Whoever decided that Valentine’s Day should be in the middle of February didn’t live on a farm. To be honest, my husband never used to be a supporter of the occasion. He called it a “Hallmark Holiday,” so we didn’t really celebrate it. But as the children got older and public school started making a big deal of Valentine’s Day, I found it wiggling its way into our home life too.
Questions like, “Why doesn’t Daddy get you flowers or take you out for supper for Valentine’s Day?” came up. My answer would be that flowers just don’t grow in the winter. Didn’t they remember Daddy bringing me home those bouquets from the hayfield? They would wonder why I didn’t make a special dessert or something. I suppose children don’t notice that moms and dads who are running a farm on a twohour cow-check schedule don’t really have the time for making a special day out of February 14. Part of the reason we had never made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, was because we believe that it is more important to make your spouse/family feel loved all year than it is to just make a big deal out of one day a year, but their questions made me think.
It is easy on the farm to get so caught up in the drama of the farm itself, we forget to take time for the people. So instead
of not celebrating Valentine’s Day at all, we decided that we should do something that would involve the family and be flexible about when we celebrated. Since baby season on our farm stretches from January to June, flexibility is important.
We decided that instead of doing something that involved just the two of us we would include the children. They deserved to feel special too. Whatever we did had to be at home due to our twohour checking schedules, also. But the question was, what to do? That was how our Pick-a- Country-for-Supper Night came to be.
The first step was to have the family vote on what country they would like to explore the food from. Sometimes we would take a globe or map of the world, pick a person to do the choosing, and proceed as if we were playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The chooser would close their eyes, and wherever
they pointed was where we were going to cook from.
Then we developed a menu from recipes that the children found researching the country. Once we started home schooling, I found these journeys to be an excellent addition to our geography lessons. At times of the year when we weren’t as busy, we could make decorations for the table that reflected the ethnicity of the region. My husband and I used to cook together before farming and children, so we really did enjoy these meals because it was a way to recapture memories we had of our courting days.
As the children have gotten older we don’t have as much together time as a family, and their tastes are getting more adventurous. They have also taken over a lot of the cooking duties. My daughter loves experimenting with curries for example, which she was exposed to on her real-life trip to Wales. Dad has taken over a lot of the grocery shopping duties, which can be a real adventure when he is hunting for obscure spices from faraway countries. All of us have become a lot braver about trying different foods and cooking techniques. Although our cooking roles have changed over the years, what hasn’t changed is the amount of fun we all have when it is time to sit down and take the opportunity to just celebrate being together.
1 large onion
1 c. plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. fresh chopped ginger root Generous pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 lbs. cubed mutton, lamb, goat or beef
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cloves
1-1/2 tsp. coriander ground
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. poppy seeds
2 ripe whole chilies (to personal taste, can substitute chili powder)
1/3 c. butter Salt to taste
Make into paste first six ingredients. We use our stick blender. Add meat and salt, set aside 40 minutes. Simmer, adding water as necessary to just cover meat, until meat is just tender. Make into powder cloves, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and poppy seeds. We use our coffee grinder or stick blender to accomplish this. Set aside. In a deep skillet or dutch oven heat butter. Add bay leaves, chili and meat. Do not add the remaining marinade, this will be needed later. Fry, stirring, on high for seven minutes. Add powdered spices, fry, stirring, on low 2 minutes. Add marinade, cook on low heat until sauce thickens. Serve over white rice, really good over basmati.
I am glad that many years ago our children started questioning our family’s lack of Valentine’s Day celebrations. They were right. It is important for farm families, especially during high-stress times, to be able to shut out the world and enjoy each other. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but I promise the memories of these times is what will keep your family together when times get tough over the years.
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It is easy on the farm to get so caught up in the drama of the farm itself, we
forget to take time for the people