The Farm Lunch: An Agricultural Necessity

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Carol Ann Sayle


I'm big on lunch.

Not so much on breakfast however. I used to be big on breakfast—it was my favorite meal—but I soon realized that being big on breakfast made me potentially bigger than I wanted to be.

It was because of the biscuits.

When farmhands and I work as hard as we do, we need some substance at lunch.

Forty years ago, when I was a young wife and mother, I made biscuits, but usually not very well. I was so clueless about the chemical reactions pertaining to flour, baking powder, and the other basic ingredients that I resorted to cheating with Bisquick (a box of dry ingredients—just add liquid) for my experiments.

The "drop biscuits" discussed on the back of the box, however, seemed a poor facsimile of biscuits, and I was continually frustrated in further attempts to make a real biscuit (flat and round, but not so hard that it could crack the sheetrock if heaved).

Later, fueled by my second husband's love of biscuits, especially those remembered from his Nanny's table (she cheated by using lard!) I became a bona fide from-scratch biscuit enthusiast and narrowed my failures to just now and then. The missteps were usually the result of too much loving on the dough—which caused toughness—and butter instead of lard. But at least butter was much better, and sexier, than the oleomargarine, which had replaced the evil lard in the era of my childhood.

Enough biscuit practice, unfortunately, can make, in addition to a happy man, every breakfast a fattening experience. Suspecting that refined flour is the direct path to almost every disease currently under discussion, I have not let a biscuit come out of this kitchen since we started farming. That's 20 years without a homemade biscuit.

I can still taste them. Umm ... hot, flaky, tender, slathered with butter and honey or strawberry preserves....

Even so, in my line of work, it's not hard to give up the American breakfast. To encourage vegetables to grow and be fruitful, one must bend over frequently. A big breakfast, then a morning full of semi-handstands, is not a good combination for me. So, while reading the morning paper, I have my coffee and some dollops of my homemade kefir, and that's enough to keep the creatures living in my gut happy for a few hours. Around mid morning, I have a handful of nuts, or some unpasteurized kimchi, and then I'm good until our farm lunch.

After that quasi-monk food, I'm big on the farm lunch.

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Carol Ann Sayle

I come inside the farm house kitchen about 30 minutes ahead of the interns and prepare at least two simple courses: a sauté or a soup, and a salad—or if there's leftover soup, perhaps all three. I use produce that failed the cosmetic goals for market, or whatever was left over from yesterday's market. Often a bit of grass-fed meat or farmstand cheese, sometimes quinoa—mostly just vegetables and lots of greens—but definitely, a full plate of food.

When farmhands and I work as hard as we do, we need some substance at lunch. That is an agricultural necessity with a long history—the farmwife always cooked up a robust lunch—but this farmwife is also a farmer, so the cooking can't take all morning! I ring the painted rooster bell on the porch, and the interns wash up and settle in, just like in the old days.

The tradition almost makes me want to throw on some biscuits too! But no. They are now only a fond (fattening) memory.

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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