Potato memories

On my half hour drive into work this morning from Madawaska to Fort Kent, I passed several fields where tractors had freshly turned the rows and large harvest machines in the distance crawled along filling trucks with their reaping.

It’s potato harvest in the St. John Valley.

There’s something about the combination of smells on the fall air, which I swear has the hint of apples, pumpkins, and spice on it, that make me nostalgic for when I was in high school. As much as I hated starting school when there was still a month left of summer, I really enjoyed the break that came at the end of September/beginning of October when I knew that if I worked really hard, then I could earn a bunch of money.

I would wake up before the sun and pull on layers of extra socks, thermal pants, jeans, and flannel – usually dressing in the dark so as not to wake the other sleeping members of the house. I’d stumble to the kitchen, still groggy from my too-short sleep, and slap together a ham and cheese sandwich or two to go with my day of provisions in my lunch cooler. I’ve never been much of a hot coffee drinker, but the power liquid is essential during the annual harvest, so I’d brew a pot and top off my thermos before finally pulling on my boots and peeling my muddy gloves from the heating register where I’d placed them to dry the night before.

By that time, my ride was usually waiting for me outside, so I’d hurry out the door and head off to the field watching the rising sun slowly burning the mist from the tall grass that grew alongside the pavement on Flat Mountain Road.

It’s funny how memory will distort an event. Thinking back, everything from that time in my life seems to take on a pleasant familiarity that makes me miss the simplicity of a hard day’s work.

Now, as I sit at my computer, a hard day’s work takes on a whole new meaning. While it taxes my brain, the work I do now is much more sedentary.

Once upon a time, people woke with the birds and labored until the sun set. They lived on hearty meals of meat and potatoes, bread, and pudding. Yet they were strong, with less fat situated on their bodies. They didn’t have the same need to go to the gym because they exercised as part of their normal daily routine.

Modern convenience is a wonderful thing. I love my Kindle Fire, and cell phone, and remote controls. But I don’t even have to lift my body off of the chair anymore to walk to the phone to make a call. Convenience and technology does come at a price. It makes it easier to stay still. Now I have to force myself to move, when generations ago, life would have made me move.

I’ve taken up hiking lately. It’s a perfect time of year to do it. The leaves are turning color and the air is a bit cooler. Fall always seems to inspire me to take to the outdoors.

Too bad it also inspires me to bake. But maybe, just maybe, if I take an extra-long hike, then I can enjoy a fall treat, like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies – and just like that, here comes another memory. Why are so many of my childhood memories linked to food?