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Something sacred about getting food to the table

Marie Johnson

Now I’m down to 16 head, but soon I’ll have a freezer full of beef. Good thing beef is easy to prepare. When I had a roommate in the city, I would tell her I was going to make dinner and she would say, “OK, I’ll go get the towel wet,” and then she would proceed to wrap the wet towel around our apartment’s smoke detector while I cooked.

My 10-year-old son has told me it’s just not in my blood to cook. He said, “I know you want to mom, you just can’t.”

We made it through the holidays, though, because the relatives asked me to bring salad for dinner. Maybe greens are the only thing I am good with.

The few cows I have left get all excited when they see me at the managers feeding. Unlike my family, they are glad to see me putting food in front of them. They don’t care how it gets there, they are just glad to get a meal and come running, kicking up their heels. I wish my family had the same philosophy. They may not recognize dinner, but they still need to eat. I’m not sensitive about cooking critiques. Even my dog has turned his nose away from scraps of some of my carefully prepared dinners, and I’ve seen what that dog drags into the yard to chew on.

Food is a pretty precious commodity. A fascination to some folks, some can’t eat fat, some can’t eat sugar, some can’t eat carbohydrates or fruits or vegetables. Seems like people attack food as if it is an enemy, not a gift to be appreciated.

And I’m just as guilty as anyone is of its abuse. I use food for comfort as well as nutrition. I should consider exercise as a stress reliever, but running doesn’t offer me the same pleasure as milk chocolate melting on my tongue, or 50 sit-ups replacing cream in my tea.

Since most of us don’t make our own food, we forget what goes into getting it to the table, no matter what it looks like. But recently the importance of food and the struggles involved in harvesting it for consumption were accented to me by a discovery in our haystack. My husband found it first and was so struck by it, he called me over to see it for myself. I was fascinated by the sight and thought people’s finicky attitudes about food suddenly trivial.

In the haystack, we had uncovered a mouse’s cache of seeds. Thousands, possibly millions, of seeds piled up in the corner of a bale – a mound of clean gray, black, brown and green seeds secured from sagebrush and grasses. When I scooped them up for a better look, they filled the palms of my gloved hands. Little beads of food a family of mice had collected for the winter. I felt a tinge of regret moving the hay away, imagining the time and energy it takes a mouse to carry thousands of seeds no bigger than a pen tip up eight tiers of stacked hay and hide it in a corner. The risk of hawks, coyotes, cats, owls, the cold wind, rain and snow braved for food. It was with a resigned attitude I moved the hand full of seeds to another stack of hay. We kept loading the feed truck.

There is something sacred about getting food to the table. Even if the hard work is recognized, it doesn’t guarantee success.

n Marie Johnson is a Fredericksburg, Calif., resident and is married to Kent Neddenriep. They have two sons, Kyle, 10, and Bradley, 7. Her column, “Fence lines,” appears once a month.