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August 5, 2011

Conveying the Amish experience

WASHINGTON — Kevin Williams knows the Amish. He’s been deeply involved with the Amish culture for the past 20-plus years. Williams is the editor of the popular Amish Cook column that runs weekly in the Times Herald and more than a hundred other newspapers.

Williams paid a visit to Washington Thursday, speaking to a group at Carnegie Public Library. As an 18-year-old college student, Williams accepted a magazine assignment to write a story about the increase in the number of Amish in Michigan. While he researched the story he ran across a woman who had written a small cookbook and had some for sale.  That planted the seed of an idea, and Williams thought an Amish cooking column might just be something people would want to read. The problem was finding someone to write it.

Williams visited small stores and businesses throughout the Amish community in Michigan, but was met with a negative response to all those he approached.

It was while he was in Berne, Ind., that he finally found his Amish writer. After being turned down by many, he decided the next Amish home he came to he was going to stop and ask and if the answer was ‘no,’ that was it. He would give up.

The Amish woman he approached was Elizabeth Coblentz and her answer was “I’ll give it a try.”

He went back to his home near Cincinnati, Ohio, and really didn’t expect to hear from Elizabeth, but the next week her first column arrived and the Amish Cook was born. Elizabeth wrote the column from August of 1991 until her unexpected death in 2002. Since her death, her daughter Lovina Eicher has written the column, describing her life on a farm in Michigan with her husband and eight children.

Williams denied he’s an expert on the Amish, but said he is an expert on the Amish he knows.

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