By Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN
My husband often teases me about my love affair with cattle. Whenever we drive by a herd, I urge him to stop the car so I can take a few photos. My photo collection now includes cattle from fifteen U.S. states, including Hawaii where I insisted on taking photos during our honeymoon. I suspect my love affair with cattle is a genetic gift from my father, John Myrdal, a farmer who always had a dog named Rover and a herd of cattle he adored.
My earliest and fondest farm memory is of barn kitties using their paws to wash milk off their faces after my dad squirted them with milk from a cow’s udder. I was likely around 3 years old at this time, and that cow would have been one of the last dairy cows on our farm. After the early 1970s we only had beef cattle, with a herd size ranging from 200 to 500. When mad cow was detected in a Canadian herd in 2003, my brothers sold the last of the cattle due to increasing risk and falling prices.
Another fond childhood memory involved my getting to feed a bottle calf, a twin whose mother only wanted to tend to the other twin. I remember the tug of war between the calf and myself. And I remember my dad taking over when the calf became too strong and aggressive.
My dad was 100% Icelandic, and spoke Icelandic with his friends and community members. Up until I was about 30 I thought “Boss” was the Icelandic word for cows because that’s what he always called when he approached a herd. Little did I know he was using the Latin term for cattle, bos.
My husband also teases me about my love affair with T-bone steaks. My fascination with T-bone steaks likely stems from one of my most powerful food and flavor memories. It was the summer of 1991. I was home in North Dakota for the summer. My mom was campaigning for her first of two terms as Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota, and I was “in charge” of the kitchen and garden on the farm.
We had just butchered a steer, so the deep freeze was full of fresh beef. The garden was producing tomatoes, cucumbers, small red skinned potatoes, and early season sweet corn. Some relatives came to visit, and I produced a meal with the bounty of the garden and grilled T-bone steaks. This food memory is so powerful that I often woefully wish it hadn’t been that good. Few meals today measure up to those memories.
I miss my dad. He passed away in 2000. I always smile when I see a herd of cattle and remember my dad calling, “Bos! Bos!” as he approached a herd. I think he’d be proud of his cattle-loving, steak-eating farmer’s daughter, the new “boss” of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting.