Ann Berg

Ann Berg

Pioneer Potluck: So many memories arise around the holidays

I had to make new Thanksgiving traditions here in Alaska.

  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019 11:15pm
  • Life

I love the holidays and look forward to cooking and spending time with loved ones and friends.

I mentioned that I was a little disappointed on the younger generation, like teens and up to the 40-year-olds. They have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to tradition as I know it. It is not that I have not tried to make traditions in my own family, it just simply is not important to them as it is to me. I now realize their world is so much different that mine was.

My world was the farm and animals, Dad and Mom and sisters and brother. When holidays came around I got to see my grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts and cousins. That WAS my world! My Mom’s cooking was my world. My Dad and his farming — it also was a tradition that was never changed UNTIL I MOVED TO ALASKA IN 1967.

I realize I changed my Mom and Dad’s world but they continued the traditions. I had to make new ones here in Alaska. We arrived in June and we went back for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, 1967, but the next year I had made lots of wonderful new friends as we all had no relatives to share our holiday traditions with. Leatha and JoAnne and I formed our own! Their family became mine.

We lived at Daniels Lake that year and had the biggest (?) house. We had sawhorses and plywood for tables and clean white sheets for tablecloths. We had moose and fish in place of turkey. We had Alaska-grown potatoes. We baked pies and cookies, but had to go to Anchorage for flour and sugar and butter. We also bought bacon and ham and canned goods while we were there. Our pickup up was piled high with goodies. No fresh vegetables — as they would freeze on the trip back to North Kenai, now Nikiski.

Our men worked right up to the day of Thanksgiving or Christmas, but some of them worked on the platforms and some had to stay and come in on their usual days. Sometimes single men or men who did not have family in Alaska would take the family man’s places so they could come in and spend it with their family and friends. This is how we got to know the single men. I called them our “orphan friends.” When they came in from the platform they were remembered and thanked by making them a meal. We still have just a few “orphan friends” and they are included in whatever we have for the holidays. Most of the time it is a big box of food as, of course you always cooked more than enough! I make sure they had their favorite pie.

Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas at Daniels Lake was work, fun and so thrilling to make new friends and have the kids make new friends around a big roaring campfire, sled down hills and skate on the lake. Having dads share their snowmachines and give kids rides out on the lake. They would come back caked with snow.

So I understand the path that other people in my life have taken, because I did the same to MY family!

So I am so thankful I have had pretty good health in my 54 years in Alaska. I have made new friends, and through the years kept them in my heart, although they have gone on to make traditions of their own. I so miss my family, sisters and brother, and their families. I hope they know that I think of them always!

Bob tells me he is thankful for his friends and the health to continue to work part time at age 78. He is thankful for his health and the house he designed and built with the help of his friends, some of whom have gone to the better place in the sky.

Susan pointed out the younger people don’t know and so they won’t miss it because they do not know. Most still celebrate in their own way, but families are not as close-knit. They still will have memories, just different than mine. Times change! She said when we came to Alaska, friends became our family — yes, we are thankful!

She says look at the options of going to restaurant to eat turkey or buying it already cooked in a box. Modern technology is great, like dishwashers and washers and driers. Warm heaters and a phone in your pocket. (And I might add a computer to write to your loved ones in place of pen and paper). Efficient cars and trucks. And most of all Susan is thankful for good doctors and the new medicine — (not so much the high prices!) Available products delivered when you used to have no choice. When I was growing up on the farm, we got one orange in our stocking at Christmas time — the rest of the year we ate apples. My grandpa owned an apple cherry orchard.

Gail says in a short text that she is grateful for her family. Grateful for hugs especially from the little kids (that she so unselfishly takes care of). Grateful for good shoes. Good warm coat. Water that does not make her sick and her kids and her sister and brother, and Mom (me) and Bob. And Gary, who orders the wood for the stoves and sees that it is chopped (with help) and then sees that his family has wood enough for the winter, split and stacked. He has been a huge help in keeping his family together. Thanks Gary! And she adds at the very last — thankful for my dogs.

Well, I will end this by saying I am so grateful to still have my three kids that I brought to Alaska with me, and that they are in the immediate vicinity. I can go visit any time. My two grandkids are right in our backyard — one is in Kenai and one is in Bellevue with my great-granddaughter. I have my great-grandson and great-granddaughter right in my backyard also. How lucky am I?

Bob’s family lives in the Lower 48 but keeps in touch. I am so happy to have him in my life, as we have been together 34 years on Thanksgiving. He changes my life for the good! We met in 1985 and the rest is history and traditions that we have built through the years. I am grateful and thankful for our health and to have lived in the same house that he built for 30 years ago. What more could I ask for?

David said in a phone call, “Thank the good Lord and be joyful and happy even though at times it hurts on the inside. Just don’t load your baggage on someone else. Be joyful you have a job and work hard at it.”

David’s path through life has not been easy — but now he has the things that count.

Susan and Gail have struggled with their health, but I do not hear any complaints. They are true troopers!

As I write this, a song is playing, “Be humble and Kind.” And I just heard the song “Count your Blessings.” Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Make traditions and memories.


These are a versatile drop cookie. By adding brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar and omitting the lemon zest you have butterscotch sugar cookies. Butterscotch sugar cookie recipe is at end of this lemon sugar cookie recipe.

Into a medium bowl mixing well:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon of salt

In a large bowl, whisk:

2 large eggs

3⁄4 cup granulated white sugar

2⁄3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Mix together until well incorporated and stir in dry ingredients, mixing until well blended. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or longer.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Moisten the bottom of 3-inch water glass and dip glass into sugar, pressing the top of each cookie lightly to flatten. Do this to each cookie. Bake until lightly browned about 8 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight containers or freeze for future use.


To make these cookies with a rich butterscotch flavor substitute 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar for the granulated sugar and omit the lemon zest, proceed with the rest of the recipe using granulated sugar to flatten the cookies.


A good way to use leftover turkey. Assemble and open all ingredients and half the work is done. Buy rotisserie chicken and shredded cheese.

1 4-ounce can green chopped chilies

2 cups cooked chicken — rotisserie chicken from the store works

2 cups Monterey jack cheese — shredded and divided

3 flour tortillas

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream — divided

2 cans green enchilada sauce — divided

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin

1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper

1⁄2 cup each onion and green pepper — diced

1 small can sliced black olives


In a bowl mix:

Cream of chicken soup, 1 can green enchilada sauce, ½ cup sour cream and chicken or turkey, onion, green pepper. Add ½ teaspoon cumin, red pepper, 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese. Mix well and set aside.

Heat tortillas in microwave to make soft. Spoon about 1⁄3 cup chicken filling into each tortilla. Spread ½ cup green enchilada sauce in the bottom of an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Lay filled tortillas seam down in dish and repeat using all the chicken or turkey. Mix remaining green enchilada sauce with sour cream and pour over top of tortillas. Sprinkle sliced olives over top and place the remaining 1 cup of Monterey Jack and the 1 cup of cheddar over top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes until bubbles and cheese is toasted on top. Let set for 10 minutes and serve with chopped tomatoes, chopped onions and shredded lettuce. A dollop of guacamole and sour cream. Yumm good. Enjoy!

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, Pioneer Potluck

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