoyed this part of the day most of all because she got to interact with both the people and the food. She considered a good practice for when she’d own her restaurant. But when it was time to serve the men, she noticed an unfamiliar face. He looked rather rugged but there was something gentle-looking about him too. He also had dark, dreamy eyes.
Sarah brought his food over to him and to the other young men sitting on his side of the bench. He said, “Danke.”
Then he smiled and their eyes met for a moment. But Sarah shook it off and kept moving down the line, remembering her duties. Before long, it was time for church service to start again and all of the members assembled themselves together once more. Sarah found herself peeping over at the young man she’d set her eyes on earlier. He was talking to an older gentleman, who looked as if he could be his father; she wasn’t sure. She glanced over at him every now and then, careful not to attract his attention. She certainly didn’t want him to get the wrong idea by her staring at him. But he had an interesting face, one of character. Sarah looked at him sideways one last time, and then directed her mind back to the Bishop’s sermon.
Once the church service was over, Sarah had to decide whether or not she would stay for the singing. She was tired and really would’ve preferred going home to cook for the family. But she knew her parents wouldn’t take that very well so she chose to stay, along with her brother.
The young people all settled in at the tables, with boys and girls sitting opposite from one another. Sarah noticed that her mystery boy was seated in the middle of the table while she was seated at the far end. So she settled in by speaking to everyone, girls and boys alike. Most of them she had gone to school with anyway, except that she didn’t remember the mystery boy.
“Sarah, you hardly come out to the singings,” one girl said.
“Sometimes I’m just too busy at home,” Sarah said. She didn’t dare tell them that she’d rather be cooking than spend social time with them.
But Sarah joined in the fun and sang the songs that they chose to sing and forgot about everything else. Before she knew it, the mystery boy had come, made the others scoot down, and sat right in front of her. Sarah’s cheeks turned bright red.
“I hope you don’t mind if I sit here,” he said when they had taken a break.
“No, why would I?” she said, matter-of-factly.
“I’m James Stolzfus. And you are?”
“I’m Sarah Graber. And why haven’t I seen you around here before?” she whispered.
“Well, my father and I just moved here from the Midwest not that long ago,” James explained.
“Oh, I see. So you have no family here, then?”
“Only an aunt which is why we are here. My father wanted to leave our community because it reminded him too much of my mother who passed away. He kind of wanted a fresh start.”
“I’m sorry to hear about that,” she said.
“But now that I’ve met you, I’m glad that I’m here.” James grinned.
Sarah couldn’t hold back the giggles and they found themselves talking and laughing in between the singing.
As James escorted Sarah home in his buggy, Sarah realized that it had turned out to be a better day than she had imagined. Sarah brought him inside to meet her parents, who seemed excited that she had finally brought someone home. After staying to talk for a short while, James wished everyone well and started on his way home. Sarah waved to him from her front porch and wondered if he would really stay around once she told him about her dream.
James seemed to be fascinated by Sarah. She was smarter than any girl he knew and she was funny also. She didn’t seem to be so serious that she couldn’t laugh at herself, which he found her doing quite frequently. In fact they’d spent a lot of time laughing about silly everyday occurrences on their farms and with their families. Sarah had an uncanny way of turning an ordinary day into something special. He really liked that about her. Above all, she talked about Gott and His calling on her life. Yes, she loved to cook and James figured that he could live with a wife whose cooking was better than everyone else’s. While he was no stranger to purpose, James had never heard it put quite that way before - “her calling.”
Sarah was different and James began to think that maybe she might be the one. And one day, he decided to pop the question.
“Have you thought of marriage yet?”
Sarah blushed beetroot red and James wondered if his approach to a difficult question was appropriate. But after a pause, Sarah replied, “Yes, my parents are looking for a suitable person.” She avoided looking into his eyes.
“Even my parents are also looking for a suitable girl.” James chimed in, not sure how to approach the topic directly. He saw Sarah smiling, as if she knew where the conversation was going. There was nothing but to ask her directly.
“Sarah, would you be happy to become my wife?”
Sarah’s smile widened, and she nodded in acquiescence. James not sure what to say next, made some small talk and then bid her adieu.
Their next few meetings were more open, and they enjoyed each other’s company even more knowing that there was a mutual attraction between the two. James thought that all was going well. At least, until she leaned forward one day while they were sitting in her living room and said, “I’m going to own my own restaurant one day.”
“A restaurant? Like those out in the world? Are you serious?”
“Very much so,” Sarah said. “I can do it just as well as they can – maybe even better.”
James threw his hands up in the air in mock surrender. “Where would you get a crazy idea like that from?”
Sarah stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Who says it’s crazy?” Sarah could hardly believe what she was hearing.
James snapped, “Everyone would.”
“Everyone like who? Our people?”
“For starters, yes. “
It was worse than she thought. He was backing her into a corner. So Sarah crossed both arms against her chest. “Well, maybe I won’t be Amish for long.”
James shook his head in disbelief. “You can’t mean that.”
“I do mean it. Why would you not want me to be happy?”
James pleaded, “Can’t you be happy as a wife and mother?”
“Of course I can,” Sarah said, softly, wanting to be agreeable.
James continued, “Well then…”
“As long as I can be a wife and a mother and a world-class chef. I’ve seen those beautiful restaurants and I know I can run one.”
James asked, “But who says you can?”
Sarah looked at him right in the eyes. “Who says I can’t?”
“The ordnung,” James answered, sternly.
“The ordnung? Well, maybe the ordnung is incorrect. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gott but I believe that there’s more to life than this.” Sarah spread out her arms to indicate her daily toil, as she tried to suppress her tears. “I believe my life means more than just getting married and having children, although I want to do those things too.”
“But you can’t have everything. You can’t do everything. In life you must choose.”
Sarah put her hand to her forehead in frustration. “You can’t be serious. I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life.”
“What about a wedding and having kids? Are those just extras for you? I mean do those things matter to you at all?”
Sarah paced around the room. “I want that too. Hopefully, the children will come – later than sooner.”
“What do you mean by that? Children come when they come.”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe.”
“I don’t understand how you can claim to love Gott in
“I never said I don’t want to have a family but even if I did, what does one have to do with the other? I know I’m different from the other girls around here who are happy with singings and quilting but I feel that Gott is calling me to do more. My older sister is not married, nor does she have any children but her life is full. She’s a teacher and she loves Gott as much as anyone. A family has not made her into the woman that she is. She just is.”
James started to walk towards the front door.
Sarah followed him. “Where are you going?”
James took a long look at her and said, “I’m going to leave now before my disappointment makes me say or do something that I will regret.”
James and Sarah were eventually able to work out their problems in the short term. But Sarah wondered if she was just wasting her time with James, if he would ever really understand the matters of her heart.
Still every time she was around him, his sense of steadiness and strength made him seem so attractive to her. He was easy to be around, hardly demanding and always held Gott in high regard. She really respected him.
“I like the way you’re always steady, never wavering in the face of your plans. And sometimes I can be all over the place so I feel like you can help me to stay on track.” Sarah looked into James’s eyes. “I need structure.”
“You don’t need me for that. The ordnung gives us that.”
“Maybe but you help to make sense of it all,” Sarah said.
“The Bishop does that for us.” James shrugged. “I don’t deserve any credit at all.”
Sarah continued, “And that’s the other thing; you’re so humble.”
James smiled. “And I love the way you challenge me with something every time I’m with you. Whether I like it or not, you force me to think. And no one else has ever done that before.”
“Maybe we are good for each other, after all.” Sarah touched his hand.
James squeezed her hand, careful that he didn’t get caught by her parents.
“I really liked that blueberry pie you made for me.”
“Shhhh,” she whispered. “My parents would be upset if they knew I’d made a pie just for you.”
“But why?” James asked.
“They think my love of cooking isn’t normal and they don’t mind telling me so,” Sarah said, solemnly.