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‘Farm-to-table’ before it was cool

kitchen at Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair
MEAL WITH MEANING: Add food and farmers, and you would have an old-fashioned threshers’ dinner, an original farm-to-table event. This table is at Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.
Joy’s Reflections: There is nothing new about farm-style dining — other than the names used to describe it by new generations that rediscover it.

Our nonprofit is preparing to hold its big fundraiser for the year. We are calling it a “farm-to-table” event. We’re going to eat outside. We’re going to gather all the food that we can pick, dig and shuck that we’ve been growing in our gardens. We’re going to roast the chickens we’ve raised and bake pies from the fruit we’ve picked. Basically, we’re going to do what people have been doing for hundreds of years — only we’re going to do it with a catchy name.

I find myself almost feeling guilty for calling something a hip and trendy term when we’ve really been farming and tabling all along. The distinct smell of “church basement meets home-cooked food” is forever etched in my taste-bud memory. They were called “pitch-ins” for us, but others have known them as “potlucks.” I don’t care what they’re called, just so there are rows upon rows of homemade food.

The farm-to-table term can mean that someone else prepares the food, such as a local chef. We’ve had that version all along too — when someone else prepares the meal that you just show up for and eat. Usually you’re all dressed up, and it’s called the “after-the-funeral dinner.”

Nothing new but the name
I suppose it’s just the natural bend when folks are starved for experiences that leave them satisfied of belly and brain. It’s good to know that there’s a desire to unplug the electronics long enough to linger and enjoy a dining experience with actual face-to-face encounters.

If I’m not mistaken, that might be traced back to the family dinner table. I suppose once something is scarce enough, it becomes “vintage” and worthy of a million likes on social media by the hipster scene. However we got here, I’ll take it.

I’ll take an evening of rows of tables draped in my old tablecloths while folks line the sides, talking, laughing and enjoying the glorious gift of food. I hope it brings back memories for all of us of church picnics, family reunions and maybe even those funeral dinners, when we realize just how many people care about us in our hour of need.

I’ll call it whatever the hipsters, boomers, millennials, greatest generation, generation X, Y or Z want it to be called if we can step into the community of breaking bread together. Farm-to-table is meant to be an experience, but it’s really just a tweaked version of all the hundreds of years of coming together, talking face to face and sharing the bounty of our blessings.

McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

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