Our farm family had three substantial meals a day, and my “fast food” was an
after-school snack. I’d peek under the table cover to see what was left from
lunch. Cold biscuits and sausage or cold biscuits and radishes were my
favorites. In summer, I sometimes visited my cousins at threshing time and
helped fix a 10 o’clock snack to the field for a dozen or more workmen.
As soon as breakfast dishes were washed and stacked, women lined an egg basket
with a tea towel, sliced home cured ham and big loaves of bread for
sandwiches. When the coffee had boiled just enough, we loaded the basket, the
big gray coffee pot and a lot of tin cups tied together and drove across the
stubble field to near where the noisy steam engine and separator were chugging
A man tooted the steam whistle and turned off the separator. Dusty men beat
off the chaff as they came for “fast food.” They’d laugh and joke a little
as they stuffed sandwiches into their dirty faces and slurped coffee. Soon the
machines chugged in earnest, and the straw flew out of a big spout, collecting
into a huge pile.
We went back to the house, and all hands were busy preparing a sit-down meal
for noon time. The snack was repeated in midafternoon. Supper came after the
threshing machine was stopped, and the fire was banked in the hu~ge steam
Long before those five meal-threshing days, fast foods of a sort were enjoyed
by America’s natives. Roger Williams wrote about the eating habits of the
Narra~gansetts he knew so well in the mid-1600s.
Parched meal was a wholesome food that Indians ate hot or cold. Williams once
traveled with 200 Narragansetts for 100 miles through the forests. Each man
carried parched corn meal -- enough for several days -- in a little basket on
his back or in a hollow leather girdle worn around his middle. Williams wrote,
“I’ve made many a good dinner and supper with a spoonful of parched meal and
a spoonful of water from the brook.” Now that’s fast food!
Williams found Indians to be courteous to friends and strangers as well. He
said, “I’ve reaped kindness from some whom I last saw seven years ago and
had, myself, forgotten.”
When they had meat, fish or fowl for their own families they offered some to
others -- friends or strangers, natives or Europeans. They were great hunters
of “foule” because they were great marksmen with bow and arrow and were
hardened to endure bad weather, wading, lying and creeping on the ground -- in
order to get geese and ducks.
They took great stores of waterfowl by sleeping on the rocks at the seashore
and taking them at break of day. They took geese, turkeys, cranes and other
fowl as they fed on acorns under oak trees on the plains. Indians also dried
acorns to keep in case the corn was in short supply.
Yes, snacks and fast food have changed through the centuries, but aren’t
people much the same?