How do Amish families eat? I want to thank reader Lattice for sharing her experience eating with Amish friends, in response to Slightly-handled-Order-Man’s question (“how do Amish families serve their food on a day-to-day basis?). I am reposting Lattice’s comments here with a few of my own thoughts:
I would be happy to tell you how it goes with my Amish friends. There is a silent prayer before and after the meal. Once everyone gets seated, everyone quiets, then all bow heads until you hear the man/father clear the throat or make some kind of noise or something, or on occasion say, “Amen.”
The food is all placed on the table, including an extra pitcher of water. Only in a very rare circumstance have I seen anyone get up from the table during the meal (I remember an older daughter getting up to get salad dressing once, and that’s really the only time I can recall it – in probably seventy meals with several different families).
They sit down like this for all three meals. They don’t start till everyone is there. In the summer, dinner is the “largest” meal (meaning more substantial food like meats/casseroles) and during school days, supper is.
A couple of families use plates, but most I know use something like a flattened cereal bowl. You get what you want, and seconds, if available, but you never get more than you will eat. Everyone is expected to clean their plates (it’s kind of a noisy matter), even young children. Most children two years or under just sit in a lap and eat off a parent’s or older sibling’s plate.
Overall, I feel like they eat hurriedly. Usually, the men have to get back out to work, I guess. That is, unless a special guest is present with lots of interesting stories. The Amish love to hear good stories! Also, they tend to wait until everyone is finished with the meal before they pass dessert (which is already sitting on the table, too). An exception to this is if someone goes for seconds, then a parent might suggest passing the dessert. I always try really hard to not have them waiting on me to finish.
They also don’t offer napkins, which is hard for me to get used to. They typically have a “community” dampened rag, if needed, but most never seem to need it.
I read once that there’s a lot of burping going on at the Amish table, but I have never noticed that, really. In general, the Amish don’t try so hard to disguise noises related to bodily functions, but they’re never rude about it… however, they don’t apologize for it either!
I hope what I’ve told gives a pretty good picture of what it’s like.
I’m not sure which community Lattice is describing but I can see much of her description matching what I have experienced at various meals. I think some things are pretty universal to the Amish eating experience. You also have variations of how you do things in different homes just like you do in English ones. Faster eaters, longer talkers, different foods, the way you pray, for how long, etc.
Eating is something all cultures do and some do it in their own characteristic way. Perhaps the Amish style of eating gives clues into the culture.
An Amish friend shared a few comments on this topic I don’t think he’d mind me passing along. On tableside strategy: “when you sit down and eat you shut up and shovel it in.” On dining with a “slow-eating” English person: “we all know the Amish pray too long, eat too fast , and say whoops instead of excuse me. So take your time.” He’s being a little facetious, but that made me smile.
Curious for your thoughts or comments from your own eating experiences.