Farm Progress

Home Front: Mealtime looks different from household to household.

3 Min Read
father and son standing in field

In print, quite frequently, the Home Front column is adjacent to a page featuring a delicious-looking recipe. I’ve been known to cut out that recipe with great intentions of giving it a try. Did you catch the operative word? “Intentions.” Deep inside me lies the hope, the desire, to make delicious, nutritious meals three times a day. But, alas, it is buried deep, deep, deep inside.

My mom was a good cook and so was Kendra’s, but their meals differed somewhat. One difference between the two was quantity. When I joined Kendra’s mom and dad for dinner, Ruth would serve four pork chops, or four hamburgers or four steaks … one for each.

My mom, on the other hand, cooked in large quantities. After all, you never knew who might join us. And furthermore, the odds were great we’d been outside all morning — with the hogs or in the field — working hard and in need of a few extra calories for survival.

Yes, quantity was one difference. Another was in the choice of menu. Did you notice John mentioned “four steaks”? Steaks were not one of the choices on his mom’s menu. There were other things available to make sure everyone was well-fed. In fact, dessert was always a part of the meal, and it was typically a choice of delicious pies.

None of that at my house. Mom would say, “There’s fruit, and I think maybe a Heath bar on the counter behind the kitchen door.”

In our courting days, it never occurred to me to check out Kendra’s culinary skills. I simply assumed she would be a good cook like her mom and mine. I was mistaken. Cooking and eating were on the list of necessities, but Kendra’s interest level was very low.

Between farming with my dad and flying for the U.S. Air Force Reserves, I wasn’t much help in the kitchen. So, with three growing boys, Kendra found herself faced with the majority of the responsibility for the meals.

John may not have vetted me in regard to my talent in the kitchen, but my mother knew what he was getting in that department. She knew, and it worried her. I’m not sure if she felt John was in a life-threatening situation (pretty dramatic, I know), or if she just felt sorry for him, but she came up with an answer.

My mom gave me a cookbook — one which she created. She chose various meals she knew John and I both enjoyed and broke down the instructions so even a child (hers, in particular) could whip up a great (OK, more-than-adequate) meal. I always said she had gone to all this trouble because she was concerned about John’s well-being.

Obviously, he has survived, even thrived, with me in the kitchen for many years. And occasionally I surprise both of us by actually giving one of the recipes I cut from Prairie Farmer a try.

Our middle son described it best when one day he heard me telling someone I was a bad cook. “Mom,” Aaron said, “you’re not a bad cook, you’re a disinterested cook.” Thanks, Aaron. I’ll take that upgrade!

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email [email protected], or visit

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