this past saturday i drove about an hour outside of philadelphia to lancaster county for a mud sale at the gap fire company. last year i went to the gap (the town not the retail clothing store) mud sale with my friend amber and we had a wonderful time. among other things, the taste of those buttery homemade soft pretzels with honey mustard dipping sauce stuck with me for the past year and motivated me to go back this year. although amber couldn’t make it this year because she had to work, and i dont blame her, its a great place to work, LOOP, i still ventured there this year. alone. all alone.
mud sales are auctions to help small fire companies in lancaster county raise money for the year. the auctions are called out by the cutest amish men with their funny irish-y/scottish-y/dutch-y accents. they typically take place in the early spring before the small farmers are too busy with spring planting. in the early spring it is usually muddy, thus the name, mud sale. one can expect to see all sorts of items for sale including farm equipment, tools, home items, clothing and buggies for your horses. i have to admit that i eyed up a real beauty of a buggy for my horse but i just got one a few years ago so maybe next year i will be in the market for an upgrade. you can also buy delicious homemade treats. baked goods like whoopie pies and apple cider doughnuts as well as homemade root beer, jams and jellies, relishes and savory items like fresh cut french fries and homemade cheeses. boring old vegetables were also in abundance. i bought a delicious smoked amish swiss which i made a grilled cheese with yesterday. yum! and of course those soft pretzels.
as a philadelphia resident, i am a connoisseur of the soft pretzel. i’m pretty sure i have tried most of the local providers soft pretzels and they are all slightly different. usually always delicious, but different. some are bread-y, some are dough-y, most are extremely salty. which i love! i even love auntie anne’s pretzels which were, by the way, founded and i believe the corporate headquarters are located, in lancaster county pennsylvania. but these amish homemade soft pretzels at the gap mud sale take the cake! they are large and thin and crusty and doughy and salty and buttery and well, they are just freaking perfect! i could eat them every day. for every meal. forever and ever. amen!
while the pretzels are top notch, the real reason to go to a mud sale in lancaster county, for me, is the pure surreality of it. what makes it surreal is that i was among only a few shall i say, civilians, in this rather large crowd of amish families. it is really intriguing to see their lifestyle so close up. sure, you can watch “witness” and get a sense of it and you can also drive through lancaster county and catch a glimpse of them in their buggies or at the various touristy shops selling traditional goods or even riding down the road on their bikes, but until i went to this mud sale i really never was able to sit and, to be frank, stare at droves of them. i feel like i am describing walking amongst aliens or something but it really IS kind of alien. these are a simple people with certain religious and social traditions that are just so foreign and fascinating to me. it is almost as if they are frozen in time. in this day and age of smartphones and 13 year old youtube music sensations and sketchers shape up sneakers and young hollywood starlets and their boobs hanging out on the covers of fashion magazines, its really refreshing to see there is a culture that still remains, for the most part, pure and simple with good old fashioned work ethic and values.
and we can’t possibly forget the craft of quilting that remains such a prevalent part of the amish lifestyle. i remember going to lancaster county as a boy and going to quilting fabric shops with my mother and sister and admiring all of the beautiful fabrics and patterns. who would have known at that time, that i would later design quilting cotton fabrics. it really is fascinating how your formative years play a role in your adult life.
after the mud sale i drove around the surrounding area, including the towns of bird-in-hand and intercourse, no joke, for a few hours taking photos and admiring the beauty of the farmland and all of that rural goodness that is lancaster county.