Get away from Witness country, and Lancaster County turns from green to rust. Lancaster, the big city in these parts, looks like Wilmington, DE. Or any blue-collar Northeast city. A mini-Philadelphia or Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Without their pretty waterfronts.
It’s big enough to have a professional baseball team, the Lancaster Barnstormers. (Heh, heh.) Three synagogues. A theater company that tries. Direct train service to NYC. And a fairly easy drive to Philly, Baltimore, NY and DC.
No Whole Foods (boo, hiss), but there are semi-respectable substitutes. And the best thing about the place: a giant indoor farmers’ market, said to be the nation’s oldest. Amish, African and Thai food stalls all in a row. The best Pad Thai and stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had anywhere in the world.
For a taste, check out this cookbook I proudly brought to my hosts in India.
Continuing the tour, Williams-Sonoma finally made it to Lancaster’s one mall. Whole Foods, Nordstrom and Bloomies are 45 minutes away in real malls.
But Lancaster has something they don’t: a Pottery Barn outlet that’s a magnet for out-of-towners who seem to delight in shelling out ridiculous amounts for rejects not fit for Goodwill. (Outlets are very big here; and I’m not very big on outlets, in case you haven’t noticed.)
A surprising number of Lancastrians, as they’re called, come from elsewhere. From the Dominican Republic to Russia and New York, looking for better lives — and affordable housing.