This being the Mother's Day weekend, I would like to pay tribute to my grandmother. This is a story I wrote about her kitchen. I hope you enjoy it.
Grandma's kitchen had no modern appliances, no fancy gadgets. It didn't even have electricity. It was a place that throughout my childhood remained much the same.
As I stepped through the door of that room on a hot, sunny summer's day, the interior was cool and dark. The veranda at the side of the house kept the early morning sun from penetrating Grandma's sanctuary. When my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I would see the gas lantern hanging above the old, oak table. This was no ordinary table - nothing like the fancy chrome ones of today. It had two leaves in the center to accommodate the eight people that sat around it three times a day. In the summer kitchen against the wall, stood another eight leaves. This table was gigantic compared to the small drop-leaf table that stood in front of the window in Mother's kitchen.
I was thrilled when Grandpa offered me that old, oak table when he gave up his house to move in with my uncle. It now graces my kitchen and is my pride and joy.
An oilcloth covered the coarse, grained top where scars had accumulated over the years. Around the table, like sentinels, stood six matching press-back chairs.
Besides the table and chairs, Grandma's kitchen was filled with other things that fascinated me. An icebox stood against one wall and a gingerbread clock perched high on a shelf nearby. I loved to listen to it chime out the time.
Once a day, Grandma would climb onto a chair, open the glass door adorned with golden flowers and insert a key into the face. She would wind it several times, being certain not to wind it too tight, then lay the key safely in the bottom of the clock and close the door with a click. I loved that clock. We had hydro (Canadian term for electricity)at home and our clock couldn't hold a candle to the lovely, gingerbread that stood high on the shelf in Grandma's kitchen.
Against the south wall of the room, stood a monster cookstove. I would watch as Grandma blackened it with stove polish. Around the edges the chrome sparkled and a white porcelain circle in the center of the oven door bore the name "Hartland."
At one end was a reservoir filled with water from the cistern. It held warm water for small tasks. But the warming closet was my favorite part of the old stove. Out of it came tasty treats - cinnamon buns, baked bread, and pancakes to be served with real maple syrup and cloverleaf rolls. Grandma made all of these with loving hands.
On wash day water was carried from the cistern and heated in a copper boiler on the top of that stove.
Grandma's kitchen had many other things that were of interest to a small girl. The wainscoting fit tightly to the wall and was painted snow white - the top half of the room was always papered.
Behind the stove stood a woodbox and a butterbox for kindling. We children had the chore of seeing these were kept full - not one of my favorite jobs.
One cold morning, I entered Grandma's cozy warm kitchen to see a large, cardboard box covered with an old, flannel sheet sitting on the oven door. Grandma lifted a corner of the blanket, allowing me a peek. Eight piglets lay curled inside the box. They had been born during the night and the old sow, being an ornery critter, refused to let them suckle. Grandpa had put them in a box and brought them to Grandma, hoping she could save them. Nothing on a farm was wasted and the loss of these piglets would mean a shortage of meat and lard.
Grandma did save them too. Many times a day, she sat in her oak rocker near the stove and fed those piglets with an eyedropper. Then, when they were old enough, Grandma made Cream Of Wheat and let them suck it off her fingers. The only one that didn't make it was the runt of the litter. He was just too frail.
Baby pigs weren't the only creatures that were raised in Grandma's kitchen. Grandma had an incubator. I've watched her clean eggs and place them gently into that odd looking contraption. She kept them warm for days until the wet, sticky chicks emerged from their shells. After a few weeks, I would find them in the yard, scratching up the dirt.
Most every memory of Grandma's kitchen is pleasant. There was only one exception that comes to mind. I must have broken one of Grandma's rules, though I can't remember what it was. Grandma sat me on a milkstool and told me not to get off until the long hand of the gingerbread clock was on twelve and the short hand on three. I sat there, for what seemed an eternity but in reality was probably about ten minutes. When the appointed time had passed, I was allowed to go. Never again did I goad Grandma into punishing me. Though I loved that gingerbread clock, I had no desire to sit and stare at it, watching the time pass ever so slowly.
My memories of Grandma's kitchen are happy ones and remain forever etched on my memory. I laugh now at the recollection of sitting on that stool and watching the hands of the gingerbread clock creep ever so slowly along the face. I can see the spirits of the men and women who sat around that table, laughing and enjoying food and conversation with my grandparents.
I haven't forgotten the good times Grandma and I spent in that room, or the aromas that filled the air. Homemade soup, freshly baked bread, cinnamon rolls, chicken and dumplings, fresh coffee and so much more. Whenever I encounter these smells, whether it is in a bakery or in Mother's kitchen, I take a trip back in time. Back to the good times shared by loved ones. Back to Grandma's kitchen were love was abundant.
Boil chicken pieces for 1.5 hours. Remove from the pot, cool and debone. Be certain there is lots of juice in the pot. If not, add water. Put the deboned chicken back in the broth.
1 cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of milk (you may have to use a bit more or less)
Be sure they are thick enough to drop from the spoon in a large lump. When the broth starts to boil, put a lid on the pot, turn to medium heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. DO NOT remove the lid while the dumplings are cooking or they will be heavy.
Remove lid, lift out dumplings and serve.
Yield: 6 large dumplings
Copyright © 1988 to 2008 Mary M. Alward
Please do not copy or use without permission of the author.
Graphic Credit: Artist Doug Knutson