When I think of the Amish, I think of those cool black buggies being pulled by a horse, bearded men in wide brim black hats, women in bonnets and long dresses, and a people that live without modern conveniences. I think of people who are not very excited to be a part of every day society in 2009. And people who are certainly not going to be fond of being in front of a camera.
What I found at the Amish pretzel stand in the Reading Market was not quite what I expected.
First of all, I have to admit, I’ve never been a pretzel guy, but the pretzels they make here are worthy of poetry! I bought a cheesesteak pretzel, and cinnamon pretzels and sat down to watch Tony play piano (see my last blog entry). My mouth was very happy with my choice, it was a delicious lunch – I had to go back and see how they made pretzels.
I wish I could tell you her name. I didn’t even ask. Frankly, I was a little intimidated by the Amish hair covering. See, I’m so unaware of their culture I don’t even know what it’s called. I didn’t know if I was going to be offensive or not – but I wanted to at least say thanks.
What did I expect? Now that I think about it, and type it out, is seems absurd. But I think I was expecting a girl that spoke in old English, you know, like the King James version of the bible. Someone who would refuse to speak with me? Someone who would refuse to have her photo taken?
Here’s two things that I learned:
1- This girl knew how to twist a pretzel! She was fast, even with me distracting her.
2- She was smart and very aware of the world around her. I teased her that I could get my home oven up to 700 degrees to bake pretzels, and she smiled at me and said “whatever”. I was surprised. But I have to say that while her language and wit were 2009, there was a shyness, a softness to her that betrayed a difference.
My grasp of the language fails me here, because it’s hard for me to put into words what I sensed – what there was that was different. Maybe there wasn’t anything different at all, and I was trying to invent it. But it seemed to me that she was “in the world but not of the world”. She could interact with those of us on the “outside”, but she wasn’t really buying any of it.
Instead of someone that shut me out of her society, what I found was a person who respected me – and I couldn’t help but respect her. Our encounter was very brief, maybe a 5 minute conversation. But she taught me more than how to bake a pretzel (and coat it with butter so the tourists will buy it). She taught me newfound respect for her way of life, her culture. She’s one of those great people that made my journey to Philadelphia worth it.