stove food

Field Meals

Saturday at 4:30pm:

Watermelon is cut. Brownies are ready to go in the oven. Lasagna mixture is prepared and ready for me to assemble. And my nerves are high. All week, I’ve been excited, and now nervous, for cooking dinner for the guys in the field. I brought them dinner last week from my son’s preschool fundraiser, but all I had to do was scoop the food into Styrofoam boxes and deliver them, not actually cook the food. Tonight’s mission was a new one for this city-gone-country girl.

My mother-in-law prepares two meals for the guys almost daily: she sends them off with a cold lunch and cooler full of drinks to last them throughout the day, and then she delivers a hot meal to the fields at night along with a restock of drinks. Oh, and there’s almost always a yummy dessert. Usually there’s a pizza night thrown in there as well. How she does it, I don’t know. My sister-in-law also pitches in throughout harvest preparing meals, but my mother-in-law does the majority of the cooking.

Knowing how time consuming cooking is, and cooking for five to six grown men that have labored all day, I figured I’d take the stress off of her by cooking a meal this weekend. Since I’m a full-time teacher with two toddlers at home, and currently without a husband at home to help with the kids, I knew that bringing a meal during the week was out of the question. Now it’s Saturday, and I’ve been dreading cooking all day. The excitement has turned to dread…What if it doesn’t turn out? What if they don’t like it? What if I don’t have enough? I called my husband this morning when he was already in the tractor and said that if it didn’t work out, I’d be stopping by the gas station to pick up pizza on my way to the fields. They’d just have to deal.

I planned to make a new Buffalo Chicken Lasagna recipe I just discovered and serve it with a small salad, fruit, and a bread roll. But then I realized that I’d have to make dessert because they’ve been used to it every night. Let me tell you, they are WELL fed!

My first, and only, time cooking a field meal for my husband was my first harvest on the farm after we were married. I decided to make a linguini with peppers dish: one of my family favorites. I was so excited to cook for my hard-working husband that I hadn’t seen for a few days, that I didn’t even think about the logistics of brining a fancy pasta dish to the field. By the time I was able to get to him in the tractor, the pasta and peppers were cold, the oil was runny, and  he was still hungry. It was a disaster. I never realized that field meals had to be prepared a certain way and could only include certain foods. The meals have to stay warm, still be good if they get cold, be easy for them to eat while they drive equipment, and be filling enough to last them into the long hours of the night. Hmmm…this was much more difficult than I had ever imagined. Again, I’m baffled by how my mother-in-law does it daily.

So now it’s six years later, and I’m trying again. And for the past six years, whenever a field meal has been delivered to me while I’m taking a tractor ride with my husband, I’ve been taking notes on what works for food items. But tonight, I’m not just cooking for him, I’m cooking for all of the farmers and my mother and sister-in-law. My mother-in-law knows exactly who likes what, who will eat what, and each of their favorites. I, however, do not. But I’m thinking, ‘What guy wouldn’t like Buffalo Chicken Lasagna on a beautiful fall evening?!’ I’ll have to let you know…. and if it fails, at least there’s gas station pizza I can pick up on my way. Oh, and warm brownies straight out of the oven.

7:30pm: Mission dinner-in-the-field was a success! Everyone loved the meal. Instead of the typical drive-by-and-pick-up-my-food night, the guys were leaving one field and headed to another, so they took some time to get out of the tractors, combines, and trucks to stand and eat around the back of a pick-up truck. Since tonight was a success, I’m trying to think of the next meal I can take to them: how about fajitas?!…oh, and some type of dessert!

Originally posted October 12, 2013 on Farm Notes from Little Dahinda,  IL

Brett and Krista Swanson

About Krista

Brett and Krista are both the fifth generation in their families to farm. They farm with Brett’s parents and family and live on the farm near Oneida, Illinois, with their three daughters: Bianca, Karina, and Susana, and one son: Brock.

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