Farm fresh and fabulous Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

grand mom

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood in the ‘30s were the Sunday afternoon visits to our country cousins.

We’d all pile into Daddy’s new model Chevy, (he sold them, so we always had a new one), drive the 20 miles or more to run in the fields, jump in the hay mow, and watch the animals warily, keeping a safe distance.

 

Best of all, though, was following our noses into Aunt Mary’s kitchen, where we’d sit down with the other kids at their huge kitchen table, hungrily staring at the heaping platters and bowls, fidgeting impatiently, praying through the grace while we inhaled the aromas of roast beef, mashed potatoes, crisp green beans, golden corn on the cob, and sliced, crisp red tomatoes.

Someone would pass the gravy boat and I’d happily douse my potatoes and dig in. Our country cousins laughed at our overwhelming enthusiasm. This was the Depression, but they ate like this every day!

Valuable lessons learned

Mother spent the week following those visits “putting up” (canning, making jams, baking pies) the abundant produce we brought home from our relatives’ farms. When I married and Bob had his first teaching job, I did the same thing. His farm students or their parents brought us produce, sometimes by the bushel.

Neighbors taught me the necessary skills needed to cook, bake, and preserve the produce, some of the most valuable lessons I ever learned. The first 20 years of our marriage I tried to emulate my Aunt Mary’s pantry with row after row of glass jars sparkling like jewels on the shelves.

I didn’t really come close, but our children grew healthy and strong. To this day I have never found a brand of canned tomatoes that can compare to my locally grown and canned ones.

Now farmers come to us

Aging means adapting to the needs of the body. Now I live alone and have neither the need nor the energy for gardening and preserving food. Keeping my body healthy, however, is of prime importance. So is socializing, getting out among others in the community. Happily, there’s the farmers market, which provides both.

We no longer have to drive out to the farm; the farmers come to us, competing with one another for the prettiest display of the freshest produce. I loved the Madison Saturday market around the square, but I no longer have the stamina to walk that one. Luckily, nearly every small town has a farmers market on different days of the week, so a person can go from one to the other.

Bustling, booming affair

In our city of Fort Atkinson we have a bustling, booming affair downtown every Saturday morning in the summer where we can find the freshest-picked-that-morning produce, eggs and meat, honey, and baked goods, everything from muffins to bread, all locally produced and personally presented by the growers/producers. Local musicians lend a party-like atmosphere, and for the kids there’s sometimes face painting or petting zoo or a craft table to entertain them.

Crafters present handmade items such as toys, baby quilts, or hats. Sometimes churches sponsor bake sales at the market, too. When my daughter Kris picks me up on Saturday mornings, she tosses my walker into the car so I can walk further and last longer. I can pile the walker bag full and hang more bags from the handle and pop a huge fresh cut bouquet of flowers on top.

Produce sparks memories

But you know what I like best? Our market is senior-friendly. I get a chance to meet people: former students or fellow teachers, bridge friends, theater friends, people from other churches as well as my own parish. When I get tired, I can sit down, listen to the music, and sip a cup of coffee or a cool lemonade with my fresh muffin.

Better yet? When I put that precious produce in my refrigerator, I won’t have to set an alarm clock to remind me to use it up. Unlike that from the store’s produce department, it will still be fresh in a week. And when I prepare that farm fresh, fabulous food, I will savor the flavor, close my eyes, and think I am back in Aunt Mary’s kitchen.

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