Stolen Lunch

The food was heavy on the back, light in stomach.

We were ten 13-year-olds and two counselors aged 16 and 17. We were without cell phone, RN on duty, sunscreen, supervision. We were alone, canoeing across miles of deep Canadian lakes.

I was the girl with the appetite of a man. I was always hungry, and I always looked forward to lunch: Triscuits with peanut butter and jelly carefully divvied out, a small chocolate bar, a piece of cheese. Dinner came from the cans, and we learned to crave Dinty Moore Beef Stew as if it were from home.

After two weeks of our wilderness camp, I started to take swipes of peanut butter when nobody was looking. I remember being never fully fed and begging internally for more, a few more pieces of meat this time? Such disappointment to get more potatoes! We traveled with a tub of margarine, minus refrigeration, not something you’d do today but back then I’m sure they considered the coolness in the Canadian woods refrigeration enough. We got a lump of it in our hot cereal every morning and I watched as the lumps got smaller as the month progressed. After scarfing down my own bowl, my eyes would travel to Eva’s.

Poor Eva to have such a hungry cousin. Luckily for me, Eva didn’t like oatmeal or any kind of hot cereal so she would take a few bites and give me hers. She still gives me food like that. At Cape Cod last summer, she offered me her chicken salad, practically forcing it upon me (“No! Here! Take it!”), and I had to smile.

Early in the trip Eva stole a candy bar for me from the stash out of sheer love and older cousin duty, a duty she took on quietly. Because she was a smart tomboy, nobody saw, and she handed me the candy bar privately.

It turned into quite a scene.

We watched together as the counselors realized the candy was missing. They kept counting and recounting the stash. When they realized the problem, they called the group around for a serious discussion and spoke in concerned voices about how important it was to be careful with our food supply, as we had just enough for the fourteen of us. Eyes accused two boys, and Eva and I stood there, allowing it.

Well, this made me feel so terrible that I never ate it but chucked it far into the woods. This was one of the few times Eva has been mad at me. She could not believe I didn’t eat it and frankly, she still can’t. She remains incredulous, possibly because it took her so much to steal it. In fact, at a recent dinner out with our men we told the story for the first time in, yikes, 30 years, and her voice still showed that incredulous spark as she was speaking. I felt bad again and apologized for not eating it (then we dug into our jumbo shrimp).

But as life mysteriously shows us, that early experience of the stolen lunch made us all work more cohesively as a group, bringing in a new level of serious. This was the woods, baby. We depended on the canoes, the cans, the map and each other. After two weeks, we were expected to be at a certain point to receive our next shipment of food from a sea plane that would land on the lake. Can you imagine? Sending a bunch of teenagers into the woods with only just enough food and then hoping they show up to get the rest from a sea plane? But that was the plan. And wouldn’t you know, we showed up right on time. Everybody had to play by the rules.

As it turned out, we ran out of food only for the very last night of camping, eating cold waxed beans from an industrial-sized can and dry orange Tang with our fingers.

Cooking in a hike in the cauldron hanging over the fire

16 thoughts on “Stolen Lunch

  1. Just came across your blog. I really love your Introduction to your blog and thoughts on the word “circa.” I will be checking more of your posts out when I get some time, but thought I would just say hello.

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    • Hi Robert, I’m glad you found my blog. It seems to be stretching as we speak, I have a new “Page” coming soon that will focus on the “&Beyond” aspect of my stories. I see you’re from NY? I lived and worked in the city and am so glad for those great memories. I’ll stop by your blog, too. And again, thanks for reading. I’m still learning the blog ropes. 😉

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      • Thanks for stopping by Soundtrack Of A Photograph Amy and glad yours is growing. Yes I am from NY and though I do tire of it sometimes, something usually happens innocently enough where I say…only in NY, and I fall in love all over again! Thanks again!

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  2. Hey how cool and groovy is this!? You are on my blog right now and I am on yours. I think I shall experience some vicarious pleasure tripping along your memory lane. I too am a child of the seventies and, what more can I say then, triscuits and dinty more beef stew?! Damn them was good. Nice writing. I shall enjoy poking around some more. Oh, and is there a prize for being your 50th follower 😛

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    • Hi! I loved your blog! I loved the “stop and smell the roses” piece [readers: highly recommend]. And we’re both New Englandahs! I’m writing from outside Boston. And the prize for being my Magical 50th Follower is a giant Beantown hug from across the pond. I’m looking forward to reading about fermented veggies btw ie I’ve been thinking about this lately. ps Is that your house in the pic on your banner? I LOVE it.

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      • I thought maybe you were Canadian, I must read more. I met my husband outside Boston in Quincy. I wrote about it in “I live in Aran”-plug, plug, (forgive me)! A Beantown hug is highly coveted in these parts, wicked good! I am a Mainah through and through, ayuh. The pic is my next door neighbors house. Sadly, the thatch on our house was gone some 25 years ago. I am working on getting an aerial view of our house as we have four 16 foot by 16 foot beds that spell L-O-V-E. Probably not as cool as a thatch cottage, but the maintenance is more enjoyable (thatch roofs are loads of work). Do you ferment?

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      • I love the idea of an aerial view of your gardens!! I’ll bet a magazine would go bonkers to get that picture. I don’t ferment, but I’ve wanted to add that dimension of food to our lives for a while. I heard that the pickles in the jar (refrigerated) are good for that! Can I ask — where do you grocery shop? I would imagine you do a lot of cooking/baking? I do, though not as much as I’d like to. Looking forward to making my fave coffee cake and pumpkin chai bars for Thanksgiving!

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  3. Yea, pickles are a great first ferment, they were mine. There is a grocery shop on the island. It provides quite a bit for a small shop, especially in summer when tourist season is full on. I do loads of cooking and baking, growing and freezing, etc. I try to do big batches so I am not chained to the kitchen; I like it but don’t always feel like it, you know what I mean. Hope you had a fab Thanksgiving. You mean coffee cake as in crumb topping that doesn’t actually contain coffee, American style? I love it!

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    • Hi! Yes, coffee cake with crumb topping — it’s gluten free and made with coconut oil. It’s totally decadent. I made it vegan without eggs but used mayo as the binder so it’s total treat, very fattening, but delish! I loved your seaweed story and all the pictures! Do you cook with the seaweed, too?

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      • That sounds amazing :). Do you make vegan mayo? Sorry, not very informed about eating vegan. Just asking as I only know mayo recipes that contain eggs. Speaking of ferments and coconut, have you tried milk kefir? It can be made with coconut milk and is soooo yummy! Oh, and I have put seaweed in mixed veg ferments.

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      • I eat vegan in fits and spurts! I guess I eat what I crave. You should do a post on fermenting seaweed! I’ll bet it’s amazingly healthy. As for kefir, my kids drink kefir, but I steer away from the dairy. I’ve been meaning for the longest time to figure out this whole gut thing and get some decent probiotics into me. I guess it’s pickles for now. 😉

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