Lesson Materials: Cook

Lumberjack Math Introduction

Essential Questions

  1. How much food does a logging camp consume in a day?
  2. How do you decide how much food to buy without being wasteful?


A classroom set of worksheets, including:

Helping the Cook (optional lesson extension activities)


The cook was one of the most important positions in the logging camp. The cook and his or her assistants, called cookees, made certain that the jacks had enough to eat in order to keep their energy up while “logging” long hours in the woods. Most jacks need between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day, and it was up to the cook and the cookees to make sure they got it. While the cook had to keep an eye on the camp’s bottom line and not spend too much on food, the cook also had to make sure to keep the jacks reasonably satisfied with their meals. The foreman knew that a bad cook could sink a camp—many jacks would leave if the cook was a “Belly Robber!”

The cook was the second highest paid employee in the camp, and earned $50 per month. The cookees each earned $25 per month. The job was demanding, and it was essential for the cook and cookees to be up well before “daylight in the swamp” to prepare the jacks’ breakfast. Next they prepared a noon-time meal and delivered it to the jacks at the cut. Finally, they prepared a third meal after the lumberjacks returned from a day’s work.

Time was money in a logging camp, and the cook ruled the cook shack with an iron fist. There was no time to waste, even during meals, so jacks were not allowed to talk except to ask for more food.

In many camps, the company purchased most of the food at the beginning of the season, and kept it in a storehouse in a nearby town. Every two weeks during the season, the tote sleigh brought supplies from the warehouse to the individual camps. For the purpose of this activity, we have amended this common practice a bit to allow your students to figure out prices and calculate increases in supply.


Belly robber: A bad logging camp cook

Cook shack: Building in the logging camp where the lumberjacks would eat, and where the cook and cookees worked and lived

Flunky: Cookee, the cook’s assistant

Green: Short for “greenhorn,” which is someone who is new to the logging camp and industry

Logging berries: Prunes

Sawbelly: Bacon

Sinkers or cold shuts: Doughnuts

Spuds: Potatoes

Swamp water: Tea

Sweat pads with blackstrap: Pancakes with molasses

Tote sleigh: The transportation used to travel from logging camp to town. It would visit the camp about twice a month, carrying supplies for the cook shack, camp office, and other buildings. On the return trip, it would carry mail and possibly an injured lumberjack back to town.

Cook-shack videos

Recipe Conversion

Transcript | Watch video Recipe Conversion on YouTube

Food for Two Weeks

Transcript | Watch video Food for Two Weeks on YouTube


Transcript | Watch video Congratulations on YouTube