Pioneer Potluck: St. Pat’s Day at 30 below, a long time ago

Pineapple cheesecake, jalapeno cornbread, cabbage and sausage, halibut with mushroom sauce

  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019 11:30pm
  • Life

This was before Bob built his Cave-shop. This was before we had running water. This is when we still used the outhouse. This was when we were young and the cold was nothing to worry about. Our friends, being tired of the long snowy winter, came and enjoyed themselves around a roaring Bob-bonfire. What a delightful break that was from that long, bleak, cold, dark days.

Bob is known for his bonfires, and for the past 30 years we have had a fire of some sort in the spring and summer and get-togethers in the fall. But the most fun time we still talk about was in the middle of the winter at St. Patrick’s Day — standing around a roaring bonfire with all our friends trying to stay warm. We all would get toasty on one side and turn and toast the other side.

We had had (and have had) bonfires at Christmas that are doozie! There are lots of family and friends standing around watching all the little kids and some big kids, a grandma and uncles and cousins and neighbors sledding down our hill. The others were in the warm house, juggling the wet coats, mittens and boots on kids when they came in from the cold. We burnt a large amount of pallets that Bob was bent on burning. What a roaring good time we all had.

This cold 35-below St. Patrick’s Day year began snowing in November and never stopped. So we had snow, snow and more snow. In March, Bob cleared away the snow once again with the snow plow — measuring 6 feet total at times — that made some berms 7 to 8 feet tall. Then they froze solid.

He shoveled a path to the outhouse again as he did every day because it was essential to keep the path to the outhouse clear, not having running water or a bathroom. He would have to stand back at every shovel full of snow and toss it high upon the 8-foot snow bank.

The yard was filling up with pushed-up snowbanks by the snow plow and there just was no place to put any more snow. But that did not matter; we decided to have a St. Pat’s party anyway. It was up to Bob to get the wood to burn. Not too hard to do — as we burnt wood in the stove and he somehow had an endless supply of wood pallets.

We used to cut and split our wood or have it hauled in and then we split and stacked it. Sometimes we had help in the form of grandson Arleigh when he was old enough to “hep Bob” carry wood. Grey was every so helpful also when he was old enough to pack wood for “Bomp.” Our neighbors, our relatives and their relatives have all helped with the splitting and stacking of wood at one time or other. You will never be forgotten!

The day of St. Patrick’s arrived and Bob hauled some pallets he had found and placed them in the fire pit and then stacked odd pieces of wood on top. He hauled out his big “weed burner” (as I call it) — and poof, we had a roaring fire.

Our brave, brave friends came from down the road, up the road, from far and near, to have a break from the constant cold and snow and have a St. Patrick’s party at Bob and Ann’s. I had called and passed the word along to all and everyone. When they arrived they parked along side the driveway and down into the cul-de-sac and walked in, covered dish in hand. Bob carved out a ledge in the snow berm and that became a table. The men’s drinks we carefully guarded so the beer would not freeze!! The temperature was 35 below!

I had made corned beef and cabbage and one nice visitor brought a big kettle of it also. We hauled out the barbecue grill, lit it and placed the two big kettles on it to keep it warm. I jabbered with all, being glad to see some familiar faces I had not seen all the long, cold winter.

I went to stir the corned beef and cabbage. It was cold!! There was no flame. We had just gotten the bottle filled. I relit it — it burned for about five seconds and went out. I tried again!! Nope, it would not stay lit. It was so cold the propane froze!! At 35 below things freeze, even propane. Not to be detoured, we hauled the big kettles of corned beef and cabbage into the house — heated them up and eventually we had cups of HOT corned beef. Sure did taste good!

People drifted in and stayed until they either got too cold or just too tired and went home. The memories of this cold St. Pat’s Day is one we talk about every year on St Pat’s Day. I hope you had a memorable day this year.

And now the continuing story of Bernie and me returning from Colorado.


Because we had stayed so long on the ground in Denver and because of a lightning and thunder rainstorm, our arrival time in Anchorage was late. This made our connections with the little airplane to Kenai just with minutes to spare. As we were getting ready to land in Anchorage, Bernie announced to me: “Now when we land, grab your wheelie luggage at the baggage area. We have to run to the boarding gate for Kenai, so when we get off, you just follow me.”

OK, I said.

We hit the terminal on the run. She takes off to the left and I follow her, thinking she is in control and always has a plan and knows exactly what she is doing — well, I was wrong! The airport was jammed with passengers. We were pulling the wheelie luggage. We were running down behind a big line of waiting passengers to board, pulling our wheelie luggage and toting our large purses slung over our shoulders. We pulled them down long stairs to the lower level. Down the long hall-way of the old part of the airport. All the way to the end!

She runs up to a man, “Where’s the airplane?”

He looks at her kinda sideways, “What airplane?”

“The one to Kenai!” she half shouts. “Oh” he says. “This is the old part of the airport. They are at the other end of the new building.”

“Oh! I forgot! Thanks!”

She turns around and off she runs in the same direction we just came, back up the stairs, pulling the luggage behind her. I had a hard time catching up with her.

As we were going back up the stairs and behind all those people in line we just passed, I see smoke coming from her luggage. I shout, “Bernie your wheel is on fire!” She stops, looks at me like I am crazy, and everyone flips around and looks at these two old crazy ladies running a marathon, running one way and then back tracking.

Bernie flipped her wheelie luggage over, and grabbed the wheel and burnt her finger.

“Ouch!” she shouted. “That darn thing is hot — look I have a flat tire!” She flipped it back over and started running, shouting to me, “Come on we are going to miss our plane! “

Off she goes, the luggage with a flat tire was pulling to one side and then zigzagging the other down the hall. She picked it up and ran even faster towards our boarding area just in time for the lady to say, “You ladies are in luck, we were just about to close up and fly away.”

We threw our luggage in the open door of the luggage compartment and boarded the plane, flopped in our seats and started to laugh. Bernie says, “We were two crazy ladies running around the airport with luggage on fire!” We giggled but were too tired to say much else.

Apparently, while we were running through the airport — first one way and then the other, the wheel on her luggage got stuck and the friction from the carpet finally caught it on fire. The whole one side of the plastic wheel had been rubbed off before it finally caught on fire.

Bernie called me the next day and she said we were the talk of the airport — I guess there were people who knew us boarding at the Anchorage airport who got there money’s worth. Oh what fun we had. Memories are so special, especially when you travel with Bernie.


This is my recipe — It’s Bob approved.

1 box of plan Jell-O No bake Cheesecake

1 large can of crushed pineapple, well drained. Press the juice out.

Save the juice.

Butter an 8 x 8 square pan.

Pat in the crumb crust according to directions.

Make the cheesecake according to directions.

Stir the well-drained pineapple into the thick cheesecake.

Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth and refrigerate.

Pour the pineapple juice into a sauce pan and add 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and bring to boil.

Add 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with water and simmer until thick.

Cool until completely cold.

Stir in 5 tablespoon of Cool Whip until smooth.

Frost the top of the chilled cheesecake.

Sprinkle with coconut or crushed pecans.

Keep chilled until serving time. This freezes easy too.


This is from Ronnie and Jim Childers. These fine people looked us up while they were visiting from California. We enjoyed them but the visit was not long enough.


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Whisk the following together:

2 1/4 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 stick melted butter

1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapenos

Stir into the flour mixture.

Pour into a buttered, cornmeal-dusted 9-inch cast-iron skillet.

Top with slices of pickled jalapenos.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

(P.S. This is very good, but I added 1/4 cup each chopped onions and red bell pepper. Thank you so much Ronnie!)


This is Susan Jordan’s recipe.

Chop 1 small head of cabbage.

Peel and cut 2 potatoes, dice in large pieces.

Slice 1 smoked keilbasa sausage or sausage of choice

In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

Place potatoes in first and cabbage and then the sausage. Top with a lid.

Fry potatoes, cabbage and sausage until slightly browned, stir gently often.

So good! But because I cannot leave a recipe alone I added:

1/2 cup chopped onions and a sliced carrots because Bob likes carrots.

We had about a cup left over when we were through eating. Grey came over and ate the rest!! It must have been good! Thank you, Susan.


About 2 pounds of halibut, about 1-inch thick

1/4 cup butter

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

Saute in butter the minced garlic and mushrooms for 5 minutes.

Stir in 1 tablespoon flour and stir to combine.

Add 1/2 cup cream of mushroom soup, undiluted.

Add 1/2 cup milk.

Simmer until slightly thick. Add more milk if too thick.

Generously butter a baking dish and place halibut in bottom.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour the mushroom mixture over.

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes. Depends of thickness of halibut. Done when halibut flakes.

Serve with chopped lettuce, sliced tomato and red onion slices — pass the favorite dressing.

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