Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Friday, June 20, 2014


When one lives in the country, and rides the bus to school, one learns to take lunch.
I did.
Live in the country, take the bus and pack a lunch, I mean.
Lunch time was the high point of my school day.
The bell would ring.
The scramble for our various lunch boxes would be completed.
The inevitable question, "Whatd'ja get?" would be asked.
And serious eating would begin.
My Mom took extra pains to make our lunches varied and delicious.
With mixed results.
There was always the sandwich.
Which was the mainstay of ninety pecent of our lunches.
Thick slices of homemade bread containing one of the following:
Tinned tuna salad. Yum.
Chicken Salad. Yum.
Ground Beef and pickle. Yum.
Peanut butter and honey. Double yum, as long as peanut butter had been liberally smeared on both slices of bread before the honey was added, because otherwise, the honey seeped into the bread and made a sort of . . . crust.
Not yum.
Peanut butter and jam. Easily exchanged for my neighbour's cold hamburger patty and mayo stuffed into a homemade bun. Yum.
Tinned salmon salad. Not in my lifetime. And not easily traded, either.
Hot dogs. The best. The very best.
I should mention, here, that microwaves existed only on Star Trek and pre-packaged meals, like Lunchables, hadn't even been thought of.
Mom's hot dogs were an amazing feat.
She would cook the hot dogs while we were eating breakfast, then put two of them into our thermoses with a small quantity of the hot water.
Then seal it up.
Add a couple of hot dog buns wrapped in waxed paper, and a packet or two of ketsup and mustard and lunchtime couldn't come fast enough.
She always included some extras as well.
There was the inevitable sadly-bruised banana.
Which had looked perfectly good when it was put in.
Or the un-eat-able apple.
I've decided that the idea of gifting a teacher with an apple came from a student who simply didn't want to eat theirs. And had been taught that wasting food was unacceptable.
But I digress . . .
Mom also included a treat.
Usually something homemade and yummy.
Like squares.
Or her famous butterhorns.
Mmmm . . .
Occasionally, she would change things up a little.
When my thermos wasn't filled with hot dog deliciousness, she would usually put in chocolate milk or hot chocolate.
Either of which just nicely rounded out a lovely lunch.
Once, she put in something different.
But didn't tell me.
I saw the sandwiches, so I knew that hot dogs were out of the question.
So I did what I always did. Grabbed my thermos and shook up what was supposed to be milk and chocolate in some form.
Then I unscrewed the lid.
It hit the ceiling hard enough to bounce clear over to the door.
And brought students from every room down the hall to see who was opening champaign in the grade nine classroom.
I looked up from my fizzing-over thermos and grinned.
Umm . . . Mom had filled it with Seven-Up.
The first and only time.
Another attempt at variety.
A good one, but wasted on me.
Later, when I started making my own lunches, they included fresh tomato sandwiches.
Made from tomatoes that I sliced at school so the bread wouldn't get soggy.
And packages of celephane-wrapped goodies.
The sandwiches were good.
Though they were made with store-bought bread.
But the treats never quite measured up.
To this day, when I hear someone mention lunch, I think of my Mom's homemade bread sandwiches, home-baked goodies, hot chocolate and my one experience with Seven-Up.
I miss those days.


  1. Ah the lunch box....I could never get my stupid thermos open but it was always milk, never hot dogs. Your mom rocked.

  2. Oh, how I want a cellophane wrapped tuna sandwich! And maybe a couple of chips?

    Lunches brought from home were the best...


  3. I remember getting the hotdogs in the thermos!

    I also remember the one time we had that massive heatwave in April that melted my puffed wheat square onto my drink...

  4. I remember how exciting it was to pick out my new lunch box/thermos every year. Sadly, my mom wasn't quite so varied with our lunches... peanut butter every day, although I do appreciate that she made me one!

    1. Half of the fun of going to school was picking out the new lunch box!

  5. The hot dog in the thermos is brilliant!

    1. Yeah. My Mom rocked the whole lunch thing...

  6. Your mom's lunch packing skills sound top-notch. Mmmmm...

    I remember tomato soup in a thermos, with a sandwich and apple or banana. It took me all lunch hour to finish (slow eater) and we had to finish before we could go outside to play. Finally my wonderful teacher suggested to my mother that she might not need to send so much food. Ah, for the days of lunch boxes and two-room schoolhouses with teachers who were practically surrogate parents ...

    1. And you were so good to eat it all! Teachers who loved us...

  7. The hot dog solution is pure brilliance. And...what are butterhorns and how do I get one?

    1. Butterhorns were pure deliciousness! They looked like a cinnamon bun, but without the cinnamon. A butter dough with glaze. Even better than a doughnut!

    2. O. M. Gosh. Yum. Looking them up.

  8. I've lived a deprived life, I never got hot dogs in a thermos. I'm calling my mom right now to lodge a complaint.

  9. Oh wow, does this ever bring back memories!!! I had a lunch box like this and loved the meals mom put in there---but the tuna always got soggy, hahaha! Thanks for the memories! XO

  10. There is nothing in the world better than a garden tomatoe sandwich!

  11. Squares? Butterhorns? I need more information here. Recipes even. Please.
    I was in charge of my own lunch and most often took plum jam sandwiches.
    Sometimes I'd get two shillings to buy my lunch on a Friday and I would get a pasty with tomato sauce in the winter. In the summer I'd still take the sandwich and use the lunch money for icecream on the way home.
    Many of my classmates would have tomato sandwiches that they threw in the bin because of the sogginess, seems the mums never learned of this because they continued to make them.

    1. I love pastys!
      River, I found Mom's recipe for butterhorns!
      Here it is:
      2 Tbsp. yeast
      1/2 Cup warm water
      1 tsp. sugar
      Mix together and soak for 5 min.
      2 Cups milk (Heated)
      1 Cup butter (Add to milk and cool)
      1/2 Cup sugar
      1 tsp. salt
      1 egg (beaten)
      5 1/2 Cups flour
      Let raise 1 hour.
      Divide dough into two
      Roll out and cut into strips
      Wind into circles on a greased sheet
      Bake at 375 (F)
      Frost and sprinkle with crushed nuts

  12. You know, when I think of the lunches Mom made, I think of the thermos bottles that leaked into the outside, only to drip out when I was pouring whatever it was into the cup. Six week old milk--Yuk! I started dismantling my thermos bottles after that and washing them myself. And then there was the incidents of getting my lunches stolen...

    1. Ugh! Oh, yeah. The stolen lunches. Sigh.


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