Picture this…a large, high ceilinged old-school gathering room…a former gym or cafeteria. A grassy ball field is easily visible through the window-lined north wall. The brightness from these, and the hum of a zillion ceiling fans on high speed is the first thing that grabs your attention. Then your eyes travel to the smaller than standard rectangular tables dotting the room in no particular order. Each one is covered with the darlingest cotton tablecloth–all pastels, some plaids, some flowered…a variety of old-fashioned charm topped with a mason jar of fresh wildflowers, salt & pepper, and a saucer of butter.
Pretty soon, a bevy of aproned farmwives are hustling around with large pitchers of sweet tea and water, and the two long tables below the stage area are gradually covered with foods. Hearty foods, that feat of mid-western women that for years has been an expected requirement. Whether for threshing crews, their own men, or church potlucks…these women know how to feed a crowd.
With main dishes of homemade chicken and noodles atop mashed potatoes (might it interest you to know that the noodles took the entire previous day to prepare…yes, even till midnight), or eight large meatloaves such as we fixed last night, and sides galore from potato casseroles to baked macaroni and cheese, cooked veggies and always two tire sized bowls full of garden fresh salad alongside a large tray of thick-sliced homemade whole grain bread. Mmm. Veggies all organic…straight from the head cook’s garden. Romaine and spinach, zuchini, onions, radishes, carrots…made a super-colorful salad. A five gallon bucket full of beets appeared, causing the skeptic in me to cringe. We filled a sink with the things and scrubbed each one, then boiled them till the skins fell off…melted real butter on them and they were the first food to disappear from the lunch table!
The college kids we fed were from all over the USA, here for a week long conference put on by an environmentally friendly institute. Nice people, au natural somewhat…loving their veggies and beer (nope we didn’t serve that), very appreciative of everything. Ladies mostly devoid of make-up, deoderant, and several apparantly with an aversion to razors! But tattoos were okay…
Anyhow, I digress…10 hours of cooking with 4 other women and 2 male dishwashers. I think I know now what a ship’s galley must look like, long and narrow with elbow space at a premium…but how nice to make a mess and hand it off to a man with a soapy sink whose only job is to keep those dishes coming back clean! The only electricity we had was at one end of the kitchen away from the counters…Wish you could have seen the shelves lined with loaves of wheat bread and rolls, cookies, and the six loaves of banana/pineapple bread that I stirred up by hand as supper foods were being carted out to the big room.
Amazing what goes into keeping a group of fifty people happy and fed for a week. I loved my day of it, so did my oldest who pitched in by washing veggies, separating onion rings for salad, stirring the simmering gooseberries (yep, for cobbler…had cherry cobbler too, and chocolate sheet cakes), carrying refill pitchers, sweeping…and innumerable other tasks. There is just something spiritual about a group of women in an agricultural community gathering to create meals. By spiritual, I don’t mean religion, rather–a spirit of fun, of a common goal, a shared satisfaction in what we were accomplishing. We identified.
I’m sure this sounds silly, women all over are working together every day on the job and here I am raving about it like it’s a new discovery. It’s the pioneer spirit of it I think. Can you imagine what the first Rosie Riveter’s must have thought, taking the places of father/husband/boyfriend in the factories during the war? A noble sacrifice. Woman power, in its innocent days.
It’s a good thing. But it’s the best thing, to arrive home to my hubby of 13 years sitting at the kitchen table with my six yo on his lap…to hear the running feet of my toddler and her “Hi Mommy! Hi Mommy!” as she smacks into my knees and hugs them tight. To fill her hungry tummy up with leftover meatloaf and scalloped potatoes and do all the mommy-things that Daddy’s neglect in favor of all the daddy-things they’re so good at. Getting to wash a baby up for bedtime, see their sleepy relief at clean diaper and PJ’s, to loosen curly hair and hand over a special blankie. To sing that favorite song, get that last wet kiss and a quiet, “Nite Mommy”…
That’s woman power to me.