How we’ll survive the winter

cabinIf I ever completely lose my mind, it will be ten minutes before dinner.

My losing my mind is not what this blog was going to be about. It was going to be about my daydream of being on reality television.

My favorite reality show was Frontier House on PBS. Its producers plopped modern families in the Montana outback to live as pioneers. The winner was supposed to be the family that not only survived a summer, but also had adequately prepared for winter by the end of the series.

I think they all failed, not just the family from California with the mom who bawled at the outset when she couldn’t bring her make up kit.

Not enough room in the wagon for mama’s face, apparently.

In my fantasy, my family kicks butt in that show. I’m pretty sure we’ve got the chops. Now that we don’t have cable, it’s rather pioneer-ish around here anyway. So bring it on PBS.

Except there are things I know would undermine our success as pioneers, even though we have two strapping boys who could presumably chop wood if we let them have axes. And even given the college summers Mike spent traipsing around the mountains with the Forest Service, and the fact he could pass for Grizzly Adams when he grows out his beard. As for me, I’ve read every book in the Little House on the Prairie series, and could probably stick a straw in a tree and make maple syrup. I got mad skills.

As I was in the middle of lovingly preparing a meal for my family, though, I realized it’s not wild animals or bitter cold or the fact that Montana isn’t renown for its maple trees that would ultimately be our problem on such a show. Nope. No matter where we are or what we have to deal with as a family, dinner will one day do us in.

Just figuring out something we can all enjoy is a chore. First we have crazy allergy guy who can’t eat beans or peas or legumes. Then we have the boy with the wheat problem. Then there’s the one who will come completely undone at the sight of about seventy percent of the food I use to prepare a meal and who, in his angst, will help himself to a bowl of cereal ten minutes before dinner, the very moment I’ve just realized I haven’t eaten since breakfast and have passed from angry-hungry into full on I’m-going-to-chew-my-own-arm-off-if-I-don’t-get-a-hamburger-in-me-right-now stage.

Which makes me yell. Every. Time. Seriously, the process of putting a meal on the table is likely to make me burst a blood vessel in my brain.

Tonight as I was making dinner I was thinking about Frontier House and about the holidays, and I realize there is one thing that would save us as pioneers. Family.

Don’t “aww” at me. It’s because my family are all a bunch of sneaky bastards that we would actually survive.

See, this is what happens over the holidays: if we’re lucky we get to host Thanksgiving, or Christmas or both. I mean that without the slightest bit of snark. I love hosting family get togethers. We happen to have enough space so people aren’t stacked up like chord wood around here, and that I don’t have to drive anywhere. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, no matter how hard we try, when people come, they leave all their food behind. Even if we make a plan, we end up with leftovers spilling out of the refrigerator. This Christmas, we pulled out stacks of Tupperware and started dividing stuff up well before people left so all could share in the holiday goodness for the next week or so.

Aww, DAMMIT people!
Aww, DAMMIT people!

And I’ll be damned if people didn’t end up sneaking out of here, just like every other time without their allotment of vacuum sealed holiday yumminess.

Which is how I found myself making soup out of about five pounds of leftover ham and potatoes recently. I have to say, I felt domestic as all get-out. Pioneer mom to the max. I even added pureed carrots and kale to sneak some nutrients into our picky eater, and got dinner on the table before anyone made a grab for the cereal.

But then, the guy who is allergic to everything wasn’t home to enjoy the meal. The gluten intolerant kid didn’t like the texture, and wondered why there were big chunks of ham in a soup that didn’t “seem like it should have big chunks of ham.” The picky eater actually liked the soup and ate a good-sized portion.

Then went and poured himself a bowl of cereal. But I managed to keep my sanity.

If we were actually competing to win as a pioneer family, I think our best strategy would be to build a big lodge to which we could host family gatherings. Then they could sneak out without taking any leftovers with them and that’s how we’d stock up for winter.

I’d still probably go stark, raving mad, but I probably wouldn’t be the first pioneer mom to do so, and it might not be over a meal.


Your vote for my blog keeps me warm in the winter. Not sane, necessarily. I mean it is just a click. Thanks.


Cabin photo by Alex Alishevskikh

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  1. This whole post had me laughing out loud. Oh how I can relate about fixing dinner for my family. I\’m the one with several food sensitivities (gluten, lactose, fructose), the husband doesn\’t want me to put garlic/onions/broccoli/peppers in anything, and the kids pretty much don\’t like anything if it\’s not junk food. So yeah, it\’s tough finding something we can all eat and then maybe (?) eat at the same time. Great post! 🙂

  2. Do all teenagers say the exact same things to their parents? I made a North Pole Soup recipe with ham, pasta, and beans last month. The magazine said it was perfect for Christmas shopping, because you put all the ingredients in your crock pot in the morning and let it cook while you shop. That hooked me as I imagined my kids and myself having such a jolly dinner after we got home, merrily enjoying the perfect meal to end the perfect day. When I served the soup that evening, my son said the words you wrote, that \”it didn’t seem like it should have big chunks of ham.” My vegetarian daughter was offended that I didn\’t cook the ham separately from the rest. We ended up having cereal, and I brought the soup to work.

    I don\’t have cable either, but if you ever got on Frontier House, I would so get cable!

    1. Yes, I think they have secret teenage boy meetings where they discuss how to respond to parents under certain circumstances. Although I think that soup sounds terrific!

      I will let you know when to call the cable company, but since I couldn\’t bring my entire extended family along, we\’d probably blow it first thing!

  3. I\’ve never heard of that show, but now I want to see it! I would struggle if I was on that show! I\’m not a lover of camping or \”roughin\’ it,\” but I do know how to grin and bear it! I think you and your family would do great! Ha.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! It\’s a really interesting show. I think they have it available on DVD now, too.

      I imagine the circumstances of living like that would probably work well with your fitness routine: no sugar, no dairy, no treats, but I don\’t know if the rest would be worth it.