What was in the big box wrapped in shiny candy-cane colored paper, encircled with glittery ribbon, and topped with a pretty bow? Waffle iron?
Food processor? Juicer? Mixer? And we ask: what — and be honest here — was your reaction? “Just what I wanted!” or “Are you kidding me?”
Depending on the answer, you either dashed to make room on your counter top for the new kitchen gadget or you darted, gift receipt clutched in hand, to a store’s return line.
For those who embraced food-related gifts, particularly products that promote green guardianship of Planet Earth, we say well done, splendid. Now, here’s the skinny on this topic. Scratch that. Here comes — what else would you expect after chowing down on cookies, cheese balls, fudge — the big butt, and yes we do mean butter ... we do so hope that you did not receive a butter-making machine. Bread machine? Sure, we can (sort of) accept that, but a fancy schmancy butter-making machine?
One that costs, say, more than $200? Oh, golly Molly. We used a butter- making machine for eons on our family’s farm in Henry County. The machine, with its glass container, butter bowl, and accessories, likely cost a few dollars brand new (a used butter-making machine is going for about $220 online). And here, we would guess, is the reason for the price difference: we had to work, and we had to take time, to turn the crank to churn the butter.
There was no app for that. These newfangled foodie machines? Careful, careful, do not overdo it and pull a muscle when you plug it in and press a button. Sure, we celebrate efforts to make your own food, to grow your own fruits and vegetables, and to raise your own chickens and cows.
But some of these Back to the Future gee-whiz gadgets and gizmos resemble high-tech toys, pretty nifty if you plan to pretend to play Mr. (or Ms.) Green Jeans. As 2013 ends, and a new year begins, I am going back, and perhaps you will, too. Back, at least in some fashion, to the way generations before us fended for themselves when it came to food. Those folks were "locavores" long before someone invented the trendy name for people who are taking a shine to locally raised food. Think plant-to-plate, field-to-fork. Eat local, change global.
The year 2014 will find our family going back — whole hog, as they say — to the land, to the family farm. The garden area has been expanded. Heirloom seeds already ordered and delivered. Plans are being considered to turn the pool shed into a chicken coop.
The ever-growing to-do list includes pruning trees in the orchard. Jams and jellies will be made as seasons progress. Tomatoes canned, fresh eggs gathered.
Will it be fun? Certainly. Will it be a lot of hard work with some complaints? Of course, which explains the farm's official name: Belly Acres, a tribute to our parents who always threatened to paint that name on the side of the barn. As we usher in 2014, the first year on the farm without Mom and Dad, we remember our roots. We treasure our rural traditions.
Now, back to those Christmas gifts. I unwrapped a waffle iron. Before I plug it in, some chores to tackle: Milk the cow. Skim the cream. Churn the butter — by hand, not by the press of a button.
With homemade hard cider, a toast to all: Happy New Year.
Contact Janet Romaker at