I remember as a child my parents didn’t have extra money for new shoes or the new Barbie doll I just thought I needed, but I don’t ever remember feeling hungry. My belly was always full and our cupboards were always stocked.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood that my parents knew the secret behind “food independence.” My parents grew up in the era where providing food for your family was an everyday occurrence…not one that could be fulfilled by running to the grocery store.
I was born in 1962 and raised on a small farm in rural Northwest Pennsylvania. I was born at the onset of fast food and prepackaged meals, but it was way into the 70’s before I ever saw my first TV dinner. For us, supper always consisted of meat, potatoes, bread and butter, and a vegetable. Once in a while Mom would surprise us with a big pot of pasta, but for the most part every meal was grown, canned and frozen right from the fields that surrounded our farm. Saturday night always meant a big bowl of popcorn that we husked ourselves and Sunday always meant roasted chicken and dessert. To this day roasted chicken reminds me of my mother in the kitchen with her apron on.
There were four of us kids, plus Mom and Dad so there were always plenty of hands to pull weeds, peel potatoes, feed animals, chop wood and gather eggs. Our farm was not big, but there were always chickens, geese and ducks running around, cows in the pasture and pigs in the barn. We grew sweet corn, picked apples and plums off the trees in our yard and forged the woods for wild blackberries and strawberries every year.
I can’t remember having store bought vegetables in the house since we always ate what was in season. Spring greens and fresh radishes in the spring, new potatoes and peas in late spring, sweet corn and fresh tomatoes in the summer and pumpkin pies and acorn squash smothered in butter and brown sugar in the fall. A smorgasbord of wonderful flavors to look forward to every year.
Every fall Mom would scour the garden for the last of the green tomatoes and apples from the trees to make her famous mincemeat pie filling. I don’t like mincemeat, but I can still remember the wonderful aromas that filled the kitchen when she made it.
Fall also meant Dad would have grapes fermenting into sweet grape wine. It wasn’t until I was an adult before I could enjoy the sweet flavor of those fall grapes, but I vividly remember him and his friends enjoying it quite often sitting around the kitchen table.
My parents no longer plant a garden and rely on my brother to share his garden with them, but they still live in the same house and they still know the importance of food independence. I never have to worry about my parents going hungry. Their pantry is still always stocked and they always have plenty when any of us kids stop by.
I am very thankful my father taught me how to garden and my mother taught me how to can…where would I be today without these basic skills?
Oh that’s right...I would be relying on the grocery store and not striving for food independence.
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