The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

We listen to Park Rapids radio in the morning. They pass along to the interested-I’m-sure public what the school kids there are having for lunch. Hearing about school lunches is kind of a two-way trip down memory lane. Two-way, because One way kind of trades your current problems for those kids’ problems, of which one is surely school lunches; and Two, because you’re kind of glad you’re not there in that lunch line. 

And today they’re having Tater Tots! At the moment I heard that, I realized that I’ve never had Tater Tots. They weren’t invented way back when I, well, way back when. Hadn’t had them then; haven’t had them since. Are they good?  No? Yes?

So I Googled them. “There is absolutely nothing of dietary value in them!” So says one expert, anyway. And when I read that, I wanted some. I wanted me some Tater Tots. Potatoes and oil. How can that not be wonderful.

So at this age, I still have something to look forward to. 

Growing up on the farm, the fare was plain. Meat, vegetables, and potatoes. I was in my twenties before I had what I guess is called hot dish. But that doesn’t mean we were not exposed to some pretty exotic food while growing up. When my brother and I reached the age of about ten to twelve, we got kind of verbally knowledgeable about the food our mother made for us. And pretty blunt. (Meaning pretty critical.)

One time, after we got a bit over the line on how much we liked (not) what we were eating, Ma said: “You keep this up, you’re having pigeon pie for supper!”

Really? At our age, with our vast knowledge of food, and our new mouths, we scoffed, and kept up criticizing whatever food it was we were directing our comments at.

“You two go out after supper, and bring me six pigeons!” Well, we considered pigeons one slight step above hog manure, and we still thought Ma was kidding. But catching pigeons up in the high parts of the haymow sounded like fun, so after dark, we went up, climbed higher than we had ever been permitted, and hanging from the steel track that carried hay up in the mow, we grabbed pigeons out of the metal cupola where they congregated for the night.

And we had pigeon pie for supper the next night. We couldn’t admit it, but even though we despised pigeons, and whatever, it was pretty good.


Some time went by, and we got mouthy again. I suspect that this was a time before freezers kept food for a long time, spring came and the canned meat was gone and of course that’s what chickens were for–to provide the food requirements until a hog or steer could be butchered. (There was an upside to this for a farm boy, yes?? We got to go murder another chicken with a hatchet.) (If you weren’t a farm boy, you don’t get this. Nope. Uh uh.)

After having chicken for how many days in a row, and due to my brother’s and my newfound knowledge about everything, including what we should eat, Ma had had I guess about enough. “You two keep this up and you’re having chicken feet for supper tomorrow night!”

Oh yeah right. Chicken feet. Ain’t no such thing as eating chicken feet, thought and said my brother and I.

Running in and out of the house the next day, as I remember it, Ma spent a lot of time boiling and peeling chicken feet. As we observed this, we were sure she was pulling our figurative legs, and so we kept on at whatever we were up to.

You know, there ain’t much to eat on a peeled and boiled chicken foot.

We were quiet then for years, except for a time when public opinion said butter and lard weren’t good for you. As mouthy kids, who thought we knew it all, we were rarely right.

It took almost fifty years to find out that margarine and corn oil wasn’t even as good for you as butter and lard. We were right!

Tater Tots, though. I’ll let you know about them.