Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
On Saturday, the alarm clock went off at about 6 a.m. The morning light was muted by the drawn shades and the house lay quiet, devoid of children who were still off at camp.

After reaching across to shut off the offending buzz of the alarm, my husband leaned over and tenderly caressed my shoulder. I felt his breath, hot and heavy, falling on my neck. After kissing me lightly on the cheek, he found my ear and softly murmured, “Happy anniversary.”

I turned to face him. “Happy anniversary to you to, darling.”

“See ya’ sometime.”

And with that he bounced out of bed and headed for the field.

What? You were expecting more? Get real, it’s harvest time.

And it’s time to put up hay, and time to spray the beans, and time to plant….

Let’s just say that the time has come for all good farmers to be out in the field both day and night, which leaves little time-or energy-left for romance. At least of the variety that the world values.

At this time of the year, there are no candlelight dinners, only meals eaten in the shade of an idling combine, our plates lightly dusted with whatever the wind has captured.

But as Keith helps me take pots and pans in and out of the back of the van, he announces to the rest of the family work crew, “Here she is, this is my bride and today is our anniversary.”

And before we eat, he leads us in prayer.

At this time of year, there aren’t weekend getaways to secluded beaches with exotic names or cruises on ships laden with hedonistic pleasures, steaming for the crystal waters of the Caribbean.

But my husband will leave the wheat field long enough to get to the baseball field to coach his team of 11- and 12-year-old boys. It’s a commitment that he honors without question; the boys are important to him, and his son wants him to be there.

At this time of year, there is no time to make a date for dinner and a movie, no time to spend together in a little out of the way place, no time to enjoy a concert or a play.

But this past weekend, Keith made time to come to the Tabor dorms to load up Alex and Meg’s camping gear because he didn’t want me to carry their heavy mattresses and fans.

And then he made his way over to the campus where the camp’s closing exercises were being held. He found both of his children in a sea of 300, gave them hugs, and stopped by to say hello to me and his sister, Charlene. And then he was off, back to the harvest.

I was impressed. Not just because he had come to camp to retrieve the kid’s stuff, but he had also taken the time to shower and dress neatly before making his way to town. And he had taken the time to see his family.

At this time of the year, appearance becomes secondary. Shirts and suits with designer labels and spicy sweet colognes lay dormant in closets and on bathroom shelves.The barbershop doesn’t receive any calls and shaving becomes a nuisance.

But even though his farming wardrobe consists of worn shirts and mismatched pants purchased for 50 cents at the Et Cetera Shop, even when he’s covered in a film of dirt and sporting a three-day growth of stubble, I can look at my husband and feel my heart flutter.

On Sunday evening, I was standing in my driveway talking to Becky Lindsay, who had dropped by. Keith had come home long enough to get something to eat and soon he joined us outside before leaving again to move some equipment.

Becky had to laugh at his appearance. He was dressed in his “weekend farming clothes,” as he likes to call them. A striped shirt worn from years of work and hard washing, tucked haphazardly into a pair of somewhat tattered cut-off shorts. Not jean shorts, mind you, but pants that in another life probably went to someone’s office or neighborhood barbecue.

Strapped around his waist was a faded leather belt with its ever-present pliers’ holder. White crew socks tumbled over the edges of his high-topped work boots. His face was unshaven and had been so for several days.

But there was that twinkle in his eye

“There he is, Becky, the man of my dreams.” And I meant every word.

* * *

My friend Donna Jost called the other day wanting to know if I had a recipe for no-bake cookies that didn’t contain chocolate. After a little looking, I came up with these two options for her to choose from. In a matter of minutes-in fact, while I was still on the phone chatting about this and that-she whipped up the peanut butter oatmeal cookies featured below.

“These are good.” Donna exclaimed. “But there must be a million of them.”

“Didn’t I tell you this recipe makes a lot? Now you have enough to share.”

Simple ingredients, no hot oven, minimal effort, big yield. What’s not to love?

Special K Cookies

1 cup white sugar

11/3 cups peanut butter

1 cup white corn syrup

4 cups Special K cereal

1 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

Blend sugar, syrup, vanilla* and salt in a two-quart microwave safe dish. Cook on high four minutes, or until mixture boils and sugar dissolves. Stir in peanut butter, then add cereal. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool.

*I add the vanilla when I stir in the peanut butter.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

3 cups white sugar

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

11/2 cup peanut butter

41/2 cup quick cooking oatmeal

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, butter and milk. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and peanut butter. Mix in the oats, stirring until the mixture begins to cool. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool until set.

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