This is chapter sixteen from my new book Licking County Farm. I releasing this book a chapter at a time and sending the each chapter week-by-week in the Stonebridge Newsletter on Monday mornings. If you would like to read the book, subscribe to the newsletter on the tab to the right above. If you enjoy the book, pray with me that I will find a publisher or agent to get it into the hands of more people.
Everyone has their heartland and everyone has their heart food. The hills of central Ohio will always be in my heart and my heart food comes from the animals that grazed and the vegetables that grew there. Beef, potatoes (preferably mashed and drowned with butter and brown gravy), sweet corn, tomatoes, real, authentic green beans popping out of their dark green pods, limas, carrots, and blackberry pie are my heart food. I can tolerate Chinese food. I enjoy Mexican, Cajun, Italian, and Greek food. But it is food from my heartland that puts a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye like standing on a Memorial Day on the streets of Utica, Ohio and watching Old Glory pass down the street borne by a band of patriotic old brothers from the VFW.
The farm was a working farm. Grandpa raised white-faced Herford beef cattle. He raised hay and corn for the cattle. As a result there was always plenty of good, farm-raised beef. On Sunday Grandma and Grandpa loved to stop at the restaurant they liked to call “The Ponderosa” in Newark for a steak and baked potato with sour cream and butter. Other times we had Sunday dinner at the farm. When we arrived home in winter months we would feed the cattle. We would take a few bales of hay out to the dormant winter pasture and cut the twine and dump the hay over the side of the wagon. Then we would go back to house and grandma would have a beef roast with carrots, and potatoes ready for us.
When grandma put a platter of roast beef on the table for Sunday dinner I wanted to stand at attention and put my hand over my heart. It’s that good. BD’s Mongolian Barbeque is a tasty novelty, but it’s not the kind of thing my Grandma would understand. I would drop my chopsticks in a heartbeat for a piece of pumpkin pie, even if I did have to wash it down with grandma’s industrial waste coffee.
Grandma and Grandpa could grow cabbage, too. Grandma had a recipe for vegetable stew that combined almost everything that farm boys in central Ohio love to eat; carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, limas, cabbage and chunks of lean beef. She would make huge vats of it and can it to eat all winter long. It was good immediately but after the whole thing stewed together the flavor tasted like Bluegrass harmony. It just sang. It was folk music for the tummy. I pity kids who have to try to hang on to life eating at Taco Bell and Burger King. It’s just sad.
Good food prepared with thoughtful love is a part of what makes families work. We work to gather it in, we work to prepare it and put it on the table, we gather together and ask the Lord’s blessing. We eat and laugh and argue and banter around the table. It does our hearts good. And then we clean up and put things away. Decades later the memory is still warm in our hearts. It nourishes our bodies, our hearts and our souls.