Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Farmgirls rock! I have been visiting MaryJane's farm web pages recently and "chatting" with the girls there. I have found a community of like-minded, but yet diverse, ladies there willing to share recipes, herbal remedies, solutions for garden weeds and bugs, and a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with.

When I think about farmgirls, I keep thinking back to one of my first employers back in the mid 1970's, a wonderful woman by the name of Helen Rieman. She was a farm woman, strong, determined, and smart. She managed a local restaurant in a department store at the mall. She was tall and sturdy and could be quite an imposing figure. The restaurant was famous locally for having a great salad bar with lots of homemade salads, and homemade pies. It was a favorite stop for the ladies who lunched, as well as the people who worked in the mall. I started as a waitress in the coffee shop and then later, during summer vacations, I worked either in the kitchen or as a waitress in the dining room.

I am sure I was hired because my father's farm was about two miles down the road from hers, as a lot of the other women in the restaurant were from the same general area. Helen always said she wanted farm girls working in her kitchen because they knew how to work.

She definitely put us to work, and she taught us a lot. We had an OLD cash register in the coffee shop - I had to hit a separate button for the dollars, a button for the tens of cents, and finally a number for the cents, then push the amount button. It had little flags that mechanically came up in the window for the amount. No electronics then! I particularly remember working on the grill and learning to puff up omelets in the oven. I still cook bacon, when I serve it, the same way she taught us - put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, lay out the bacon in strips, and bake it in the oven. It stays flat and crisps beautifully. (I now lay another sheet of parchment over top to keep my oven from being splattered with grease.)

There were a few older ladies in the kitchen and the dining room - I think they were mostly farmgirls too. But only Ruth was allowed to bake the pies. About the same time that Helen had some health problems and was forced into retirement, the restaurant was closed by the management off on the other side of the state. A lot of people miss that restaurant now. I miss Helen and the community of local farmgirls she helped create.

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