[Note: Gloria Yoder is taking the week off from writing a column for the Amish Cook. Instead, her editor Kevin Williams has taken the opportunity to educate the public about how the Amish use freezer houses.]
How times have changed ...
Many Amish used to have “ice houses.” These outbuildings would be filled with ice, and foods that needed to be kept frozen would be put inside. Generally the ice would be cut from an area pond during winter and the ice house would be insulated well enough that it would stay cold through the summer. Some Amish still do this.
In Berne, Indiana’s Amish community, however, the ice houses have been replaced with “freezer houses.” What are these?
A freezer house is a centrally located outbuilding, usually owned by a non-Amish person, who then allows an Amish family to rent an electric freezer to store food. Doing this allows Amish families to keep food truly frozen without dealing with the hassle of cutting ice or the taboo practice of having electricity at home.
The Amish often make compromises that seem to twist logic for most outsiders, but this arrangement makes sense for some Amish. It allows them to have a freezer without the electricity.
These freezer buildings usually have telephones in them, too, that Amish people can use for a small fee. As cell phones have become more common, even among the Amish, fewer people need a pay phone.
The green signs in the above photo give prices for ice (50 pound block for $1.50 and crushed ice for $1.75, and phone calls: the phone calls are long distance $1, local calls 50 cents and toll-free. Any call over 10 minutes is $2. All of this is paid on the honor system.