Kim Enge delivers supper to one of the workers. Talk about door to door service!
Say the words “supper in the field” and anyone from Saskatchewan will know you are talking about harvest time on the prairies. While the harvest crew is focussed on getting off the crop, there is another crew operating behind the scenes and their work is just as essential to a successful harvest as those toiling in the fields.
Those gals, and some guys, who make sure the field labourers are properly nourished face long days as well. It’s no easy task feeding anywhere from 5-10 hungry adults, but add to that the logistics of serving meals in the field, and the job becomes extra challenging.
First of all, preparing food that meets the tastes of different individuals is a balancing act. (Although I have to admit, farm workers are your least fussy eaters.) Harvest season is not a time for experimentation. The couscous, radiatore, and black olive sauce are best left for another occasion. Instead, the basics of meat, potatoes and recognizable veggies are much safer choices.
The second challenge is transporting the food to the field and keeping it hot (or at least somewhat warm) in the process. There are different schools of thought on how best to do this. My own mother used to load up all the pots and carefully wrap everything in big towels, but she had only 2 or 3 men to feed (plus us kids-more about that in a moment). But for those feeding a significantly larger number of workers, dishing out the food into serving containers seems to be much, more efficient, particularly when meals have to be dropped off at various locations.
The third issue, for those with young families, is loading up the kids as well as the food. Not only are the little ones excited to make a trek out to the harvesting site, but they also want to eat out there along with the rest of the gang. That means carting along extra food for them, otherwise they will be diving into dad’s plate. (And no dad can refuse his kids, no matter how hungry he might be.)
Finally, it must be noted that farm spouses often handle many jobs during the harvest season. They carry on with all the household chores as well as yard maintenance. They care for babies and toddlers (which is a fulltime job on its own) and get school-aged children ready and out the door each day. Many hold down employment outside of the home and are working hard to advance their own careers. And those who don’t work outside the home are often recruited to run for parts, haul grain or any other job that needs doing. This, I have been told, is more tiring, and sometimes frustrating, than cooking!
I always marvel at the efficiency and organization of these women and men. My mom was a prime example of this. She prepared such scrumptious meals that one hired hand proclaimed that was the main reason he came to work for my dad. She also held down other employment and kept an immaculate home. I remember helping her pack up the supper, getting it out to the field, and then hauling it all home to clean up. (There were no paper plates or Styrofoam cups being used back then.) By the time we finished cleaning up it was well into the evening and she would be preparing the next day’s lunches. I now feel guilty that sometimes I begged off doing dishes because I was too tired, or claimed I had schoolwork to do, while she continued to carry on.
So, hats off, to all the women and men out there, who make sure the field crew is looked after and well fed. May these fall days stay sunny, may your cooking mishaps be few and may your crew have a safe and successful harvest!
The workers are always appreciative of the delicious meals that are brought out to the field.