This last summer Husband ended up working as a wheat truck driver to make ends meet after he lost his job. This was brutal work. He worked 14 to 18 hours a day out in the dry dusty hills in 90 to 100 degree weather in an old wheat truck or harvester with no air conditioning. He left at dawn and we didn't see him until after sundown 6 days a week. He came home with just enough energy to eat dinner, shower, and fall into bed.
One of the benefits of harvesting was that the farmers wife still held to the tradition of providing a hearty "dinner" for the crew (which consisted of my husband, one year round farm hand, and the farmers children). This farmer has a relatively small operation as he leased out much of his land to other farmers. He was getting on in years, close to 80, but still loved farming.
His wife made roasts, hearty noodle dishes, and fried chicken accompanied by tons of sides and ice cold drinks. She also always provided a dessert for the famished workers.
This in fact is a tradition that has been happening since the founding of America. Farm workers would be hired for harvest, many times just local boys, to come and bring in the bounty. When threshing and harvesting machines first were invented over 100 years ago area farmers would get together and rent them to harvest the whole area, traveling from farm to farm until all the farmers had the harvest in. These machines were not powered by engines but by mule teams of up to 60 animals.
These crews always knew they would be amply fed by the farm wives, and the wives often worked out a system to help lighten the load. Many times all the women in the area would make an agreement. The farm wife where the harvesting was happening would provide the main dishes like fried chicken, corn bread, rolls, potato and pasta salads, meat loaf, pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, etc. (and all this in one sitting), and the other farm wives would bring out desserts. That way it helped lighten the load somewhat for each wife. I cannot imagine how busy a farm wife must have been not only cooking for the army of workers, but also trying to care for her own household and brood of children. They were made of steel back then!
The work was backbreaking and dangerous with many men and boys dying or being horribly injured every year. In fact this year a young high school boy from a nearby town ended up having his leg cut off in a harvester accident. Our church as well as probably every other church within 100 miles prayed for him. It brought home how much risk is still involved in farming. And since Husband is also a mechanic I knew he often helped do what repairs he could on the machinery.
One food Husband came home raving about was her Frosted Oatmeal Cake. Now my loving man is not one to ever put himself forward with women, even family members. He is endearingly shy with women, even though to look at him you would never think that. But he liked this cake so much that he actually asked this old farm wife for the recipe. Unheard of!
It is one of the best cakes I have ever had, even though it is simple to make. It turns out an unbelievably moist and tender cake of rich flavor, but the best part is the thick gooey topping. It is rich like a pecan pie and has a wonderful texture. The baking in the oven of the topping makes it crisp and chewy on top with a melting in the middle. While following her recipe I was a little doubtful when it said to put the cake back in the oven to cook the topping, but the cake is just a little underdone when you do that so it still is moist when the topping is done.
Frosted Oatmeal Cake
Cut 1 stick butter in small pieces in a large bowl. Add 1/2 regular rolled oats and pour 1 1/2 cup boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, and 2 unbeaten eggs. Mix well. Stir into another bowl 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix well. Add 2 tsp vanilla, mix well and pour in a 9 by 13 greased pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 unbeaten egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped nuts
3 tablespoons milk or cream
Mix all together and "pour' on cake as soon as baked. Put back in oven to brown. About 20 minutes. Serve warm or cold.