Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mennonite Stores

A while ago I mentioned in a post about an old cookbook and cooking the way they did in the 50’s. But where do you find the ingredients? Grocery stores are now supermarkets. They have all kinds of exotic foods and many meals ready to just heat and eat. It’s wonderful for the person pressed for time or who doesn’t know how or want to cook. However, when you’re looking for basic ingredients, especially those that aren’t very popular anymore, where do you look? The supermarket might have them tucked away in some corner, then again maybe they don’t.

As you’re driving around the Finger Lakes area you might stumble upon a store that has just what you want. 

In areas with Mennonite settlements you’re likely to come across a little store run by one of these families that has many such basics on their shelves. Oh, they have many modern convenience foods and junk food as well, but their specialties are basic foods to feed their families. Many of these stores will be housed in small sheds near the house on an operating farm. Tiny and compact, the farm wife will run out from the house where she was working on something to help you when you stop at her store.  Many have food products, and others might have what used to be referred to as “dry goods.” Small items for the household, especially sewing  notions and material are for sale. Others are a combination of the two. You never know what they might hold until you stop in and have a look.

Probably the biggest—at least around the Finger Lakes area—is Sauder’s Market. It is located between Seneca Falls and Waterloo on the River Road. In fact, at first sight, you wouldn’t think it even was a Mennonite grocery. They have expanded until they are as big as a small supermarket with a parking lot to match.

Walking inside it seems un-Mennonite and more typical of an American supermarket with bright lights, wide spaces and even a small café along the side. However, a second glance will show that it is indeed Mennonite owned and run. The female staff is dressed in traditional dresses with caps on their heads. Many of the customers are similarly dressed as well. The male staff, of course, isn’t as obvious since their traditional dress more closely resembles modern dress for men.

Walking along the aisles you will find fresh produce, jams and preserves along with basic baking supplies and other grocery staples. The bakery has old-fashioned homemade bread, rolls, cinnamon buns and whoopee pies even. If you get there early enough, you’ll have a large choice of pies as well. In one aisle you will find supplies for canning along with apple corers, pastry sifters and other kitchen implements not often found in the modern kitchen equipped just for quick meals.

Here is where you readily find these old style basic ingredients. But what if you don’t have the recipes to use them? Over in the corner of the store is a book section. There are many inspirational and children’s books as well as ones on the Mennonite and Amish religions. But don’t overlook the aisle that is full of cookbooks. Books by Amish and Mennonite communities as well as ones about preserving food are available. All kinds of delicious goodies can be found within these cookbooks!

So, for a trip back in time or just to another culture, don’t overlook the little stores here and there among the rural areas of the Finger Lakes. Especially, don’t miss stopping by the bigger ones such as Sauder’s if you are near them. You are in for a real treat!

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