helmuth

Photos by Gina Will for the Herald & Review

Diners enjoy a traditional homemade Amish meal at the home of Sarah and Marvin Helmuth in Sullivan.

SULLIVAN — Eating in Sarah Helmuth’s Amish kitchen has a way of bringing strangers together like they are old friends, says her husband, Marvin.

He should know, since the Helmuths regularly open their home to visitors craving an Amish meal with all the trimmings.

“Enjoying a meal in their home is more than just great food,” said Jane Churchill, a recent dinner guest from Springfield. “You get interesting, friendly conversation, too.”

The Amish couple offer meals in their Sullivan home six days a week, and reservations are available to parties of four to 76 for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The Helmuths have been entertaining guests in their home for four years. It all began in 2008 when doctors discovered that Marvin Helmuth had a brain tumor. While it wasn’t malignant, it had to be removed, and like many Amish, the Helmuths didn’t have health insurance. In addition, their daughter, Marry Lou, suffered from meningitis as a child and was left with a severe brain injury.

Thus, Sarah’s Home Cookin’ was started in 2009. The business has grown every year. In 2012, they served 2,050 guests from 43 countries. So far in 2013, they have had a little more than 500 guests and with summer, their busiest season, Marvin expects to serve even more this year.

And, with a menu, visitors are guaranteed not to leave the table hungry.

Breakfast begins early at the Helmuth house. Sarah Helmuth says her normal time to rise is 3:45 a.m.

“You’d be surprised what you miss when you wait for the sun to come up,” she said. Her breakfast menu consists of blueberry muffins, breakfast casserole, biscuits and gravy, mixed fruit, homemade cinnamon rolls, sausage patties, orange juice, tea and coffee.

For lunch or dinner, Sarah serves salad, baked chicken, meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles, bread, apple butter, and peanut butter spread. The vegetables and pies vary, but there are always two of each.

Beverage choices are tea, water and coffee. The noodles are homemade by one of Sarah’s neighbors and she buys the salad dressings from Yoder’s, another Amish family, but the rest of the food is made from scratch by Sarah and her family. In the summer, she often cooks with the vegetables out of her own garden. The food is served family style and every item is passed around the table at least twice ensuring no one leaves hungry.

“All the food is excellent!” said Churchill’s twin sister, Jean, also of Springfield.

“The meatballs surprised me because I don’t associate that with being Amish, but they were my favorite,” said Kim Brendley who drove from O’Fallon, Missouri with her friends just to eat lunch in an Amish home.

With his quick smile and great sense of humor, Marvin Helmuth brings any size group together as he partakes in the meal and entertains the group. He tells his guests to ask any and all questions they have, but he can’t guarantee he will have all the answers. Brendley asked him a question about rumspringa, when Amish teens are allowed more freedom to help them decide if they wish to remain part of the Amish faith, followed by the statement, “unless you would prefer not to talk about that.” Before answering her question, Marvin responded, “I prefer to talk about. If Hollywood is out to present an image of us that isn’t correct, why can’t we correct Hollywood?”

If you would like to share a meal with the Helmuths, call Sarah’s Home Cookin’ at (217) 543-5182. More than likely, you will have to leave a message because in keeping with Amish traditions, the phone is in Marvin’s woodshop, not the house. Marvin returns the phone calls within a day’s time, unless that would require him to return your call on a Sunday. Sarah accepts reservations for parties of 4 to 76 people for breakfast, lunch, or dinner Monday through Saturday. She doesn’t have a set price for a meal, but accepts donations.

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