Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Lid Toast

Harry Dodson at the northern wall of The Victorian Kitchen Garden in 1989

Harry Dodson at the northern wall of The Victorian Kitchen Garden in 1989

About ten years before Survivor and other reality shows of its kind took over prime time viewing, public broadcasters such as PBS and TVO here in Canada featured several documentaries that held my interest. These focused on survival of a different sort. One was a BBC program The Victorian Garden. This was in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was crazy nuts for anything to do with herbs and vegetables and perennial gardens. The series featured a walled kitchen garden and its caretaker, a retired gentleman who in his early days worked in a similar setting.

His job was to restore the garden to its former glory over a twelve month period. Through the change of seasons viewers watched how plants were cultivated, harvested, stored, and prepared in the manor kitchen.

I was completely taken by the idea of self-sufficiency and growing and preserving my own food in a small space. I watched the program with the devotion of a religious convert.

Around this time, the newspaper ran a feature about a new TV reality show called Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West. The series “follows two couples as they assume the lives of early settlers to the West and spend one year living as 1870s pioneers on the Canadian prairie.”

The producers invited interested readers to apply. Our (you will note the possessive pronoun) mission would be to clear and settle a plot of land situated in a remote part of Manitoba. The carrot? $100,000 for each couple should they last the year.

Can you believe it? I actually gave more than a passing notion to this invitation. After all, I knew how to garden, how to can food, how to light a woodstove. I liked horses, too. I actually lived on a hobby farm and stabled several of the creatures. I loved the idea of living in a remote setting in a cute log cabin.

Seriously? [there is not an emoticon suitable enough to illustrate the ginormous eye-roll that would be inserted here]

I marvel at this now, of course. Today, my idea of pioneer living is to ensure the supply of wood for the fire. This involves the arduous task of asking, “Honey, can you get us some kindling?”

Apparently I considered my talent for making lid toast as the prerequisite skill needed to apply for the show.

Yes, lid toast, one of the greatest things since… wait for it… sliced bread.

Lid toast recipe card

Voilà. Lid toast. I guarantee it, this will be the best piece of toast you’ve had the pleasure of slathering with butter and jam.

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In response to WEThurs August 21, 2014

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54 replies

  1. I don’t remember this particular pioneer show, but our PBS ran “The 1900 House.” So interesting to watch the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed family set out to live their romanticized ideal of life in those times and in no time flat, become completely overwhelmed by how difficult the simplest tasks were. Such as cooking. They needed your Lid Toast recipe!


  2. This was really funny. It is amazing sometimes the ideas that we can get from something which seems simple or easy enough.


  3. Oh yes, I remember the ‘House’ series – Pioneer House, Colonial House, Edwardian House – absolutely fascinating. Still remember the rich bloke who thought he was wasting away and called a doctor who told him actually he had been overweight when he arrived and he was now the weight he was supposed to be. 😀
    I shall remember Lid Toast next time I make a sojourn to my brother’s holiday house. It’s a tiny converted 1850s brick church out in the bush (it used to be surrounded by 5,000 miners living in tents) and it has a pot belly stove. That’s the closest I’ve got to access to a wood stove.


  4. The secret of good lid bread might be the ‘homemade’ description of the bread. Your ordinary shop-bought tends to stick, I’ve found.


  5. A couple of my friends lived in a house in rural Wisconsin that had no running water and was heated with wood. They had a large garden and canned what they needed for winter. They had electricity but didn’t use it for much more than lights. In other words, no tv, no radio, no “record player”. This was before the age of home computers.

    The best part of their day was the evening, when the guitars came out their cases and the cover over the piano keyboard was tilted back.


    • One of my fondest memories is of an impromptu gathering of assorted fiddlers and spooners. (Is that the right word?) Someone even played the bones – I believe BBQ beef ribs had been on the menu. What a night that was!

      Thanks for stopping by, Greg!


  6. Hahaha, I love how your thinking could change so radically! Maybe it’s not you, but the times?


    • Hey Luanne. I know, isn’t it something? To answer your question, I think it might be both. I have grown older and less willing/able to do the hard slogging required in projects like these. Plus I have become attached to things like internet connections.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh this is where we deviate wildly! I remember the promos for that show too. I remember wondering who in their right mind would think that was a good idea. The prize would have to be a whole lot larger to make it worthwhile 🙂 There is no frontier spirit in this small-town-turned-city-girl.


    • LOL – I finally caught up with you, Joanne, trust me. If I remember correctly, I did not watch the series beyond the first two or three episodes. It may have been that some other program conflicted, but I seem to remember feeling horrified at the reality of it all, and not a little embarrassed that I had considered myself a candidate. What was I thinking?


  8. Glad you explained that lid toast. But then, you often do plan moves ahead, like chess. : )

    As for me:

    “Oh, give me a home,
    Where the microwaves roam…”

    The only lids want to see is are on STORE-bought food jars.

    My mom did used to make homemade mint jelly, though, and that looked easy: All it takes to seal it is a little poured wax.


    • You are one sharp cookie, OB! Yes, I did plan that ahead!

      Thanks for the memory of paraffin wax! I used to help (as in consigned/enslaved) mom with jam making. She wouldn’t let me handle the wax pouring, though. Too hot and hazardous. But as the leftover wax cooled in the pan, I used to love dabbing my fingers in and peeling back the hardened layers.

      I’d do that with melted candle wax, too.

      Little details like this probably fit under the TMI category, but what the hey, eh? 🙂


  9. Maggie, that series The Victorian Garden was re-run on our television about three years ago. I also loved it and recorded the series. All the gardening was done in the old style. Hard work wearing a shirt and tie with the sleeves rolled up. Such a gentleman.
    I would “love” to work in that garden for the rest of my life. So peaceful within those high walls.
    Great post. Thanks.


  10. Ooh, I was really hoping this was going to turn out to be a story about how one time you made a piece of toast and the scorch marks were a secret message or symbol that completely changed your life. But this was good too.


  11. [there is not an emoticon suitable enough to illustrate the ginormous eye-roll that would be inserted here]–this would be my most favorite line in this post. Directions on how to make toast, eh, Maggie? Of course I just got back in town and wondered what I had missed. not too much….haha! Missed you, girl!


  12. These shows sound like a HUGE improvement over today’s reality shows!! I’ll bet you learned a lot from the gardening show! I know a lot of people (ahem-alas, not me) who love and are great at gardening, who would have loved that show! Lid toast sounds yummy! 😊


  13. I think people long for “simpler times” – but they don’t realize how much work was involved in just LIVING back then. There was a reason they had so many children – you needed an army just to run the farm and keep the house. I have to admit, though, I have a fantasy of buying a little place in the mountains, far from people, with solar and wind power, a septic system, a well, and some livestock and a garden.


    • You understand then, Jana. I think that’s what drew me to the call for contestants. At the time, I was living in a large city, on a busy street, with unhappy neighbours living out their dramas on a regular basis. I wanted to escape.


  14. I preferred The Good Life, mainly for Felicity Kendall. :-p

    Lid toast is fine by me as long as I can put apricot jam on it 🙂


  15. I agree laundry day years ago was a strenuous business. A washing machine is worth it’s weight in gold. If I won Tattlotto I’d buy an Aga and have lid toast everyday!!


  16. I totally remember The Victorian Garden! Lol. We often watch TVO and PBS for the documentaries (and quality) they still offer.

    Lid toast – brilliant!


  17. When I was young enough to do something that crazy, I had no choice but to work and help support the family. Still it would be very tempting. We’re both somewhat hermits.


    • For a while I was quite comfortable living in the country, though I did work in the city, so it wasn’t as if I spent 24/7 in a rural setting. These days, though, I appreciate the convenience of having our needs met more or less all within walking distance. Plus I am happy for people around me.

      I do know about being a hermit though. I keep very much to myself.


  18. Lid toast sounds wonderful. I remember when I was a Girl Scout that I put biscuit bread on a stick and toasted it over a fire. Yummy! Excellent with jelly. The isolated life is not for me. I lived in the country on 66 acres and it was really lonely. My closest friend lived a mile or two away. So I would not have been a good candidate for this show – especially during the brutal cold winter months.l


  19. I would have watched that program. Yup. Enjoyed your post.



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