Sunday, January 15, 2006

Meet the guy

Tractor Man
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Who turned me into a "foodist".

Prior to meeting him, I thought food came from the grocery store. Silly me. I had visited the dairy in 3rd grade, saw them milk cows, had an ice cream and got a Geraldine the Cow booklet to color, but other than that I didn't know anything about farming.

My mom was a single parent for most of my growing up years. Her idea of dinner was to run to the local hamburger stand and pick up ten hamburgers for a dollar on 'special night'. Before I was in high school I had never had spaghetti, tacos or any other international cuisine. I had tasted pizza on occasion when a boyfriend of my mom's would come by. Pepperoni was as exotic as it got.

My grandmother was a good baker. She was married to an Englishman however, flavor was an afterthought most of the time. His favorite condiment was Worcestershire sauce. On everything. We liked her goulash because it had stewed tomatoes in it.

But I digress. When I moved from the city to the country in high school I was amazed at what people grew and ate. I was living in the heart of farm country. Fruit trees, citrus, rows and rows of strawberries, melons of every kind and squash. Miles of squash. Corn, tomatoes, and all kinds of other wonderful things to eat. Incredible! People actually got paid to grow stuff.

I know this sounds simplistic. But, heck it was the late 60s, farms were usually miles from nowhere. Now I lived in a community of farmers! The guy pictured above is the first real farmer I'd ever met. He happened to be the father of the guy I married. (yes incredible as it sounds I married my high school sweetheart and we're still married all these years later) I have talked with you guys before about my father-in-law here, or maybe at the other blog, but he was the hardest working man I ever came to know.

He was raised with the atittude of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." every meal at their table was filled with fresh fruit, excellent meat, always biscuits on the table and of all things - I never understood - a raw onion so you could peel off a wedge and eat it with everything else. I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent with them. As soon as dinner was over a sort of assembly line was set up and husband and wife packed the leftovers in trays for individual meals for later use. I had never seen anything like it. He could fix anything. Cars, trucks, plumbing, septic systems, roofs, plastering, framing - oh heck, you name it. Resourceful was his middle name. He was from Oklahoma, had a sixth grade education, raised two great men, and earned my respect forever.

By the time I graduated his hard working wife found a deal on a small truck farm and bought it without his knowledge. She knew he'd hedge and worry so she just did it. From there forward, he farmed his on 2.5 acres and fed him and his wife well enough and became independent of his employers. He grew the best tomatoes anyone could buy. He also had rows of melons, okra, black eyed peas, collard greens and occasionally a small bit of polk salad. (I thought Credence made that up!)

Farming was what he did. It was all he thought of everyday, all day. He also had grapevines, apricots trees and a pecan tree. Each item he grew was meticulously cared for, harvested and sold or canned for family use.

Truck Farm

I asked him one afternoon while he was working in the field if I could take a few photos of him working. He thought I was crazy. Why would anyone want pictures of him working? Well, I'm glad I took them. I owe him a debt of gratitude for placing me on a path of enjoying food - not just eating it - but studying where it comes from, how it's processed, and the people that do all that hard work so we can enjoy a meal.