A Newfoundland kitchen was both the heart and the hearth of the home, and also the only warm place in the house during the long, cold winter months. My memories of growing up in Newfoundland in the late 40’, 50’s and early 60’s, always bring me back to the kitchen.
The wood and coal-burning range was usually always burning, and it was many years after 1960 when electricity came and after I had left home, before my mother acquired an electric stove.
On Monday mornings, the bread would be rising in its pan by the stove, before we left for school, and it would be the first thing we smelled when we opened the door on arriving home from school in the afternoon. Ahh! It was delicious! There would be the big black iron pot on top of the stove bubbling away with boiled beans. I can still savour the smell and taste of those beans and fresh bread.
The kettle was always there, on the stove, ready for the ‘mug up’. And the teapot stood ready with its handful of loose tea. My father liked his tea “strong enough to stand his spoon in” and with lots of sugar and canned Carnation milk. To this day, I still enjoy Carnation milk in my tea and always leave a little tea in the cup, a habit developed from years of having tea leaves in the bottom. To my opinion, a cup of tea, especially with a friend, soothes all troubles and illness.
The woodbox was usually kept full by the children and we were often sent to the landwash or to the woodpile to fill a cardboard box with woodchips. My mother always struggled with the small, continually damp spruce and fir wood to keep the oven hot enough for baking. Sometimes, finding those woodchips was not easy. My favourite and the dryest were the small pieces of driftwood, but it took a lot of scrounging around to find enough to fill the box. We also bought coal that came in lumps in a burlap sack. Now, this was expensive and we used it sparingly. After school was also the time when one or the other of us would fill the coal bucket which was kept with a small shovel on the floor by the stove. My poor mother, she was either swearing over the stove trying to get heat, or sweating over it when it was too hot. I must interject a little here and tell you that when my mother ‘swore’, she would say “Jesus” and when all of us children gasped, she would add “Mary and Joseph. Just saying a little prayer,” she would say.