by Linda Halley | Having felt robbed by the pandemic of Thanksgiving, and fearing Christmas was shaping up to be the same, I settled down to a deep winter dinner, made by me, for me. On the longest night of the year, though alone in the house, I would feel surrounded by my friends who helped make the meal possible.
A slice of sourdough whole wheat rests on the cutting board, spread generously with deep yellow butter. Thank you, Charlie, who milled the wheat, and Stephen, who baked the bread. Thank you, Pete and Pat, the draft horses who patiently pulled the grain drill to sow the Turkey Red wheat. Thank you, Westby Co-op dairy farmers whose cows turned grass into cream for the butter.
Piled high is the salad plate, a tossed jumble of red and green, lettuces, arugula and snipped cilantro. Thank you, Kaylee and Collin, who picked and washed the greens. I see you both bent over the rows of butter lettuce in the snug and sunny hoop house, snowmelt dripping from the hip boards.
Inside the oven bubbles the golden scalloped corn. I crack open the oven door and its sweet aroma fills the kitchen. Thank you, my son, picker of the corn, coming up the walk with arms filled and a smile warmer than the August sun. Thank you, black hen. I remember the smooth, still-warm egg gathered from the straw nest yesterday, beaten and mixed with the yellow kernels just an hour ago. Such a short, delicious path from coop to oven. I can only pretend the egg was from my favorite Australorp hen, odds not in my favor.
I lift the lid on the dutch oven revealing bright carrots, tawny fingerlings and a browned pot roast simmering in a rich broth. Laurel and Benjamin, thank you for planting, cultivating and harvesting the carrots that I doubted would ever size up. Ezequiel, I am thankful for your long hours washing and sorting potatoes when the days were warmer and longer. Thank you, Ryan, for tending to the pastures, offering them up to the beef cattle when both plants and animals needed each other most.
What a meal! But dessert awaits. Pears, canned by Ryan’s wife, Barb, coated in warm apple brandy and cream. Deirdre and John, thank you for the entrepreneurial spirit to turn your organic apples into Wisconsin brandy. Thank you, Barb, for your tireless preservation of nature’s bounty and the generosity to share with those around you.
Thank you to the water, the sunshine and the soil, without which all efforts would be for naught. My body is nourished now by the hands of my family and friends. My soul is nourished with each utterance of “Thank You. Thank you. Thank you.”
Thank you, too, for the possibility of a very different year in 2021.
Linda Halley is the General Manager of Gwenyn Hill Farm in Delafield Township and enjoys cooking in the remodeled, nineteenth century Ed William’s farmhouse on Bryn Drive.