Pioneer Potluck: How to tell an Alaskan woman

Written by my daughters, Gail and Susan, several years ago in a brainstorm of brilliants and lots of smiles and laughter. They were dragged to Alaska by their adventurous mother, when they were 8 and 5 and their brother David was 6. They learned to survive through the years by using different techniques and adapting to any situation that presented itself in the woods, beach and the below zero isolated winters, in the meantime accumulating a sense of their Grandpa McClure’s humor. The following is the result of the brainstorm between Gail and Susan.


You will always know an Alaskan woman

Because they not only carry a skinning knife, a gun and bug spray, but can sharpen the knife and their husband’s and friends’ knives too. She is a dead shot with the gun. 

When spring cleaning includes “relocating” the coyote and assorted road kill that did not get skinned, tanned or traded to friends.

When they have a tanning recipe box and trade recipes.

When they regularly clean the family limit of clams while the husband discusses with his friends the “big ones” and she actually gets them clean and packed to freeze before dark.

When your tackle box has lunch — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — diapers, ammunition, GPS, toilet paper, hand-wipes and bug spray.

When it takes less than seven years to teach your significant other you would rather have a cool rock from the beach than roses for birthdays or anniversaries.

When camouflage is a wardrobe basic.

When you do a better gut cleaning job on the season’s moose or bear then the other hunters.

When they teach husbands, sons and neighbor’s how to sharpen a chainsaw.

When they drop a tree with a chainsaw, split it, carry it home, carry it in the house, start a fire with no paper, then regulate the stove within 25 degrees so she can cook supper.

When your Christmas wish list includes a high powered hunting rifle.

When your kids have dissected more than a few road kill porcupines and kept the quills as a precious find.

When a “relaxing night out” is hours spent in a lawn chair with bunny boots and Carhartts, watching the Northern Lights bounce across the midnight sky.

When you can out-spit your children on a double-digit below zero day.

When you build and maintain your own smokehouse. Catch, fillet and smoke the salmon with wood you have gathered, pealed the bark off, so as not to have a bitter taste to the fish, with the brine you “invented” yourself. 

When you have a valued tree-limb collection to carve beautiful wooden items from.

When you can tune up your own personal rototiller and snow machine.

When you reassure your kids while fishing, that leaves are OK in the absence real toilet paper.

When bumps in the night are not a burglar, just a munchy moose or a nosy bear.

When you grow up and play with pets like Bullwinkle, the rescued baby moose, or the lost baby seal that was affectionately called Sammy. Bullwinkle liked bananas, chocolate milk, pancakes and dog food in that order. Sammy the seal cried like a baby when you left him alone in his fish box. He had to be force-fed Avocet cream and burped over your shoulder just like the baby. We all cried just like a baby when we let him go back to his natural habitat in Cook Inlet. And their other pet was a cat named Apple that turned out to be “loonie.”

When you get that midnight snack attack and sneak to the freezer and eat frozen homemade moose tamales.

When you know enough not to wear polyester or V-neck shirts to a bonfire or a big campfire cookout and to be on the look out at all times for flying embers and sparks.

When you go to weddings, graduations and funerals with hiking boots and Levi’s and feel comfortable. You take a moose pot roast or a baked salmon for the gathering afterward.

When you supervise and celebrate the new location of an outhouse.

When the temperature reached 55 degrees above outside and it’s way too hot!

When your only perfume is bug repellent.

When your kids stay up all night because the sun has not yet set — 19 hours of daylight is perfect for an excuse not to go to bed. 

When you have educated your kids in the ways of Alaska and give them big hugs and kisses after discussing the location of the stars, The Big and Little Dipper, the Moon and the Aurora Borealis before they go to bed.


NOTE:  All the above ideas were drawn from real life experiences! 


Before you leave the house, put in a big Zip-Loc bag the following:

1 large onion chopped

3 stalks celery chopped

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can chicken broth

4 lemons sliced

2 teaspoons garlic salt

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 whole peppercorns-optional

1 to 2 bay leaves

1 to 2 bottles of water – 1 bottle to cook with another to add incase you have added more ingredients.

Place ingredients in Ziploc inside a 5 gallon cooking pot with lid.  Transport to the beach camp sight.

At the campsite after fishing, claming all day, bring to a simmer all above ingredients with one bottle of water, over camp fire. Simmer 5 min.

Add the following fish in any amount you wish.

Add skinned halibut or salmon or both in one inch chunks. Simmer 5 min.

Add any type of clam that is been scrubbed and cleaned of sand. Simmer 5 min.

Add shrimp; simmer 3 to 5 min. until the clams open. Discard any unopened clams.

Scoop into big bowls (we used an assortment of pie plates.)

Pass the Parmesan cheese, that campfire toasted garlic bread, a spoon and a napkin. Find a rock or a log and eat as you listen to the “oohhs” and “ahhs” and the gentle swish of the tide as the sun goes down over the water.  It makes you smile a lot. You have instant friends!


In a glass salad bowl layer in the following order:

4 cups clean drained, fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces, stems removed

1 red onion, cut in rings-rings, cut in half. Yellow or white onion will do

2 large ripe tomatoe’s, cut in slices and cut in fourths.

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

1 to 2 cups frozen peas-they have to be frozen to keep the salad fresh and crispy. They will thaw within a 6 hours period.

2 green onions sliced

4 sliced, cold, hard boiled eggs.

Frost the top with:

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise combined with

1/2 cup sour cream

If this mixture is too thick add a tablespoon or two of buttermilk or milk

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Bacon bits sprinkle over top if desired

Frost salad, making sure you seal the edges. Sprinkle with paprika, bacon bits, parsley flakes and cracked pepper. Seal tightly with Saran Wrap.  Chill up to 12 hours.  This is a wonderful lunch meal served with crackers or garlic bread. 


This is a very pretty salad served in a large glass bowl.  Great picnic salad!

Make the dressing in a large mixing bowl:

2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Curry powder

1/2 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 cups your favorite shredded cheese

You may have to add a tablespoon of buttermilk or milk to make is creamy but firm.

Stir until blended and set aside

In a large see-through round glass bowl, layer in order given

4 cups torn iceberg lettuce

Small head of cauliflower cut in small flowerets

1 onion red or yellow, cut in rings, cut again

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced very thin

1 small bunch of trimmed broccoli, sliced in small pieces

2 peeled shredded carrots

1/2 pound cleaned, trimmed and sliced mushrooms

1-10 ounce package frozen small sugar peas-do not thaw

1 cup cooked cocktail shrimp

1 cup imitation crab cut in medium chunks

You may also add or substitute 1 cup cooked salmon or halibut, in small pieces

You need two cups of cooked fish of any combination.

1 cup sliced celery

Two large tomatoes sliced thin

1 small can sliced black olives, drained and sprinkle over top of tomatoes…

Frost the top of the salad with the already prepare dressing, seal around the edges.  Sprinkle 4 slices of crispy fried bacon, diced and drained.

Top with 1 cup was salted peanuts or 1/2 cup sunflower seeds.

Sprinkle with cracked pepper and paprika.

Moisten outer edges of the bowl with water in seal tightly was Saran Wrap.

Refrigerate for 12 hours and up to 24.

Have this recipe written down to give out at picnics.

Makes 8 to 12 large servings. This is my own recipe adding things that we like. You can do the same.


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