The Amish

Amish Origins

From its first century CE origins, Christianity has been no monolith. Division arose in 1054, when the pope in Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) expelled each other from what had formally been one church.137 Thereafter, Western Europe was Catholic whereas Eastern Europe and the parts of Western Asia that remained Christian were Orthodox. By then the Catholic Church had grown wealthy and worldly. Critics charged it with abandoning early Christianity’s simplicity, poverty, and piety. Criticisms intensified in the sixteenth century as Europeans who lost hope of reforming Catholicism formed rival churches. In 1525, infant baptism’s opponents in Zurich, Switzerland, began to admit only adults as full members and to form their own theology.138 Among these anabaptists, convert and leader Jakob Amman (c. 1656-c. 1730) urged Christians to reject sinful secular society.139

His followers, the Amish, emigrated to Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Bolivia after 1730.140 Inhabiting thirty-one U.S. states, they maintain their largest community—roughly 35,000 adherents—in Holmes County, Ohio.141 Partitioning modest parcels into smallholdings of roughly 4 hectares (10 acres) per family, the Amish transitioned from grains to vegetables, though dairying undergirded the economy since the nineteenth century.142

Dairying among Amish

Holmes County boasts two cheese factories, both in the county seat Millersburg. The older originated in Swiss immigrant and cheesemaker John Dauwalder’s work at Bunker Hill Cheese Co-op, which he bought in 1935, transforming it into Heini’s Cheese Chalet.143 The facility uses milk from over 200 nearby farms.144 Millersburg’s Amish invited a second Swiss cheesemaker, Alfred Guggisberg (1914-1985), to purchase property, which in 1950 became Guggisberg Cheese Factory.145 In 1967 he made a cheese with small holes that wife Margaret dubbed baby swiss. Its success helped the company become the largest U.S. swiss cheese producer.

Guggisberg baby swiss. (Photo from author.)

FIGURE 7.9 Guggisberg baby swiss. (Photo from author.)

Holmes County’s small businesses sell cheese, butter, ice cream, pudding, and custard. For example, Fox’s Pizza Den in Millersburg, ostensibly wedded to cheese, meats, and dough, sells twenty- four ice cream flavors.146 Broad Run Cheesehouse in Dover retails over thirty cheeses, whereas Guggisberg has twice the selection.147 Ashery Country Store in Fredericksburg and Walnut Creek Cheese in Walnut Creek sell cheese and custard.148 Millersburg’s Chalet in the Valley serves cheese fondue, and Troyer Country Market makes cheeseballs and ice cream on site.149

Cheese—including the cottage cheese schmierkase—custard, pudding, butter, milk, and ice cream characterize a diet of animal products.150 Amish pizza follows tradition in featuring cheese. Children and adults drink raw milk, believing it healthful.151 Even families that do not sell milk often keep a cow for their needs. Amish eat butter noodles, cheeseburgers, milk chocolate, creme pie, and cheesy Mexican fare.

Amish Foods besides Dairy

Other items include beef, pork, lunchmeats, venison, poultry, eggs, potatoes, bread, pancakes, cabbage, corn (Zea mays) and cornmeal, carrots, beets (Beta vulgaris), cucumbers (Cucumis sati- vus) and pickles, squashes (Cucurbita species), celery, rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum), tomatoes

(Solatium esculentum), peas (Pisum sativum), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris and P. lunatus), peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) and peanut butter, pretzels, lard, sucrose, molasses, strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa), blackberries (Rubus species), raspberries (Rubus idaeus), grapes (Vitis vinifera), apples (Malus domestica), blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium, V. corymbosum, and related species), peaches (Prunus persica), pears (Pyrus species), cantaloupes and muskmelons (both Cucumis melo), watermelons (Citrullus lanatus), and plums (Prunus species). The Amish tend to eat more whole, fresh, organic foods and less junk than many other Americans. This differentiation may lessen as young Amish, unable to profit from farming, enter construction and other occupations that take them out of the community and into mainstream America’s fast-food establishments.

Demographic Interest in the Amish

A 2012 paper examined Old Order Amish, the largest group in Holmes County, which an earlier paragraph designated the biggest U.S. Amish community.152 This order’s members are the most numerous among North American Amish and consider themselves the original practitioners, using a prayer book thought to have been published in 1564, forty-seven years after the Protestant Reformation began.153 The Amish, Old Order or otherwise, interest demographers because of detailed genealogies that retrogress centuries. Amish populations also merit investigation because they eschew automobiles and so retain lifestyles that counter modernity’s idleness. That is, like pre- twentieth-century peoples, the Amish illuminate how food and exertion influence health. This book emphasizes that diet alone cannot produce vitality. Activity is also necessary.

Amish Longevity

The 2012 publication compared longevity of 2,108 Amish born from 1890 to 1921 with that of their contemporaries who participated in the Framingham Heart Study.154 All Framingham participants and the Amish had European ancestry, facilitating comparisons between both. American epidemiologist Braxton D. Mitchell and coauthors examined only Amish and Framingham participants above age twenty-nine, eliminating youth mortality from consideration and neutralizing differences in childhood immunizations, which Amish tended to avoid. A 1984 study, for example, calculated that only 63 percent of U.S. Amish vaccinated their children compared to 85 percent among non- Amish.155 To be sure, vaccination was not widespread for those born in 1890, the earliest year of Mitchell and coauthors’ data. But by the terminal year 1921, immunizations were becoming standard in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1905 having affirmed state’s authority to compel vaccination.156 By the 1920s, vaccines were available for diphtheria, tuberculosis, tetanus, whooping cough, and smallpox.

Dairy and other animal products may explain higher cholesterol and blood pressure for Amish than for Framingham subjects.157 Inbreeding among Amish may have exacerbated these problems. Such conditions usually entail drug therapies; yet only 3.7 percent of Amish with high cholesterol and only 6.2 percent with high blood pressure ingested medicine. Although many more Framingham participants with these conditions took medication, Amish men on average outlived non-Amish by three years, and no difference existed between women. Greatest lifespan did not vary, with Amish reporting a maximum of 103 years compared to 104years among Framingham participants. Average longevity favored the Amish even though Framingham subjects visited physicians and hospitals whereas Amish seldom did. Amish reliance on dairy and other animal foods neither shortened lifespan nor predisposed them to heart attack, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.

But because many people eat dairy, eggs, and meat while suffering these afflictions, these items alone cannot be decisive. If diet is a factor, Amish preference for whole foods over junk may provide an advantage. American nutritionist Thomas Colin Campbell (b. 1934), introduced in Chapter 1, advocated consumption of foods “as close to their natural state as possible.”158

Although he favored plants, this advice should apply to all victuals. In addition to whole foods, Amish ate organic produce, which over 400 articles judged more nutritious than agribusiness’ edibles.159

Mitchell and colleagues went beyond diet, crediting exertion as chief contributor to Amish longevity and vitality.160 Not only is work arduous, but, absent automobiles, many Amish ride bicycles for transportation. These authors inversely correlated activity and obesity. Although exertion conferred vigor, it did not lengthen maximum lifespan, as noted. Physicians w'ho treated Amish observed that lifelong exertion gave them osteoarthritis, slowing them in their 50s.161 As they became less mobile, their mass increased, and by their seventh decade they had many of inactivity’s ailments. Besides exertion, fewer Amish than Framingham subjects smoked or drank alcohol.162 Finally, Michell and coauthors speculated that communal ties improved longevity and quality of life, noting that Amish cared for elderly at home rather than consigned them to nursing homes.163 Religion strengthened community, providing cohesion and meaning.


Settlement and Economy

Like other chapters, this one notes that geography influences diet, especially absent long-distance trade. In northern Europe, Finland straddles the Arctic Circle. Distant from the equator, as noted, the Nordic nation needs the Gulf stream and Baltic Sea for warmth. Forests, covering some three- quarters of Finland, limit agriculture.164 Since 9000 BCE migrants from what are today Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Russia settled Finland and about 2500 BCE began milking cows, though many continued to forage or combined pastoralism, farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering.165 Short growing seasons led Finns to emphasize livestock raising for dairy and meat.

Over one-third of Finnish farms yield milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt, with dairy totaling two- thirds of agrarian income.166 The average Finn drinks 130 liters (34.3 gallons) of milk annually, the most worldwide.167 Popular are buttermilk and fermented milk, known as piima and rahka respectively. Breakfast is incomplete without milk, which may be added to oats, rye, barley, or a combination of grains. Finnish cheeses include emmental—a type of swiss—kotijuusto, and leipajuusto. Emmental enters domestic and export markets. Finns deem the fermented yogurt viili a national food.168 Dairy with little or no lactose satisfies wary consumers, though few Finns fail to produce lactase throughout life. Health enthusiasts prefer high-protein dairy.

Dairy alone has not sustained Finns. Ancient farmers grew oats, rye, and barley for domestic consumption. Rye bread remains popular at meals. Turnips have long been part of diets, though since the seventeenth century potatoes have rivaled them. As implied, the first Finns were hunter- gatherers, and game like deer (Odocoileus species), moose (Alces dices), and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) furnish protein and other nutrients. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), duck (Anas platy- rhynchos), pork, beef, salmon (Oncorhynchus species), herring (Clupea herengus), and whitefish (Coregonus species) also supply complete protein. Crayfish (species in the families Astacidae, Parastacidae, and Austraostracidae) are available between July and September. Wild mushrooms like chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) and morels (Morchella esculenta) are added to the soup korvasienikeitto, a practice borrowed from Russia. To the west, Sweden heightened Finns’ preference for smoked salmon, salami, cheeses, and salads.

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