September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Sitting down at the table

By Kelli [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Growing up on our 50-cow dairy in southern Wisconsin there was one household activity that happened every day without fail: We sat down at the kitchen table before the evening milking at about 5:30 p.m. and ate supper (and yes, it was supper and not dinner).
My mom, with her excellent coordinating skills, would have the entire meal ready and piping hot all at the same time. Supper almost always consisted of meat (mostly from our own Holstein steers), potato and a vegetable. Or, if I had my way, we would have spaghetti.
Looking back I am surprised how wonderfully predictable it all was. At about 5:20 my mom would go open the front door of our house, place two fingers in her mouth and give the loudest whistle you have ever heard (a skill I have never been able to master) and Dad would give a holler back that he heard her. I hated it when he didn't respond because that meant I would be sent out to look for him. And if he wasn't within easy earshot of the house doing chores that usually meant something went wrong and he would be in, shall we say, a less than chipper mood.
Within 10 minutes he would be at the back door. If we had the exhaust fan near the stove on, he would guess what we were having as he came in the door. He would unlace his work boots without untying them. He washed up in the big, deep sink next to the washing machine using plenty of soap and water but still somehow leaving dirt on the towel when he dried his hands.
If we had pork chops we had mac and cheese with it. If there were cheeseburgers there were French fries. If there was a roast there were boiled or mashed potatoes. If there was that mysterious thing called "Spamburgers" my dad was fond of, I was eating a bowl of cereal. We drank Kool-aid and lemonade in the summer, and milk in the winter.
My mom was not, and still is not, a fancy cook, but she is a very good cook. I owe most of my ability to whip out meals without stressing about it to her. We had things like barbeque ribs slowly cooked until the meat fell off the bones, steaks broiled to perfection and real mashed potatoes. There were fresh things from the garden that I did not fully appreciate as a child, and milk straight from the bulk tank (that was the time before people worried about the evils of raw milk).
After supper, my sister or I would do the dishes as Mom and Dad finished up a cup of coffee, or sometimes we would wait to clean up until after they had gone out to milk. As I got older I often made supper, taking pride in being able to put it all together like my mom.
I am not sure I can ever remember her serving us burnt food, but a sensitive smoke alarm in the kitchen went off often enough for us to joke that "dinner was ready when the smoke detector went off."
I remember when I was in high school, somebody came out with a public service announcement ad campaign about how families should eat meals together. I was very confused by this. How in the world did people eat supper if not together, gathered around the kitchen table?
I now am old enough to realize that not everyone is given this gift. There are plenty of families out there that never sit down together and eat food that was prepared just for them with a loving touch. There are even children out there who don't have enough to eat.
My husband, children and I sit down for an evening meal together as often as we can. I am thankful to be able to pass the importance of this time of day on to them, and hope they will someday pass it down to their own children.
This Thanksgiving I'd like to say thanks to my mom for all the great meals, and all the love she put into them. 
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