Farm and Gastronomy: Vacation Essentials: Jar of Mayonnaise, “Light Breakfast,” Butter | Agriculture

Each of my parents had an unwritten list of essentials to pack when our family – of, holy cow, eight – left the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth on our annual August vacation.

For example, my mother never crossed the state line without a wide-mouthed quart pot filled with soapy water and a washcloth so she could keep her children “presentable”, presumably in car accident case.

I can’t count the number of times my face has been scrubbed with a cold, soapy washcloth from a recycled mayonnaise jar.

Also, Mom always packed an oilcloth tablecloth in case we stopped to eat in the middle of nowhere after leaving home in the middle of the night to arrive in the middle of Missouri or Kentucky or Tennessee two hours early. .

But there was never really a “just in case”. Every year, on the first morning of the holidays, we would stop at a park for a “light breakfast” prepared by mom. Light meant everything except fattened veal: two kinds of coffee rolls and cake, boiled eggs, summer sausages, cheese, a thermos of coffee, a jug of milk, jelly, butter and silverware.

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Every year it happened the same way: even before the car came to a complete stop, Mom would get out of the front seat of the car with the tablecloth in one hand and the jug of soapy water in the other.

Since we were often on vacation with my grandparents, Grandma would usually arrive a few minutes later to perform the same tablecloth-mayonnaise-pot motion within seconds of Mom’s.

For his part, dad never went on vacation without his fishing equipment in perfect condition. He spent one night the week before slowly emptying his tackle box of dried minnows from the previous year and “repacking” – putting on new fishing line – his best reels.

It was a religious experience for him because, like baptism, this singular immersion in all that provided for the salvation of fish – a week’s reprieve, anyway – of 100 Holsteins, three hired men and endless acres of corn , weedy soybeans and unmown fallow.

Dad was almost as witty as he found himself with his most sacred possession, an early 1950s Johnson 5hp outboard motor that would put him in a 16ft tempered wooden fishing boat around a lake of state park in search of its great white whale. , a bucket of black crappie.

To prepare it, he had to attach it to a 55 gallon oil drum which he had cut off the top and filled with water. After playing with that button and that valve, he would pull the string and — blub, blub, blub — it would go off and his broad, “I’m a kid again” smile would appear.

My four brothers and I also had a ritual; we fought over what clothes to take because we had to share a suitcase with five people. Mom often settled the Civil War by reminding us that everything we took had to be “washed in the lake” because she didn’t do laundry on vacation. This limited our already limited wardrobe to cut off jeans and flip flops.

I don’t remember bringing any coolers other than the flimsy polystyrene ones that had a shorter lifespan than a mosquito. I remember Dad buying blocks of ice for a cooler—maybe it was a tub—that carried the necessities of the week like milk for us, butter for Mom, and Busch Bavarian for himself.

The best part of the whole vacation, however, was the evening of the last day. About an hour before arriving home, Dad would stop at a drive-in restaurant and order burgers, fries, and chocolate milkshakes for everyone. What a treat.

Perhaps the most remarkable ritual of all was the fact that we – eight of us in a plush, stuffy station wagon – even went on a week-long vacation every August. I had few farmer friends who could make the same statement. How did mom and dad do it?

If you asked them, I’m pretty sure the answer would start with, “Well, get yourself a wide-mouth jar of mayonnaise.” »

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