Last Thursday the fourth grade class ventured to spend 24 hours at the historic Sutter’s Fort. This is one of those field trips that’s a really big deal for the kids, the teachers & by default the parents. The kids spend most of the school year preparing for their big day. Each picks an historic character from one of the famous parties that crossed over the Donner Pass to reach California & Sutter’s Fort & they write reports on their character in addition to the state reports & more. The day of the field trip both the kids & parent volunteers were required to dress in period garb & the kids were transported to the fort by horse drawn wagons. The kids were in their glory. And let’s just say that I can rock a braid & bonnet like it’s the latest fashion trend. Well, not so much, but if you have it you gotta work it, right??
Let’s fast forward a bit. Parent volunteers weren’t merely chaperones. We were also characters in the fort & had assumed the responsibilities of each of the tradespeople who ran the fort on a daily basis. There was a blacksmith, candle & rope making, gristmill, carpenter, kitchen & bakery. I worked the bakery. Make some bread? How hard could that be?? ….
The bakery was an outdoor beehive oven. Another mom & I had to build a raging fire in the oven & bring the temp to 500 degrees. (Insert good pioneer moms gathering & chopping wood to make tinder & char-cloth to spark with flint rock to ignite the fire.) Let me just say that my earlier years of being a Camp Fire Girl finally paid off…
It literally took us FIVE hours to get the dang oven to reach that magical 500 degrees! Five hours of building the fire, chopping the logs down to coals, then shoveling the flaming coals out of the oven & carrying them to this fire pit to warm a caldron of water. See, it was too freakin cold for the dough to rise, so we had to make a dough bath in the caldron. At this point I seriously questioned WTF I’d gotten myself into?? And it gets even better. Once the oven reached optimal temp (BTW – we had no thermometer so had to take a gander by putting our hand in the oven & attempting to hold it there for 15 seconds. If you couldn’t do it, the oven was ready) we had to shovel out ALL the coals, dip brooms into water & sweep out the oven til it was nice & clean enough to slap the dough balls in there. Yeah, that was fun. Now I know what it’s really like to sweat my ass off over an oven ALL freakin day long.
Thankfully we had 45 minute break in the afternoon so me & two other moms decided we’d walk a couple blocks to one of our favorite spots to grab a bite of real food. I have to preface this by saying that Sutter’s Fort is located in the heart of Midtown Sacramento. Anything worth doing or seeing is, for the most part, in Midtown. Especially the food. So down the street we walk, sporting our most stylish period clothing whilst doing our best to smile & wave at gawking passers by. The restaurant we went to had a line out the door, so we popped into the attached bar next door knowing they had the same menu. All heads turn when we walk in (because we were just that hot) & I throw my arms up & ask, “What’s a pilgrim gotta to do get a drink around here?!” Insert hysterical laughter & 30 minutes of gabbing with construction workers at the bar. And a well deserved ice cold beer.
We returned to our post feeling refreshed & ready to bake. And I must say, that bread turned out amazeballs! But not good enough to ever go through that ever, ever again.