March 25, 2010

Yesterday I finished touching up the new paint in my kitchen.  I also baked a birthday supper for my son, Kelsey, who turned 30!   It was a wonderful day and it was also full of memories.


The kitchen was a huge issue with me and my first husband.  He didn’t like to do anything half way.  As a result we lived with virtually no kitchen for quite a few  years.  We were waiting until we could have the ultimate kitchen with a Jen-air downdraft stove, a Corion counter etc. etc. etc.   Then we partially finished the kitchen and for years, I had open cupboards and a big counter but no walls.  How I hated seeing studs, insulation and wiring.  At one point, I covered the worst patches with mat board. I pretty much just had to put up with it because  I didn't want to risk a big kafuffle.  Eventually we divorced and my number one priority was to finish the kitchen!  My brother, a great fellow but not a handy man, came to visit for a week.  “David,” I said, “ I am desperate to get walls in this kitchen. Will you help me?”  Two novices, we spent the week together installing gyprock, cutting and fitting mouldings and painting.    David was so impressed when I went out to the framing saw and cut the mouldings on all the right angles.  ( My skill in cutting picture frames paid off.)   I’m still grateful for that visit of Dave’s.  After he left, one of my very handy buddies, Janice, came and helped me install some cupboards.  I remember that day too as we lugged and shouldered cupboards into place-  just us two women!  Then I hired a carpenter for a couple of days to hang the new cupboard doors.  After more than twenty years in this house, I finally had a kitchen that was finished. 


Ten years ago, Dave and I painted my kitchen walls a deep burgundy.  I loved this colour for quite a few years. Suddenly this year, the dark red seemed to claustrophobic and unfriendly.  For three days, I stewed about what colour I would paint the walls.  Day and night I envisioned different colour schemes.  On the way to the paint store, to pick out the colour, I changed my mind from a mid tone green to cream.  Three days of thought and I ended up with cream!!!


Last night I lay in bed thinking about my new cream kitchen.  I remembered my Grandma’s kitchen.  I remember it as just the same colour as mine.  Hers was a tiny kitchen in a small wartime house.  Not many cupboards, very little counter and yet it was the hub of the house.  Together, she and I baked cookies.  Of course she would also have several cookie tins already filled, usually one of Empire Cookies and one of Hermits.   Empire Cookies were little decorated shortbread sandwiches, filled with strawberry jam. The cookies were topped with white icing and had a bit of red candied cherry in the middle.  Hermits were a little lumpy brown spicey cookie with a date filling. 


 When there was just Grandma, Grandpa and me, we ate in the kitchen at the gray arborite table.  Our chairs were chrome with a cushy red plastic seats.  Breakfast was my favourite.  We started with orange juice, followed by a small bowl of porridge, with brown sugar and milk and a few raisins.  Then we had bacon and eggs and toast.  Often there would be sliced tomatoes on the plate.  The toast was  made in a little two sided toaster with a soft stripped red and black cord.  The  sides of the toaster flopped down, to load the bread in and to turn it over to cook the second side.  No timer here, you just kept an eye on it. I remember when I was older, my grandparents had a new automatic toaster with a super spring.  The toast flew right out of it when it was cooked.  The toast at my Grandma and Grandpa’s tasted much better than the margarine coated toast at my house.  This toast had real butter on it and homemade marmalade was always available.


 Lunch time was always soup and a sandwich (cheese or ham with a little lettuce).  My grandma was as modern as my mother and the soup was Campbell’s and the bread was white store made.  My grandma was also a master of Jell-O.  For desert at lunchtime, there was always Jell-O, sometimes with mandarin oranges in it, sometimes with a daub of cream on top.


Years later when I was visiting my Grandparents with two tiny children, Danica who was two got her first taste of Jell-O.  She announced to the table “There are no bones in Jell-O.” We all laughed and this statement has continued to be a favourite family line.  We found it funny for two reasons.  First of all, we  realized that we were always warning her to watch out for bones in things and now this had  become a big matter of importance her life.  It was also funny because Jell-O does indeed have bones in it since that is what gelatine is made from!



Supper at my Grandma’s was always meat and mashed potatoes and  canned vegetables or turnip or carrots.  Often for desert at supper, we’d have a little ice-cream or a tiny bowl of canned fruit salad and usually a cookie.  My Grandma did all the cooking for almost sixty years.  It was her job.  My Grandpa worked out side of the home and my Grandma worked inside the home.  They were an amazing couple, my Grandparents.   When my Grandma became old and unable to cook, my Grandpa, who was five years older than her, took on the cooking and her care. He always said, “Mom (or sometime he called her Lil) cooked for me for all those years.  Now, it’s my turn.”


When I was a kid visiting my Grandparents, our day always ended at the kitchen table playing euchre. We loved playing cards together.  My grandparents usually played crib every evening but when I was there we had enough players for euchre.  My grandfather (Jack, my Grandma called him) would usually put out a few card playing candies; hard left over Christmas candies, flat butterscotches, round white mints or sometimes his own homemade peanut brittle or sponge toffee.


Now fifty years later, in my new cream kitchen, I have the memories of all those happy days of my childhood, as well as  the current happiness of a new wonderful husband of almost four years.  Jim had no idea of the history he inherited when he married me and moved into my house in Portaupique.  Luckily he’s a patient fellow.  Gradually we are making this house, our house.  It feels good.