2 Jun


As a university student, spent a couple of summers working with a treeplanting crew in northern BC. Back-breaking piecework (we were paid 10 cents a tree), it involved dragging panniers of trees up a recently logged slope, stopping every couple of metres to stick a seedling in the ground.

Up before 6am after a lousy night’s sleep in a freezing tent, a bone-jarring ride in the back of a crummy, ten hours relentless physical labour, another tooth-rattling ride, a shower if you were lucky, dinner, and bed.

Loading up the crummy

Ten – maybe fourteen days straight – before we got a day off to visit the nearest town. Lots of people didn’t last a week

Plagued by mosquitoes, alert for bears, blistered, bitten, sunburned, scratched and sore – it is the hardest money I’ve ever earned. So when the camp cook left abruptly after falling out with her boyfriend, I put myself forward to replace her.

Despite a complete lack of experience, I threw myself into that job and cooked my heart out. There was a lot to learn… How to order a week’s food for twenty-five people that could be stored without refrigeration for starters.

The cost of running the cook shack came out of the planters’ wages – so it was essential to get it right. Plus, we were in deep wilderness – you couldn’t pop to the shops if you’d forgotten to order the coffee.

I soon found my stride. My day started at 5am with getting the coffee on, making a cooked breakfast, and laying out packed lunch supplies. Once the crummies left, I’d do the breakfast dishes, and that day’s baking before turning my attention to dinner.

My cookshack

Which brings me to gingersnaps. I made a lot of gingersnaps. Besides being economical, and keeping well, they are a tough cookie. One that wouldn’t be a disappointing pile of crumbs by the time my planters opened their packed lunches.

I recently found one of my notebooks from those days, with a handwritten recipe for gingersnaps that makes 250 cookies. This is a scaled down version. I never bothered with the sugar rolling step when I was bush cooking – that’s a big city refinement…;-)

Treeplanting crew in northern BC, 1987


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup black treacle (or molasses)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tb ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp  ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • coarse sugar, for rolling cookies in (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease or line your baking sheets.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg, treacle (or molasses) and vinegar.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, and stir to combine. (The dough will be sticky, but you should be able to roll it into a ball. If necessary, add a bit more flour.)
  5. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in coarse sugar, if desired. Place the balls two inches apart on the prepared baking trays.
  6. Bake about ten minutes – the cookies should be firm, and ideally the tops will be cracked. Cool on a wire rack.


7 Responses to “Gingersnaps”

  1. Margo June 2, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    Loved the trip down memory lane and the linked update. Never did tree planting, but many friends did and it produced a solid finanacial base with half a year off to travel. What could be better in your twenties?

    • Andrea June 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

      I agree. I went travelling round Europe for four months with the proceeds one year, and to China the next…

  2. Sweet Sunday Table June 2, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

    These look delicious. A recipe to make 250?! wow! Thanks for sharing the toned down version!

    • Andrea June 2, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      Made me laugh when I came across it. Our cookie needs are much more modest these days…:-)

  3. Yana June 5, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    Andrea, what an experience and what a ‘tough cookie’ YOU are, doing all this tree planting. Often hard times bring good memories too.
    Good move with replacing the camp cook 😉

    Also, believe or not, I was after Gingersnaps recipe on Saturday, but couldn’t settle for any of the recipes I found. At the end I opted for one of your Flapjacks, just because I’ve tried it once in the past and I liked it. However, I replaced lemon and ginger with dried cranberries and orange zest.
    But now, I definitely must try these Gingersnaps! :)x

    • Andrea June 6, 2017 at 5:32 am #

      It was a great experience, and those of us who stuck it out became very close. I’m glad I put in my time as a planter before becoming a cook. It was tough too, but nothing in comparison…

      I love your twist on the flapjacks — I’ll be trying that combination myself. And as for the ginger snaps, it is certainly a “tried and tested” recipe! X

      • Yana June 6, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

        Thank you, Andrea, I look forward to trying it soon x

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