The Pioneer Lunch

A couple of Fridays ago, the Gort was scheduled to go on a fieldtrip with his classmates. To a little place in Calgary called Heritage Park. An email went round asking for volunteers to accompany the gaggle of second graders to the historical village and I, for reasons I can’t recall, said yes.

The night before the fieldtrip, I reviewed the information letter the Gort had brought home. It gave details about the ‘pioneer lunch’ the students were supposed to pack for the day, with quaint suggestions like ‘pack it in a tin’, ‘bread smeared with lard (or jam)’, ‘cake if mother had sugar’, etc.

I pretended not to see the part about the hardboiled egg (seriously, am I the only person on this planet repulsed by hardboiled eggs?) and, fueled by 10pm adrenaline, began the somewhat complicated task of producing the best pioneer lunch anyone had ever seen.

Minus the egg.

But first, I had to find the requisite ‘tin’, since the de rigeur Marvel Superheroes lunch kit was not in keeping with pioneer tradition. My sister had gifted me with some cute orange tins from West Elm. But they are possibly made of lead and rather heavy. I envisioned the Gort buckling under the weight of the backpack he’d have to schlep around for an entire day.

And then I remembered about this old Godiva chocolates tin I’ve been schlepping around for years, the one I use to store ink pads. It was lightweight, if slightly large, and would do the job nicely.

Seeing as the pioneers did not have plastic wrap or aluminum foil, I dug out a few cloth napkins with which to wrap the austere lunch: two pieces of bread held together by a thin layer of strawberry jam, a boiled potato, a hunk of cheese, an apple, and some sunflower seeds stored in a glass babyfood container with a tin lid.

I was pretty pleased about the tiny glass jar, since I figured the pioneers also did not have Rubbermaid Tupperware at their disposal. (Okay, they probably did not have Gerber baby food either, but whatever.)

In the morning, I proudly showed the Gort my handiwork. The tin and all its pioneer glory. ‘There’s a naked lady on the tin,’ he observed. I looked. Yes, there was. Front and center. A naked Lady Godiva, I’m guessing. But it was past the point of no return. We were already late and I was not going to put my pioneer lunch in a cartoon lunch kit, so I made a mental note to be that mom, and rush to the lunch table to remove the questionable lid before anyone else  had a chance to see ‘the lady’.

We spent the first part of our morning at the Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Trading Fort. As a mother, this was the most valuable part of the fieldtrip experience. For I was able to show the Gort that the very same Hudson’s Bay Company logo resided on the sweatshirt jacket he so dislikes: a mustard yellow, 2010 Canada Olympic hooded, zippered, jacket.

Have you met my son? He has very particular tastes and will fabricate all manner of tales to get out of wearing something he.doesn’t.like. A chip off the old (paternal) block. ‘It’s too itchy,’ is the most common complaint, ‘the sleeves are bugging me,’ or the more neutral, ‘I can’t tell you why, because you don’t like it when I complain about clothes.’

With this particular ‘hoodie’, the complaint has been that the fleece interior is not soft enough. Even though the eight year old typically (read: 100% of the time) wears a shirt underneath any hoodie. Resulting in a permanent barrier between his skin and the jacket’s (soft, or not soft) fleece lining.

But as soon as I pointed out he had a ‘pioneer’ logo on his jacket, he got excited; relaying the good news immediately and excitedly to our dare-I-say grumpy Pioneer guide.

But there was a slight misunderstanding. He’d chosen to relay the nugget of information when she was telling our group about buckskin. So she thought his cotton jacket – which appeared to be a camel color in the dark, lit-by-fire-only shack we were sitting in, was made (or lined) with…..buckskin. And he did nothing to disabuse her of the idea.

Uncomfortable fleece=buckskin, he decided.

And I had to sit there, quietly absorbing the spectacle of falsities.

The grumpy Pioneer also taught the kids how to make bannock over a fire, by melting lard (vegetable shortening, I think), mixing it with flour and water, sprinkling the dough with saskatoon berries, and possibly wrapping it around a stick and cooking it in the fire for a few minutes.

The end result was a warm bread-like substance with some berries in it, which some kids professed to love and at least one refused to try. (Much the same reaction the Johnson boys had when they reprised the bannock making experience a week later. Percy ate his weight in bannock and the other three barely touched it.)

We gathered upstairs in the village bakery for lunch and I rushed over to the Gort’s table; removing the lid before anyone had the chance to comment on Lady Godiva’s missing clothes. I looked around to see what kinds of fun pioneer lunch containers the other kids had brought.

They had all brought their regular ultra-colorful lunch kits. They were all eating their usual non-Pioneer lunches, while my son gnawed on a plain boiled potato.

5 thoughts on “The Pioneer Lunch

  1. This made my day. I lol-ed from the beginning to the end. An idea: next time cover the lady’s nakedness with a bandaid with the Gort’s name on it.

  2. This was fun to read. I must say it brought back memories of trying to get Jason to wear a sweater – too itchy! I quit buying clothes if he wasn’t there to choose at an young age. I also love your mom’s bandaid idea. 🙂

  3. Funny, with all the tape lying around this house, it never occurred to me to cover up Lady Godiva. Also, he’s still not wearing the ‘buckskin’ jacket.

  4. my boy and I are going on our Pioneer lunch tomorrow…I giggled right through this post and now don’t feel as guilty as I was going to feel cause I just don’t wanna listen to him complain about a cold baked potato! Bread and jam, homemade banana bread, an apple and raw veggies. Did they have hummus back then? Can I have hummus with my veggies? lol

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