By Arvid Huisman
One of my favorite summer-on-the-farm memories — as still confirmed by the bathroom scale — is farm field lunches.
Now, I don’t mean lunch as in a noon meal in the city; that’s “dinner” on the farm. I mean lunch as in the snack served mid-morning and mid-afternoon when you’re working in the field.
Farming has changed drastically in the 50-plus years since I worked for farmers in Hamilton County. With much larger machinery and the technology that helps operate them, perhaps the old fashioned field lunch isn’t as common anymore.
“Snack” falls short of describing lunches on the farm as I knew them. A typical field lunch, as I recall, included a beverage (often two) and at least two (often more) choices of food.
After a few hours on a hay rack it was a treat to see the farmer’s wife driving toward us on the farm lane because it meant lunch was about to be served. Equipment was shut down, we whisked the dust and chaff off our shirts and jeans, found a spot on the shady side of the rack, dropped to the ground, removed our sweat-stained caps and enjoyed.
An element of surprise was part of the fun. What would the hostess pull out of the picnic basket — or, as often, a cardboard box — this time?
The beverage was usually served first. Many farmers liked a cup of hot coffee, but I always preferred a cold drink. Kool-Aid, fresh-squeezed lemonade, ice tea, a cold soda, ice water — anything would do. We teenage boys may have appreciated a cold beer but the adults were careful not to put us or themselves in legal jeopardy.
Next, the farm wife might bring out a plate of homemade cookies. Then, perhaps, we’d see a platter of sandwiches — bologna, dried beef, ham and cheese, peanut butter, jelly. Every farm wife had her specialty, but I found few I didn’t like. (Sandwiches, that is.)
It wasn’t unusual to be treated to big slices of homemade cake with thick frosting or large, warm cinnamon rolls still sticky with icing or glaze. I even remember enjoying a slice of homemade apple pie in the shade of a hay rack. All of this was enjoyed in the midst of pleasant conversation.
After 15 to 20 minutes (sometimes longer) we put our caps back on, unfolded ourselves from a cross-legged position and returned to our task. The farm wife loaded leftovers into her car or pick-up and headed back to the house.