Before 1932, the pious, hard-working people of the Amana Colonies were the only people in Iowa who got to eat out every night.
Members of the pacifist Community of True Inspiration, they emigrated from Germany and built seven villages on 25,000 acres of eastern Iowa farmland. For nearly 90 years, they lived communally, pooling resources and skills.
Butchers, brewers and winemakers turned out goods for everyone, and meals were served in 50 communal kitchens.
Around Kalona, Iowa, there's one group of people who always have understood sustainable agriculture and locally sourced food.
For the Amish, that's a lifestyle, not a movement.
Since 1846, Old Order Amish have lived and worked in this bucolic pocket of southeast Iowa, 20 minutes from Iowa City.
It's obvious from one look at the shop-lined streets of Amana, the largest of the seven Amana Colonies, that modern commerce is in full flower there. Even so, the first question asked about the villages is: Are the Amana people Amish?
And no wonder the people of the Amanas spoke German, lived simply and adhered faithfully to Scripture. Many still do. But no, they never were Amish.
The first people of the Amanas were German immigrants who came to Iowa in 1855.
Even in a region rich in ethnicity, the Dutch stand out.
In a town square in Iowa, lacy white hats shaped like pyramids, horns and half-moons bob high atop women's heads. Men wear black caps, breeches or baggy trousers and narrow bands cross at their throats. Their wooden shoes click and clack as they dance.
"These are the weirdest people I've ever seen!'' shrieked a little boy watching from the sidelines.
Poor Herbert Hoover.
Orphaned at age 9, he spent his childhood picking potato bugs, weeding onions and cleaning barns. His first job after graduation from Stanford was shoveling ore.
Then he grew a mustache, bought a tweed suit and passed himself off as an experienced mining engineer. Sent to Australia at age 23, he found a vein of gold that yielded his London employers $65 million.
In 1997, a small-town damsel who married a prince well, an heir waved a silver wand over her hometown of Perry, Iowa, and unusual things began to happen.
She took the dowdy Hotel Pattee, built in 1913 and on the brink of demolition, and filled it with terra-cotta tile, Persian rugs and so much Honduran mahogany she cornered the market for it.
Artists moved in and painted murals and whimsical folk-art lamps, bedsteads and armoires.