The Sandpoint Eater: Tots and tots

By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Columnist

After months of planning and anticipating the arrival of youngest daughter Casey’s family (the Chicago Four), their move to Spokane is (mostly) complete. For the first time in a month, I am utterly toddler-less. In between their Sandpoint arrival and departure, we ventured to a lush mountain meadow in Montana for our annual retreat.

I look forward to our Montana week more than I look forward to Christmas. It’s the one time of year I’m assured, without a doubt, that we’ll all gather (even though it falls smack in the middle of haying season for my son, Zane). It usually takes me a couple of weeks to organize and plan menus, shop and load the wagon (SUV) for the great adventure. It was a challenge to plan and pack amid two curiously unsettled toddlers and, though I forgot a few things, it was well worth the chaos in my home.

From the east, west and south, our caravan arrived mid-afternoon — the first time all nine of my delightful grandbabes shared a meal under the same roof. It was also the first time for most of the clan to meet Runa, Casey’s youngest. Other firsts, too, included Runa’s first faltering steps and Casey’s young son Sammy’s first pie-eating contest. We filled our mornings with hearty breakfasts and long hikes, followed by dangling our feet in the coolness of the clear, cool stream. Sandwiches and ice cream occupied most of our long afternoons, and evenings were filled with more food and, later, with libations, stories and raucous laughter. 

This year Zane brought a treat for the entire family: Rocky Mountain oysters. And after a 25+ year hiatus, it turns out I haven’t lost my knack for preparing them. Even vegetarian Casey celebrated her westward move home and rite of passage by partaking in the family ritual. Felt like old ranch times, for sure.

As the oldest, I think Ryanne worries the most about looking after me when I’m worn out, and this is the first year she didn’t scold me for “overdoing the menu.” I have to admit, my food snobbishness got knocked back a notch or two this season, and I learned that humans (especially my grandkids) are still eating and enjoying tater tots. I also discovered that they come in different sizes. Sammy and Runa love the tiny tots, while the older kids like the ones that are branded as “puffs.”

They also prefer dipping their treasured tots in ketchup (over the secret sauce that I’d prepared for the oysters. They’re also pretty damn happy with a shelf-stable bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing as the go-to condiment for everything else on the table — including fingers).

Speaking of condiments, in anticipation of getting my house ready for a house swap with a delightful young Swiss couple who live in a Brooklyn brownstone (I’ll wait for fall to enjoy their home), I deep cleaned my refrigerator. I was reminded that many friends bring me back goods from their travels, and my favorite travel experience is also shopping for local ingredients.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of the treasure trove (hoard) of accumulated sauces, dressings, oils and mustards. I have mustard from France, Ireland, Germany and Canada; hot sauces from Korea, Thailand and Mexico; sweet pomegranate sauce from Turkey; rabbabarasulta (rhubarb) sauce from Russia; and other finishing sauces from parts unknown, as I can’t even read the foreign labels. 

I think it’s time for a condiment-sharing party, and I’ll humbly admit that I am entirely out of ketchup. Speaking of ketchup, I just wiped up the last of the toddler food fingerprints, and the house is back in good order.

My kids are gone for a while, my kitty is gone forever and for the first time in 15 years, I don’t have anyone to worry about leaving behind, so I am footloose, though still unsure of which direction I’ll go, I have 10 days to get there. I’m bringing an insulated cooler, just in case I come across a condiment or two I can’t resist.

Meanwhile, everything is ready for my house guests, including a welcome bag of Evan’s Bros coffee beans and a homemade loaf of Peaches and Cream bread (which I could barely resist not cutting into). Peach season is here. Make yourself a loaf or two.


Peaches and cream bread
Makes two delicious loaves, serve for breakfast or tea (or even dessert).



• 4 cups (white or yellow) peaches. Peeled, slice one peach into thin slices and cut the other two into chunks 

• 1/2 cup fine chopped toasted pecans (reserve a few for the tops of loaves)

• 3 cups Flour

• 1 tsp salt 

• 2 tsp baking powder 

• 1 1/2 cups sugar 

• 1 cup butter

• 3 eggs

• 1/2 cup Greek yogurt 

• 1/2 cup milk

• 1/2 cup loose brown sugar

• 1/4 cup heavy cream



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Grease two 9”x5”x 3” loaf pans and line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, set aside. 

In a large mixer, cream butter and sugar and add vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. Add yogurt and milk and mix until smooth. Add flour, mixing just until flour is incorporated. Fold in peach chunks and pecans and spread batter evenly into prepared pans. 

Sprinkle tops with half the brown sugar, lay the sliced peach decoratively over top. Add remaining pecans and brown sugar and drizzle all over with the heavy cream.

Bake for 75-90 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. 

Cool completely and remove from pans, carefully loosening edges with a knife.

Serve as is or dust with powdered sugar. Wrap and refrigerate any leftovers

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