Back To The Kitchen!
I was really blessed with the women I cooked with...those of us who signed up together were real "inventive", always willing to meet a challenge "head-on". I had the wonderful experience of cooking with the "Sound of Music" lady - she was game to try anything, bless her heart, I loved the things we concocted in that kitchen.
To start with, the kitchen itself was a medieval laboratory...but, it definitely was a challenge and that was the best part for us scientists...we thrived on such things. Sunday was the time for our big breakfast...for eggs. One time we did "Eggs Benedict", they had bought eggs (no chickens, yet), and bought tomatoes (which were pretty expensive); the whole thing was baked. It took forever to make them; they raised beautifully in the oven, and then sank when we removed them from the heat. Letís just say that all the effort wasn't appreciated and it was decided that the people wanted their eggs in the conventional shape; something they could identify. (Just not as innovative as we were!)
When we hadn't been at the farm very long, the men were butchering a cow across the river, for our use; the "Sound of Music" lady was asking them to save some tripe, so she could make some special meal - nobody had heard of tripe, couldn't even identify it inside the animal; so, she was going over on the boat to find it. By the time everything got organized for the trip across the river, it all amounted to a few days and with the heat and all, the tripe wasn't in any condition to be used...nearly everybody breathed a sigh of relief!
I made a few boo-boos in the kitchen: one of which was "Beaver Beans"; that name will forever be engraved in the stomachs of all. The men were learning how to trap animals and got a beaver; well, the beaver had been dead in the trap for many days, and it certainly never got "bled", so all the old blood was in it when it was defrosted. We didn't want to waste anything and who knew what a beaver was supposed to look like.
I found a recipe in a "game cookbook" and off I went from there. The tail was supposed to be a treat, when fried - nobody thought so. But, the clincher was when I cooked some of the meat, and put it into the "precious" beans (there were people there who almost worshipped the plain, dried bean!) Needless to say, the entire batch of "precious" beans was wasted. One of the young men made a joke about the whole situation when he said, "I thought it was awful going down...but it was even worse coming up!"
Funny how we tend to remember the bad times, but somehow forget all the good times!
At harvest time, when we had a lot of green veggies, I asked them to buy some soy sauce; we were going to try a Chinese meal...it had never been tried for so many people (we were up to 160 people living on the farm). My Mom was now living with us and she brought 3 large bottles of the soy sauce back from town, with her. (Somebody thought she had bottles of liquor, no less!)
We had been buying rice for awhile (after looking for wild rice and finding none). So, we had the rice with some meal, and the stir-fried veggies...it was a hit...nobody complained (and that was a miracle); there were even requests for it on a regular basis - we were limited to veggie season, but that lasted a few months and was something to look forward to, through the long winters.
Another challenge was pizza. All my life, I had felt inferior and even before I became a Christian, I had asked God to help me to do things...and He had. This wasn't much of a challenge for Him. We got out every cookie sheet in the kitchen, and any flat baking pan we could find, pie plate, etc. The sauce came from many cans of canned tomatoes (which were rationed), we used the quota for the entire week, but nobody complained. We were making our own cheese by now, so had to use very little of the "bought" variety. It was excellent! And, there was enough for everybody - no "seconds", but everybody had their fill.
The "Sound of Music" lady gathered up all the chicken feet, once we had started raising chickens and some of them had been culled-out because they weren't laying...everybody knew she was up to something exotic. This time it turned out to be "Chicken Feet Soup", a rare Chinese delicacy and something that you definitely had to acquire a taste for...trouble is, nobody wanted to have it often enough to acquire the taste.
I enjoyed making the main meal, the special Sunday meals; but, especially, I enjoyed the suppers; they were always a challenge - they were leftovers. I always asked the Lord to help me to make something out of nothing: it was usually put into a large pot, and it always turned into a delicious soup; I called it Stone Soup. Quite often, we had grilled cheese sandwiches with it.
Back in the States, we had Stone Soup quite often - I got the idea from a story read on one of the children's shows on TV. It was about soldiers walking through a village, during wartime. Food was scarce and people hid what they had. Some soldiers took a kettle, filled it with water, lit a fire under it, then they added a large stone to the pot. Somebody brought a potato, somebody found a few carrots, somebody brought some onions; they added these things to the pot and before you knew it, there was a delightful soup - "Stone Soup".
During the first winter, on the farm, our soups were quite sparse; we were trying to live-off-the-land too soon; we used the spices that people brought with them when they came to the farm to live, and those were gone quite soon...from then on, everything was kind of "bland" tasting. There were times that all we had was potato soup. There were so many things to buy, when you were first starting a farm from nothing, and spices weren't high up on the list.
One of the women we had come to Canada with, specialized in Italian things - her Italian noodle soup was excellent. A Ukrainian woman made a tremendous borsche soup, and a beet and bean salad. We were blessed with so many x-Mennonite women, they were exceptional cooks. And, some women who could make tremendous Mexican meals; we mixed cornmeal and flour and had the nicest tortillas; the refried beans were good, and the tacos. (But, all of this came after 2 or 3 years on the farm.)
Of course, living in the "wilderness", we had things like grouse. We caught a few lynx (wild cats) in our traps, and they boiled down to make a nice chicken-tasting broth. We had the usual moose and bear, and even tried wolf (but it was so touch, you couldn't chew it, even if you had your own teeth).
Coffee had been off our shopping list for a long time. We always had two large tea pots of herb teas: raspberry leaves, camomile, rose hips, spearmint; there were nice combinations. I had tried to make pine needle tea, because it was supposed to be high in vitamin C - maybe it was, but I made it so strong that it tasted like turpentine and was never asked for again. We found a bush that grew close to the ground, it had small leaves on it all year round - upon close examination, we found that it was called Labrador tea and had narcotic properties. Then, we decided we had better really be sure about what we put on the table to eat and drink.
There were a lot of mushrooms growing wild and we explored the possibilities of those for variety in our diet. Our son Peter and his friend used to herd the sheep a lot and they got sick trying the edible wilds (mushrooms in particular). About that time we came to the conclusion that whatever was good in mushrooms, was outweighed by the possibility of being poisoned...that was the end of that.
We had bought quite a few geese; we didn't eat their eggs, wanted to hatch them. We watched those eggs for many weeks and nothing happened...eventually they rotted...we butchered the geese because we didn't want to feed them through the long winter, ahead. The men did the butchering and the women had a long table set up outside; we had our knives sharpened and were all ready. One of the woman who was in our caravan, when we came to Canada, knew nothing about animals and wanted the opportunity to "overcome" in this area. She got right up there, to the table, put her hand on the "headless" goose, and without a head the goose still let out one last, loud "HONK!". Unbelievable, but it happened...apparently there was air left in his lungs and she pushed it out with her hand on the bird; I think that was the extent of her "overcoming" for that day.
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Pen Name: Aimee Love
Air view of Graham River Farm - years later.