It being the last Saturday of the 10 days o’ western wrecklessness known as Stampede, I determined the Johnsons needed to have one last go at standing in a very long line for bad pancakes.
‘Who wants to go to a Stampede breakfast today,’ I surveyed the masses. ‘Not me!’ ‘Not me!’ ‘Not me!’ They chorused. Others might be deterred by what most would call ‘a negative response’ but not me. Oh no, I waited 15 minutes and tried again. ‘Who wants to go to a Stampede breakfast?’ ‘Not me!’ ‘Not me!’ ‘I’ll go,’ relented my middle child who, it needs to be pointed out, only agreed because he thought I’d let him play on the ipad during the car ride.
But with 25% support, I felt confident in moving forward with my spur-of-the-moment plan to drive to the ‘healthy and organic stampede breakfast’ sponsored by Community Natural Market, our local environmentally and community minded grocery store with the excellent bulk products section. ‘You know why the carts are so small at Community Natural,’ the professor mused a few days ago, ‘so you can get a cart full of groceries for $200.’ Really, I think the dimunitive carts are the only ones that can successfully navigate the dimunitive aisles, but it’s true, organic food comes with a bit of a price tag.
The boys and I scattered to get dressed, and the professor reluctantly gave up his perch in front of the latest MLB news. By 8:45am, we were all seated in the unfashionable minivan headed towards the Chinook Mall, or ‘the mother race’ as Percy insists on calling it since that’s where the Gort and I ran the Mother’s Day 5k.
I steered the car along 61st avenue, nervous about the lack of signage or people; immediately defaulting to my number one (non-serious) fear: that I’m in the wrong place and/or at the wrong time. Because can you imagine the backlash from my grumbling family if I were to drag them across town, away from their lego playing and baseball news, for a nonexistent breakfast?
Just as I was about to have a minor panic attack, I spotted a parking lot full of people and one human wearing an animal costume. Crisis averted: Stampede breakfast on your left!
‘The line is like a mile long,’ the Gort despaired upon gazing at the sea of people. And it was, like a mile long. I’d thought, naively, that since we were arriving 2 hours after the 7am breakfast started, we’d somehow avoid the stand-in-line-for-an-hour protocol on this, our final Stampede breakfast of 2014, but that was not to be.
We assumed our positions, meaning the professor headed to the back of the line to serve as our placeholder, while the boys and I explored the vendors’ booths placed around the parking lot.
Our first stop was a seed and bottle cap mosaic project, where kids got to glue dried lentils and beans and green bottle caps onto plywood painted with the Community Natural sunflower logo. Clever, no?
After some very brief art-making, we set our sights on more important things: free samples. Having seen people carrying disposable coffee cups, we headed in search of caffeine. Which was, conveniently, adjacent to the juice station. The boys, much like their mother, I suppose, are extremely competitive in the sport of sample-finding and sample-sampling. They can spot a sample from a million miles away and they have no sense of propriety when it comes to limiting their sample intake. Meaning, during the hour and fifteen minutes we were there, they availed themselves to the juice samples on three different occasions, so they could – shamelessly – try each of the three juices on offer.
They will also try absolutely anything being offered in sample form. ‘Can we try that,’ the Gort pointed to a booth with fermented beverages bearing signs like scoby and kefir. ‘What about that,’ he pointed to a booth where they were promoting something called ‘chill pills’. They happily (well all except for the Hen) availed themselves to samples of protein bars which tasted like sawdust and dairy-free ice cream sweetened with honey. Finally we ended up at a herb-infused water booth. ‘Can I try some herb-infused water,’ the Gort asked, pointing to the little table covered with containers of lemon balm and chocolate mint.
The vendor asked the Gort which herbs he would like and he pointed to the two he wanted to try. She snipped off a few green leaves and handed them back to him tied up in ribbon with a little instruction card on how to make herb-infused water. The professor and I suppressed a few giggles because we’d assumed they were going to hand him a glass of water with some herbs in it, not tell him how to make his own herb infused water.
It was not unlike the giggles I suppressed as I poured cream into my coffee and listened to a well-meaning customer lament that the people manning the recycling/compost station were putting cups in the compost that were not compostable! The scene reminded me of a bit of satire I’d recently read on Facebook.
Finally, nearly an hour after we entered the line, we got our organic pancakes and sausage and (real!) maple syrup. But, as my 7th grade world studies teacher once told me: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Our bounty came at a price, namely the Gort’s (would-be) herb-infused water.
I didn’t catch the sequence of events, but right as he received his pancakes and sausage something happened to his sprigs of lemon balm and mint. And he was inconsolable. Even when I promised I would take him back to the booth for more (would-be) herb-infused water.
After consuming our breakfast, the Gort and I returned to the herb stand and got another snip of leaves which he carried back to the car. Since we were already in the vicinity, I stopped at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for some treats and the bank to deposit some money. The Gort was incensed. ‘We need to go home before my herbs wilt!’
And then, because we are such an awesome family, I turned to the professor. ‘Could you please get our siren out of the glovebox?’ ‘Yes, it’s an herbmergency,’ he declared, while Percy sat in the back making the requisite whee-haw-whee-haw siren noises.