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Farmer's breakfast not as traditional as before
Ah, the American farm breakfast. Perfectly fried eggs, sizzling bacon, hot biscuits topped with homemade gravy. Then there's the farmer, up before the sun, eating a hearty helping so that he can put in another long day in the fields.
So, is this really how farmers spend their mornings, or is the big farm breakfast a thing of the past?
In Yuma, we're more likely to see hundreds of workers tending to massive fields rather than a lone farmer on a tractor. But smaller farms are still around, and although breakfast is an important meal, what's on their kitchen table might not always be what we imagine.
For example, Roll farmer Kent Murdock is definitely up before dawn. Instead of settling down for breakfast right away, though, he prefers to work a few hours before coming in for fare that doesn't need a frying pan.
“What I eat mostly is shredded wheat (cereal).”
Fresh fruit mixed in with a cold or hot bowl of cereal gives Murdock enough energy until lunchtime, when he likes to go to a local restaurant. Farming since he was 7, a heaping plate of eggs and ham was never his family's tradition, he said.
Murdock, who tends 1,500 acres, has seven workers who help him in the fields. Eating a hearty breakfast before sun-up was more important years ago when farmers did most of the labor themselves, he said.
Bea Thornton was one such farmer's wife for nearly 20 years in Midland, Texas. Almost every morning, she was up at 5, cooking a big breakfast for her husband. He would be out the door by daylight.
“There was no going back to bed,” she said with a laugh. “We had three kids.”
Theirs was a traditional farm breakfast: fresh ham or sausage, eggs and hot biscuits with homemade jelly or gravy, and sometimes syrup. Much of what they ate came from the farm rather than a grocery store. She churned her own butter, and killed and plucked the chicken they ate for dinner.
“We cured our own hog and our own beef,” Thornton said.
There were farmhands and family to help out, but Thornton's husband put in long hours and did much of the work himself, making a filling breakfast all the more important.
Clyde Sharp, who farms 2,200 acres in Roll, is up before the rooster crows but, like Murdock, prefers to spend several hours in the fields before eating his first meal.
“My wife doesn't like to get up that early,” said Sharp, who sets out by 4:30 a.m. Plus, when it's that early, he just doesn't feel hungry, he said.
Age 69 with no plans to retire, Sharp's day still requires a lot of exercise, whether it's making the rounds or making repairs.
“You never know what equipment may or may not break down.”
He sits down for breakfast at about 8 a.m. He typically enjoys a grapefruit, hash browns, one or two fried eggs and a couple of slices of ham or bacon. His workers, he said, eat their breakfast in the fields, usually egg burritos brought from home.
A couple of Sharp's favorite breakfasts are Eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. But even active farmers watch their weight these days.
“You got to be careful how many biscuits and gravy you eat,” he said.
from Bea Thornton
2 cups flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3-4 tablespoons shortening
2/3-3/4 cup milk
1. Sift flour with baking powder and salt.
2. Cut in shortening till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Add milk all at once and mix till mixture follows fork around bowl.
4. Turn out on lightly floured board.
5. Knead gently for about 1/2 minute.
6. Roll or pat 1/2-inch thick.
7. Flour rim of glass or biscuit cutter and cut out biscuits.
8. Put on (ungreased) cookie sheet and bake at 450° for 12 to 15 minutes.