Love in a Lunch Pail

I like to eat; it’s a fact. I like food most often found at church potluck which is indicative of my upbringing both as it pertains to faith and to sustenance. There is something deeper about food, however, it’s more about safety and comfort and having enough than just being full. These are feelings most people discover in their mother’s kitchen and are created by the lady in charge, who at our house was my mother, Alice Nelson.


My mom has always been a great cook; she cooked three meals per day from her little kitchen at our farm near Viking for a family of seven which included four boys. Mom made grade school treats, massive holiday suppers and hearty field lunches during harvest; I guess you could say she was a triple threat.


I don’t know if kids bring treats to school on their birthday anymore, I really doubt it. I would guess there is a rule against it because of someone with more time than common sense really wanted to “flex their muscles” at the PTA (does that exist?) meeting. As a child, I would have been a social failure if I hadn’t provided rice krispie bars or brownies for everyone on my birthday. We lived close to town, so my mom would always haul them in so that made the day extra nice.


My mom really showed her character under the primitive conditions of the field lunch- meals prepared at home then delivered to hungry, dusty men busy at harvest. I remember riding out to the field in our old station wagon as a kid and how much fun it was to eat outdoors with all the men. As I grew older and became the baler operator, I remember how much I loved seeing our yellow Ford car come out with lunch. I was like one of Pavlov’s dogs when mom brought out lunch and to this day I still salivate at the sight of a yellow Ford Galaxy 500.


No one packed a lunch like my mom. Viking Elementary occasionally would take us on a trip which required that we eat lunch on the road. I remember very few of the destinations but the lunches were outstanding; fresh buns, summer sausage, cheese, some chips and a sweet. Mom packed lunch in a five quart ice creams pail that held everything in until I pulled off the lid and released a blitz of delicious smells with my nose as the quarterback.


Christmas was was like a Broadway production; my mom worked for days prior to the big supper preparing cookies, colaches, lefse, flat bread and krumkake. Christmas Eve began at noon in the kitchen as painstaking preparation was required so that mom’s stove could make everything ready at the same time. I still love the idea of several different dishes, all with different baking times, finishing at the same time to perfection in one oven because it shows such care and expertise-plus it smells so good. My mom combined foods from the cultures of her childhood and my father’s childhood to create memories of my childhood that I cherish today.


In the end, my mom’s cooking was more than food. I think the more you need something, the more you appreciate the person who satisfies that need. You can’t live long without food so it’s important but I think, for someone like my mom, the food was just the method; what she really was providing was love

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