Bread and Butter Days by Trisha Faye
The joyous October days are here. I sit in front of the computer with the windows open and a light breeze drifting through. After months of having the house shut up in an effort to escape the scorching Texas summer, the fresh – cooler – air is refreshing.
The nights have dropped to a pleasant 60 and 70 degrees. The daytime temperatures are tolerable. Events throughout north Texas escalate as people now enjoy the pleasant temperatures before the coldness of winter settles in.
Looking at my calendar for the month, I see I need to plant my garlic and wildflower seeds this month. This makes me think of our ancestors and how they would have been spending their October days. In days when most families had to grow their food, this still would have been a busy month. Although August and September were typically the busiest of the gardening/harvesting/preserving months, October didn’t really lighten up much.
By now the potatoes were usually harvested. Most of the tomatoes and cucumbers were canned and sitting in glass jars in a variety of different forms, ready to provide sustenance through the winter and early spring months. Peas and green beans, too, are usually about finished by now.
But harvest isn’t over yet. Now the broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower are gearing up for their bounty during these cooler autumn days. Squashes and pumpkins are ready for harvest. Fall apples grace the trees with their offerings, tempting many a cook to offer the family a fresh baked cobbler or pie before the rest get canned or stored in a cool, dark fruit cellar.
To this California girl, transplanted in Texas now, gardening and eating your own homegrown produce is more of a from-days-long-ago venture. Now I’ve planted a lot of gardens and even canned a lot of my own goods – mostly pickles and tomato sauce. But, it’s always been more of an occasional hobby or gardening diversion. I’ve never had to actually feed myself for the rest of the year on what I’d grown … or not grown.
A trip to Iowa in August showed me that plenty of people still produce huge gardens. And, they can and preserve a lot of it.
And, I saw a lot of farms still in action. Although Texas has a lot of farming (much of it hay for cattle), it is nothing compared to the lush verdant fields of Iowa. They have corn fields by the miles. Wheat and hay would be cut and baled by now. Corn, especially grain corn, is still in the last days of harvest. And soybeans are harvested in October.
How spoiled we’ve become in this nation of consumers where we buy almost all their food at the grocery stores. When I want potatoes … I go buy potatoes. I don’t have to check the cellar and hope we still have some, or hope they haven’t spoiled. When I want tomatoes … I go buy some, regardless of what month or season it is. Now, granted, I already know in January or February the hot house tomato I buy will not have the same rich flavor and taste of a summertime garden specimen. But – it is available for a wintertime salad. When I get a hankering for a sweet potato casserole … I run to the store and buy a can. No checking to see if there’s any left. Or even worse – we didn’t grow any last year.
As I was sitting here being thankful for the easy life we have in our meal preparation, a memory just crossed my mind. I’m in Indiana, seeing my Grandma Cline in the process of harvesting garden produce. I picture fresh picked broccoli, sitting in a pot of water with some salt in it, to get the bugs out before she cooks it. I rinse my grocery store broccoli. Or, open the bag of frozen, if fresh isn’t available. But there’s not a slew of bugs to rinse out.
I’ll think of the ‘good ole days’ with fondness. But, I’ll appreciate the easy life I have now, with instant and almost-always-available food, regardless of the season and whether or not I planted any this year.
Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at email@example.com