I have to think that anybody who has any attachment or connection to a farm has heard of the dinner bell or maybe has even heard it ring in reality. We just like every farm in the neighborhood had a dinner bell. Yes, I have heard it rung for lunch a few times. A couple times from my mother and a couple of times from my wife Sharon. All of the times rang were more just to say it had been used and they had done it. When it was rung it brought up memories from a time even before me. Back when farmers really did depend on that sound to tell them it was time to come to the house and take a break from their toils to sit down and enjoy a lunch.
To me the recalling of a bell was from an age old tradition, a part of which brings me to the topic of the farmers’ wife and the high quality meals routinely placed on the table daily. A meal of a quality few see today but a part of just a routine day just like the ringing of that bell. I was fortunate to have grown up in the era of the 1950s, 60s and even the 70s… an era of the last of the home cooked meals which were fed to a hired farm hand resembled more of a feast than just a meal.
My mom was a meat and potatoes type cook and she was good at supplying a large amount of food to eat. She would deliver a meat entrée with lots and lots of vegetables, potatoes and lots of yeast rolls and homemade bread to fill the belly of a worker who had labored hard all morning and would do the same after lunch.(if he hadn’t over eaten) Lots of carbs and sugars to keep a man full of fuel to complete a hard day’s work. She was by no means the only farmer’s wife to deliver on a high quality meal. I can think of so many ladies who could and would give a work crew a homemade, high quality tasting meal and would do so day after day.
We hired many men as farm hands to help in hay and tobacco as we raised a lot of both. But when we were done I then became the hired hand for other farmers so I could earn pocket money and help them out. Looking back I now realize that I might have picked those I helped by the quality of how good their wives cooked. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing but I do connect the quality of the food to the persons, places, and why I worked for folks. If I was guaranteed a great meal the odds were I became a more loyal hand to them. I never minded working hard and long hours as long as I got paid. But I think this in some way connected to what kind of meal I was to receive.
Yes, I have worked for farmers who feed lunch meat, chips, and pop for our meal, but as you can tell I remember that meal and not fondly. But working for my Aunt Margaret, Cousin Lydia, Louis Maus and Eva Jennings, to name but just a few, bring back some of the best memories a person can ever have. Just ask any man who has put their feet under the table of a quality farmers wives’ meal and I bet you that person will recall how good it was and how good a place in their memory it fills in. I know I can recall some memories just from what was presented as such a thing as a meal.
I know I have had many guys who worked for me tell me all about the meals mom served. In her case her home brewed iced tea seems to be a big item to them( I took it for granted). Each cook had an item that a person can and will recall. I feel in the past generation a couple things have happened. One thing is hay is mostly done in the big bale and not a square bale. Tobacco has become a crop disappearing as the cash crop for the majority of the farmers. The need for farm hands has shrunk drastically. The farmer’s wife now works away from the farm in order to have a job that offers health insurance. All of the above have had a part in the change of how farming is done today. It is not a bad thing, just different.
Like the dinner bell it still exists but the need for it has disappeared. So is the need for a farmers’ wife to dedicate all her time to taking care of the house and cooking for a large crowd every day. So yes I am glad I worked for these ladies who made any of those chefs on TV be ashamed at what they think is great. I am glad my mom and my wife Sharon rang the dinner bell so I can say I heard the ringing of a time that was passing. Timing is everything and in this case I timed it right!