The Way It Was

It was the heart and soul of the kitchen—and fam­ily life

Our Canada - - Contents - by Ger­ald Mackin­non, Tata­m­agouche, N. S.

Iwas born in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia in the 1920s. Like many oth­ers, I have seen and en­joyed the chang­ing times and ad­vance­ments of our world, but I have also been think­ing about things that were im­por­tant to us back in the Great De­pres­sion era. One of those items was the stove in the kitchen where I grew up.

The stove was wood-fired and placed near an in­side wall of the kitchen with a wood­box nearby.

It was black-topped, with a warm­ing oven in the back and a water tank on the right side.

That stove had many uses. When Mother needed to iron clothes, she would put two or three “sad” irons (flat irons) on the stove to heat. There was al­ways a fire in the stove, ex­cept in the warm­est of weather. Mother had a wooden han­dle with a ca­st­iron base that would clip into the sad iron. As one iron would cool, she’d place it back on the stove and take a hot one. There was also al­ways a ket­tle steam­ing on the stove to add mois­ture to our home; the ket­tle had an oys­ter shell in­side to col­lect the min­eral de­posits from the water.

Ev­ery fall, we would peel and sec­tion ap­ples, put them on strings and hang them be­hind the kitchen stove un­til dry. These would keep for months and be used to make de­li­cious ap­ple pies all win­ter.

My fa­ther also made home­made sauer­kraut out of yel­low turnips. He’d fill a big crock pot with turnips and lay­ers of coarse salt. He would then wash a five-pound rock, place a big plate on top of the kraut, put the rock on top of it and place the whole thing be­hind the stove to cure. Speak­ing of be­hind the stove, in win­ter, when we came in from the cold, we’d place our mit­tens in the warm­ing oven to dry. Some­times, we would even crawl be­hind the stove our­selves to get some ex­tra heat to warm up our bod­ies as well.

On our farm, when the De­pres­sion came, the car was put into the barn and horses were used for trans­porta­tion in­stead. I used to ac­com­pany my Dad when he took grain to the Bal­moral Grist Mill, which is now a mu­seum, to be ground into flour, oat­meal or cat­tle feed. The kitchen stove would be used to cook the oat­meal all night in a dou­ble boiler to make de­li­cious hot oat­meal for break­fast.

One year, Dad brought home the hulls from the grain. The hulls were put into a six-or se­v­en­gal­lon crock pot that was filled with water and placed be­hind the stove. When the hulls were strained from the liq­uid, it was again placed be­hind the stove and left in the warm place un­til it turned into a gelatin-like sub­stance. I re­mem­ber they called it “zounds” and it was de­li­cious served with cream and sugar.

I also re­mem­ber my mother putting some kind of grains on cookie sheets and roast­ing these in the oven. They would make hot, cof­fee-like drinks in the cold weather.

Mother would also bake de­li­cious bis­cuits and other good­ies in the oven—with no ther­mome­ter, she gauged the tem­per­a­ture of the oven by putting her hand in it.

One win­ter, Dad made me a pair of skis. He took maple lum­ber, shaped the skis and put the front of them in the warm water in the tank at the end of the stove. I don’t re­mem­ber how many hours or days he left them in the water, but later, he re­moved them and put them in some kind of mould to curve the front of the skis. He left them there to dry un­til they kept their shape.

One last vi­tal task the old kitchen stove per­formed was our Satur­day night bath. The big cop­per boiler was brought in and filled with water to heat, then the tub was brought into the kitchen and baths were en­joyed!

The kitchen stove— what a won­der­ful role it played in our lives. I sup­pose the only down­side of it all was that grow­ing up, I was the one who had to keep the wood­box filled!

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