National Geographic : 1952 Oct
"When eating any thing for the first time in a season, make a wish and the wish will come true," I read. I wished I knew the taste of blue-balsam tea, and a cup appeared at once. In front of me stood a gaily colored motto card of undoubted truth: "Man and wife are one. But each has a stomach." Nor did the next motto restrain the wife's love of good food: "A fat wife and a full barn never did any man harm." A third motto warned against carelessness, even in so carefree a business as family din ner: "If you lay a loaf of bread upside down on the table, the angels in heaven will weep." Before the festival was over, I had been fed by women of many faiths and culinary skills. But in choosing the sunbonneted cooks of the Women's Guild of Zion Evangelical and Reformed Congrega tion of Windsor Castle, Pennsylvania, as my first hostesses, I fol- A Kutztown Housewife Fries Funnel Cakes Cooking is a high art in the Pennsylvania Dutch country (pages 510 and 511). Here Mrs. Carrie Lambert pours batter through an antique utensil called a flint. A funnel serves the same purpose; hence the name funnel cakes. Fried in fat, lowed the example of the cakes are eaten with an expert. He was the Dutch dialect entertainer, G. Gilbert Snyder, known as "Die Wunnernaus" (the wonder nose), who covers his shock of gray hair with a wide-brimmed black Amish hat (page 510). While I was taking his picture at table, it occurred to me that such a man knows his way around. A half chicken breast, lying on a bed of steamy dumplings, gave visual sup port for this judgment. "Hex Signs" Debunked Heart of the festival was the series of pro grams in the main tent. These were con cerned with the preservation of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, tradition, and speech. Here I heard Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker, di rector of the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, and one of the leading spirits of the festival, debunk three widely accepted "Dutch" myths. "Hex signs" on barns, he pointed out, are jelly or powdered sugar. not hex signs at all; a Pennsylvania Dutch housewife does not feel obligated to place "seven sweets and seven sours"-relishes on her dinner table; and an Amishman does not paint his gate blue to signify he has a marriageable daughter! Dr. Shoemaker has found identical barn decorations in German, Swiss, and Alsatian folk art, but believes them to be decorative motifs, nothing more. Many writers have nonetheless repeated the idea that the designs, sometimes called hexafoos, are used as a kind of "spiritual lightning rod" to ward off evil. But the same patterns had decorated hope chests, birth certificates, house blessings (page 516), and red-brown sgraffito plates, on whose lighter overlay the pattern had been so scratched as to become permanent when fired. The small area in which the decorated barn causes passing motorists to squeak their tires and stop for a look is centered in Kutztown and does not extend far in any direction.