Soup’s On at Steam Shows!

Father-daughter duo hark to simpler times when cooking at steam shows for friends and family.

| May 2017

  • Michele Beener and her dad, Michael J. Miller, with Michele’s daughter, Ashley, are crowd pleasers at shows, thanks in part to their gift for cooking for large crowds.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • Steam, gas, tractor, car: Michael is always taking on new projects, like this 1931 Model A Ford with a rumble seat.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • Michele grew up around old iron, so she multitasks at shows. Here she operates her dad’s 1906 16 hp Twentieth Century, built in Somerset County, Pa., Michele’s home county.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • Michele and her family are very close, and she credits the simpler ways of the past for that. Michael built this 1/2-scale 110 hp Case in 1999.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • One of Michael’s recent restorations – a 2-foot gauge model Climax engine. Michael named the Climax “Amelia Rose” after his granddaughter.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • Everyone chips in to help when it comes to cooking at the show. Michael (second from left) and some friends chat while peeling potatoes for Michele’s ham, green beans and potato dish at the New Centerville Farmers & Threshermen’s Jubilee in New Centerville, Pa.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • Michele’s legendary chicken and dumplings, cooking in her 1800s cast iron kettle over a fire in the fire ring Michael built from an old wheel. Michael’s tire kettle is so useful that he’s built several for friends. Michele’s 6-year-old son Kellen also loves kettle cooking.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • A skillet full of Michele’s whole wheat biscuits. “These go great with chicken and dumplings,” she says. “We like them with homemade apple butter and cottage cheese.
    Photo by Beth Beavers
  • One of Michele’s tips for success is to always be prepared. When she cooks at shows, she’s fully equipped.
    Photo by Beth Beavers

We’ve all been there – a hard day of showing off our latest find, or a busy day of walking the show grounds, taking in impressive collections. And then it hits you – hunger. Maybe the aromas wafting over from the food court has something to do with it. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, you’re attending a show where Michele Beener is utilizing her father’s most recent restoration to prepare a delicious meal for 100 of her closest friends.

Michele and her dad, Michael J. Miller, are staples at southern Pennsylvania shows like the New Centerville Farmers & Threshermen’s Jubilee in New Centerville, Pennsylvania, and any of the shows at Rough and Tumble in Kinzers, Pennsylvania. For the last 20 years, Michele’s taken on the task of making sure the crews are well fed. “On the first night at the shows, they’re always asking, “What’s Michele cooking?’” she says.

During her childhood, Michele recalls seeing her grandmother prepare enough food for 100 people. When Michele turned 20, she took that tradition to farm shows. “I’m an only child whose father raised her to one, cook – a lot – and two, stay simple,” she says.

Michael’s amassed quite the collection over the years, and Michele’s eagerly been there for all of the restorations. “He only does tractors with steel wheels, nothing newer than that,” Michele says. The family passions for cooking and old iron had a connection reflecting simpler times, and taking care of those around you. As Michael is fond of saying, “there’s nothing worth having if you can’t share.”



Tools of the trade

How exactly does one go about preparing food for hundreds of hungry show-goers using old tractors and steam engines? A mix of ingenuity, innovation and creativity is a good place to start. For instance, about 10 years ago Michael created a versatile cooking tool from an old wheel. He formed a fire ring from an industrial tire’s wheel and welded forklift clips onto it for ease of handling.

Michele uses a swinging hot plate on the side of the ring to grill shrimp or hamburgers, or a community breakfast of eggs and bacon. The tire base also supports a kettle dating to the 1800s. Michele uses that to make her famous chicken and noodles or stew for hungry show-goers.



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