Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pioneer Johnnycake, interviews, and homemade butter

Here's our basic schedule for  the Pioneer Unit. I'm sure I won't always want to/be able to make up weekly schedules like this, but it's a method that's working well for me right now. And even if I don't always stick to it religiously, it helps me to have an overview to work from (and usually before I post it, I update it to show what we actually did, which I'm hoping will help me with planning later).

A couple things we enjoyed that aren't pictured: 
--looking at this map of the westward trails, and comparing it with roads of today
--interviewing Grandma--who is NOT a pioneer, of course, but we talked about journals and personal histories and how it is that we know about what life was like before we were born. The three boys came up with four interview questions each to ask Grandma about her life when she was their age. Then we practiced and practiced (by role playing) HOW to interview someone. Everyone thought this was hilarious because they played the part of Grandma and I played the part of one of them doing the wrong thing. That ranged from interrupting her, to leaving the room while she was talking, to appearing uninterested ("LOOK at her while she's talking!", I kept saying) to letting her answer with just a yes or a no ("Always ask a follow-up and get more information!"). When they did the interviews for real, I thought it was so adorable to hear the following exchange:
Seb: Grandma, did you have any pets when you were young?
Grandma: Yes, a parakeet.
Seb: Oh, and so . . . hmm, a parakeet. Tell me more! Just, tell me everything about it. And about any other pets, if you had any. IF you had any, but it's fine if you didn't. A parakeet is perfectly good!

On to the food elements: You can't do a unit on pioneers without making butter, right? That's one of the few things I remember from first grade---making butter in baby food jars. But after watching the Happy Scientist's video [I don't think you need a subscription for this one?], I learned more about the process than I'd ever known before. He explains it so clearly! I also appreciated his tips on how, exactly, to shake up the cream. (Slow, deliberate shakes, after having left your cream out of the fridge overnight, make the process way easier and faster! Hooray!)
Butter, nice and soft, with buttermilk in the glass behind


On another day, we made johnnycakes (or journeycakes), which are cornmeal pancakes, because we love this book:
and because we read they were a favorite of Joseph Smith's. There are lots of recipes out there, ranging from really simple (cornmeal, water, and salt) to more complex. I assume that the pioneers would have adapted the recipe to their various situations---so, maybe the eggless version out on the trail, but using eggs and sugar, if they had them, at home. We used this recipe, which maybe wasn't the most authentically pioneer-y, but looked like it would be good. And it was. The pancakes themselves were pretty crumbly (and a bit dry---I would need to do more experimenting with the liquids to perfect it) but tasted great with our vanilla syrup.
This reminds me of the drawing of the "tiger pancakes" in the story of Little Black Sambo (or its improved update, The Story of Little Babaji

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