When we were children nearly all of the food that we ate was home made. Very little was bought from the store and only if it was a necessity.
We bought butter (Good Luck) by the pound, Carnation milk by the 16 ounce tin, loose Red Rose tea in a silver foil package. It was put into a teapot with boiling water and “steeped” on the stove.
Meat was bought at the store and some of it was bought in St. John’s. I remember one time that there was a “meat man” who went through Flat Rock on Saturdays selling meat from his truck. He had a white box on the truck where he kept the meat and very sharp knives to cut it. He also had very large, white scales that he used to weigh the meat. I don’t remember Mom ever buying meat from him. His name was Jim Martin. Jim and Mom were first cousins.
In later years when Nan did not want to bake bread she would buy sliced white bread from the store which she called “fluff” because it was so light when compared to home- made bread.
I think that our food and our meals took on a pattern. Porridge or toast was the usual breakfast menu. We didn’t have peanut butter and I never acquired a taste for it. I still don’t like it. Toast was made from home-made bread and the porridge was cooked on the stove in a saucepan. We always had tea and, like our grandfather we drank it from the saucer. Porridge was eaten with two spoonsful of sugar on it and Carnation milk mixed with cold water.
Sunday dinner was usually “Jiggs dinner”-salt meat cooked with potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbage. Along with tha,t Mom usually cooked a chicken or had a pork roast. She would cook the pork roast before we went to church and we would have pork roast and toast for breakfast after Mass. I loved pork roast-the fat more so than the meat.
It was a treat to come home from mass knowing that Mom had cooked pork. Of course, if meat was cooked there was gravy. When the meat and vegetables were gone, we would dip bread in the gravy to soak it up.
After Sunday dinner, Mom would usually make salad for supper. This was made from a tin of vegetable salad and mashed potatoes. Meat would be Klik or Kam that came in a tin and bought at the store. This was a treat and it spared the chicken or pork for Monday’s supper.
Sometimes, Mom would make jello for dessert, but not every week. It was never made during the summer because it needed to be cooled and we did not have a refrigerator. Sometimes, it would be put up in the cellar to cool. I remember once that Mom had made custard to go with the jello and put it out in the back porch to cool. Pat loved custard. When Mom went to get the custard for supper, there was none left. He had eaten it all. I can hear Mom say, “Get me a gad!”
The leftovers from Sunday dinner were fried on the frying pan as “hash” for Monday. I still love hash. Again, there would be gravy. After I was married, we went to Mom’s nearly every Sunday for supper. I still have the dish that Mom gave us to bring the hash home. Mom cooked every single Sunday and she loved doing it-even on very hot summer days!
One of the other things that we had on a regular basis was fish-especially in the summer. We had fish boiled with potatoes, fish fried with potatoes or fish baked with potatoes. When the fishermen came in to shore with their catch Mom would send one of us down to ask the fishermen for a fish. We never had to pay for a fish. If it was a large fish, Mom would ask the fisherman to take out the backbone so that she could bake it. That meant that it was stuffed like a turkey with dressing made with dried bread crumbs, onions, butter and savoury and baked in the oven. Nothing ever tasted better than fresh baked codfish! We always ate fish on Friday. We were not allowed to eat meat on Friday, because we were Catholic .
In the fall and winter we had salted fish boiled and eaten with potatoes and covered with little pieces of fat called scrunchions I loved the scrunchions and the taste of the fish.
Pea soup was a regular item as were white boiled beans. When Mom boiled beans she would make bread the same day. She always had enough bread dough left over to make a pan of buns. The beans were delicious and the hot buns with butter was used to soak up the juice of the beans. Yum!!
We ate a lot of bologna (baloney) fried, cold, or on a sandwich. Once I remember Mom cooking bologna and making gravy on it. I think I ate it with gravy that day but never did again.
Mom made chicken wing soup which was delicious. We ate a lot of potatoes and a lot of bread. Homemade raisin buns were Mom’ specialty. My sister told me that she loved Mom’s raisins and used to eat them from the box in the cupboard.
For four years (1993-1997) when I was principal of St. Agnes school in Pouch Cove I would have a staff meeting once a month. Mom always made buns for the teachers as a treat.
We never had fresh milk because we never had cows. Sometimes, Mrs. Maggie Morey (Aunt Maggie) would give us skimmed milk in a bottle. She lived in the house at the bottom of the lane with her son Bern, his wife Theresa and their children.
I remember Aunt Maggie very well. Will, my twin brother and I went to their house every morning on the way to school to get Bob and Brian (her grandsons). Brian, when he was in grade four, had to memorize a poem for school. The poem began, “From far across the meadow I hear a mournful little quack…” I don’t know the title but it’s interesting that I remember the words so well.
Aunt Maggie made a lot of mitts and the wool had been soaked in oil. I can still remember (when I close my eyes), the smell of the oil and the wool. I also remember that Aunt Maggie had her ears pierced and she said it improved her hearing!
I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have tea with Carnation milk and two spoonsful of sugar. At Christmas time we had Purity syrup which was mixed with cold water and served with fruit cake. I still love fruit cake.
Eggs were also a basic as there were lots of hens and we had a steady supply of eggs. We usually had eggs boiled and when the top was cut off, butter was put on the top. I liked eggs and still do but now I eat them without the butter. The other difference was that our eggs were brown and the eggs at the supermarket today are white.
There were times when Mom would buy a can of “corned beef”. She would boil and mash potatoes and mix the tin of corned beef in with it. I loved the taste.
I don’t think that we ate especially nutritious meals, but we did eat what was cooked for us. We appreciated the work that went into its preparation. Also, if we didn’t eat what was put on our plate, we had no option. It was eat or be hungry.
The only time we were not allowed in the kitchen was when Mom was cooking her Christmas cake. It was baked in a large cast-iron bake pot and it took hours to bake. She was always afraid that we would run on the kitchen and the cake would “drop in the middle”. We found other places to play, other than indoors when Mom baked her cake.
In the spring when the sealers came back from the seal hunt we would have fresh flippers. These were the front paws of the seal and they were a delicacy. They were baked and covered with pastry. I never liked the pastry but I loved the flippers.
Thinking about all of these foods leaves me with a very pleasant memory. I still like many of the foods that I did as I was growing up but I feel that I eat much healthier now.