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Farmer's market in Philly. Where the Amish and Mennonites sell their delectable fare

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This is Pennsylvania Dutch country. The cooking styles that originated here in the Eastern heartlands of the United States came from the Dutch, English, and German settlers. They formed a food pattern that gravitated easily into the mainstream of American cooking.

Some of these specialties need to be tasted at the scene to be experienced completely - like Philadelphia scrapple and that city's renowned pretzels, and perhaps best of all, the traditional foods of the Amish and Mennonite cooks and farmers of Lancaster County.

To do this the easy way, one has only to stroll through the Reading Terminal Market, a Philadelphia ethnic-farmer's market since 1893, where people sell their wares in a down-home manner - doing business in the old-fashioned way.

Once a train shed that hummed near the turn of the century, today this vast arena is filled with hundreds of stalls where there are snack foods from many countries to eat while browsing.

Hucksters with hoarse voices offer everything from pork bellies to strudel dough and chocolate tortes. Fresh peanut butter is made on the spot.

There are things to be sampled and tested. Or, you can head for the corner where locally grown produce, homemade breads, sausages, and pastries are brought into market in the early morning by Amish farmers from Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Going to market as stand-holders or preparing food to be sold have always been natural practices for Mennonite and Amish cooks and farmers. These disciplined nonconformists, who seem to have a preference for farm-related occupations, have a wealth of bounty to share - either from their truck gardens or their kitchens.

The Mennonite and Amish farm families make up a strong core of the market's character - men and boys in dark suits and hats, and women and girls in simple dresses and braided hair capped by white prayer coverings. Their credibility and the excellent quality of their wares is well known.

You'll see the women offering hand-rolled egg noodles, selling their famous shoofly pie - the regular kind and a chocolate variety as well.


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