A harvest field meal rained out still connects four generations
"An indoor harvest meal reminded me, in this season, I feel the luckiest."
My dad had a birthday this past week, which he usually celebrates in a barley field because it’s harvest. My son’s birthday is a few days later. This year, Hunter will be back in Tucson, Arizona, on his birthday to start his second year of graduate school so he asked if we could have a harvest birthday supper in the field as we did in 2020. He wasn’t requesting a field meal on the go — he wanted to stop for supper. On my dad’s actual Sunday birthday, the barley was wet, which meant harvest was on hold, so we had to wait until the next night.
I offered to make the harvest meal. Juggling full-time work commitments and our girls’ golf and volleyball practices, I jotted down an easy menu and made an early morning trip to the small-town grocery store.
I decided to grill 25 cheddar brats, make a three-bean casserole with onions, bell peppers, bacon and seasonings that could slow cook all day, stir up coleslaw to let chill, cut up honeydew and cantaloupe and serve two boxes of Old Dutch potato chips with a container of sour cream dip. I stocked up on cans of pop and bottles of tea and water to fill a cooler to bring to the field. My mom made homemade key lime cupcakes with her perfect citrus buttercream.
I added up our family members, plus my dad texted me a head count for the harvest crew, and then I worried like all farm cooks if I would have enough food.
I was so excited for this simple meal I contemplated starting a field meal business until I reminded myself of all the other responsibilities on my plate.
Why did I love the idea of making a field meal so much, I wondered?
I love farms and the remarkable ability to grow food, fiber, feed and fuel in the most sustainable, productive manner in the world. Seeing harvest reminds me of the joy agriculture brings me.
But most of all, harvest evokes memories and creates new ones with generations of my family, people I care about. As I chopped up the melon over the noon hour, I thought about the significance of having four generations of family in the field for our harvest meal.
Mid-afternoon, back in my home office, I heard a rumble of thunder and looked out to see blue skies. Twenty minutes later, my dad texted to say barley harvest had come to a halt. They were rained out and he was sending the crew home for the day. I said I would bring supper to the farm, and we’d eat inside instead of in the field. I was disappointed, knowing my kids would be back in school within days and we’d miss our chance for a harvest birthday meal in the field.
By evening, we gathered in my parents' farm kitchen. While the combines were parked in the yard, I still gave thanks for the tie of agriculture that weaves our family together, bringing us back to the farm, where we can gather for a weekday meal, 18 of us in total.
Later I filled my 92-year-old grandma’s refrigerator with a few leftovers, and she declared she was one of the luckiest grandmas. I turned back around, went inside and said, “The reason I know how to make a harvest meal for a crew is because my mom and you taught me. I learned from the best.” She smiled. An indoor harvest meal reminded me, in this season, I feel the luckiest.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.