‘Grandma’s stuffing was to die for!’

FROM our October 2012 Issue

By Marjorie Morden Kemp – Saskatoon, Sask.

Sunday was always my favourite day of the week at my Grandma Cooper’s farm south of Chaplin, Sask., in the mid to late 1940s. The Coopers weren’t church goers. They didn’t say grace before meals and they took the Lord’s name in vain on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Sunday’s were always special.

The day was a lazy, slow-moving day with games and special treats. After a late breakfast of oatmeal, bacon, eggs, and big slabs of toast with homemade chokecherry jam, Uncle Bill would be off to the barn to milk the cows.

Aunt Millie, with the help of my sisters and me (we were the power that turned the milk separator’s crank), would take care of separating the cream from the milk and storing it in cans. When the milking was done, Uncle Bill walked into the flock of chickens and chose an old hen or rooster for our Sunday dinner.

After the chicken was washed inside and out it was turned over to grandma, who in the meantime had made a stuffing for the chicken.

Grandma’s stuffing was to die for! Dried pieces of homemade bread, chopped onions, chopped celery (sometimes chopped walnuts), salt, pepper, poultry dressing, sage, and melted butter.

While grandma was busy with the chicken, Auntie Millie, with the assistance of us, (her little gophers) cleaned up the chicken slaughtering area and washed the cream separator. The separator was now ready for the evening milking.

These chores completed, it was back up to the house for a nice cup of tea, sandwiches, and some cookies. Grandma would then slip away for a nap. Uncle Bill would be off somewhere sipping on his homemade wine and Aunt Millie would take us girls in hand for our weekly dose of religion.

In winter our Sunday school room was the living room and in summer the veranda. I always liked the Sunday school with the bible stories and hymns. My sister Marlene seemed to like it also, but she was a very compliant child, so it was hard to know for sure.

On the other hand, sister Darlene hated it. The only reason she sat there for a while was to get the candy treats Auntie Millie gave us at the end of the class. Aunt Millie would just get into a good bible story and Darlene would say she had to pee and off to the outhouse she would go, very rarely to return before the class was over.

If Auntie Millie refused to give Darlene candy because she didn’t sit through Sunday school, Darlene would just bide her time and then deck Marlene and take her candy.

Grandma was now up from her nap and Aunt Millie was peeling potatoes and carrots and preparing all the fixings for our Sunday dinner. My sisters and I would escape the hot kitchen (and possible chores) outside into our world of play and make-believe.

At five o’clock we were called in for supper. Into the back porch we clambered, to scrub our hands and faces and comb our hair before sitting down at the table.

I can close my eyes and see the table as it was then, heaping with our special weekly meal – roast chicken, gravy, stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, lettuce leaf salad, pickles, cranberry sauce, homemade butter, homemade bread, buttermilk, and for dessert rhubarb custard pie with whipped cream.

I loved the lettuce salad! Grandma would tear up fresh-from-the-garden lettuce leaves and mix in sliced radish and green onions. But it was the salad dressing that did it for me. Her recipe was thick cream, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar. I wish I could taste it again.

It was a happy time with everyone chattering with their mouths full.

After the dishes were done, we all sat in the living room hunkered down around the old battery radio to listen to the music of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians and the continuing radio mystery “Only the Shadow Knows”.

Then it was a trip to the outhouse and off to bed.