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 Breener and family

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

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.