I'm still not exactly sure how I got so fortunate to be invited, but when the invitation came, I knew I couldn't say no to dinner in a prairie field.
Yep, there I am, Peace Garden Mama taking a sunflower selfie!
The event was organized by a group of women who are part of an organization called Common Ground North Dakota; comprising people who love these prairie lands. They wanted to do something to bring city and country folks together and help us learn from one another; especially for us city dwellers to discover some of the stories of the people who feed the world from the crops here.
The gal on the right below giving a nod to the cooks is Katie Pinke, my blogging and real-life friend of Pinke Poste. She's the real reason I got to come!
I ended up finagling my friend Laura, fellow mother of five, to be my date. I knew she'd 1) appreciate a night out 2) find it fascinating and 3) be gracious to the hosts, because she's just that kind of gal. As we approached the entrance together, she was just as giddy as I was!
In fact, though I interview people for a living, Laura took the lead in question-asking. Here, she's learning about wool (right) that comes from North Dakota sheep.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted, and told we could roam around to visit the stations that had been set up and sample the products, which originated from 11 different crops, also on display.
The evening was absolutely amazing weather-wise. We could not have ordered it any better for roaming around the fields, sampling fresh North Dakota products, mingling and indulging our taste buds.
Among the appetizers were Tuscan bean salad, potato salad in apple cider vinaigrette, corn fritters, flax seed crackers with corn hummus, sunflower brittle, endamame salad and candied walnuts.
After we'd made our way around the grounds and had our fill of appetizers, the dinner bell rang. No, I'm not kidding! We got called together with a good-old-fashioned ringing of the bell.
Laura and I were blessed to somehow end up next to the field owners/hosts -- Mr. and Mrs. Peterson of Peterson Farms in Harwood. He joked and said he couldn't take much credit for the whole thing. All he had to do was show up in time for dinner.
The chefs are people I know -- the Nasellos from here in Fargo. I first met them through my youngest son, who is friends with their son. Then a few years back they started writing a food column for The Forum which comes out a day different than my column, so we have that in common, too.
But unlike them, I don't know how to cook this kind of grub. I was so excited to hear one of the main entrees would be lamb, but the beef tenderloins absolutely blew me away. I've never tasted any meat so tender. It was incredible.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, I suppose. Before that came the chilled gazpacho soup garnished with cucumbers and extra-virgin olive oil.
And a dish of basil pesto pasta topped with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.
A little cup of lemon sorbet drizzled with North Dakota honey cleaned our palettes in preparation for the rest.
Side dishes included roasted red peppers, green beans, roasted red potatoes, and horseradish and a veal glaze for the meat. Peaches and cream shortcake with toasted almonds made up the dessert.
Just as we were finishing up our meal, the sun started to descend and I was in photograph heaven. I flitted about trying to capture what I could of this rare opportunity.
When it was all done, they gave us mugs and swag bags, and had us hoist ourselves back up onto the flatbed to hitch a ride to our rigs.
Definitely not something you get to do every day, not to mention ever in a lifetime for most. It was an absolutely wonderful experience, shared with a treasured friend and a field full of fun new and old friends.
And it did get me thinking about those farmers, who work so hard to produce this bounty, not just for our little group but for the whole world, really. They don't get a lot of glory, but they sure do deserve it.
I can't help but point up to the sky, too, in thanksgiving to our good God, who is so dear to the hearts of these people, and who so lovingly helped set the stage for this memorable night.
If heaven produces banquets like this, we are in for a treat someday. The only thing different, I'd imagine, is that there won't be any little buggy beetles there, I'm pretty sure.
Q4U: What or where was the most unusual meal you've ever had?