Our Newfoundland Kitchen

The oven door was also a great place to warm feet. Many were the days, after walking home from school, my mother put a chair in front of the stove, and put my cold, chilblained feet on the oven door. Oh, the pain as they ‘thawed’ out and then this was followed by the delicious warmth. In those days, we didn’t have the winter boots that are available today to keep our tootsies warm and toasty. Now, in my later years, I have chronically cold feet and, when I think back, I can feel that heat emanating from that old oven. Move over little lambs!

My father sometimes trapped animals, on a small scale, in the winter. There was beaver, lynx and also weasel and mink which came to steal the chickens. He would prepare these pelts and then put them to stretch and dry on boards in a corner of the kitchen. We, as little children, were always wanting to ‘help’ Dad with his final work on these pelts. One winter, he must have gotten a little frustrated with us and so promised us our own pelt. My Dad being a very enterprising and patient man, decided we would each have a mouse ‘pelt’ to prepare. Trapping a mouse in our old house wasn’t difficult, but can you imagine the patience it took to skin a mouse and put the ‘pelt’ on a tiny board. As far as I can recall, he only did this once. I’m not surprised! We children took great care of our ‘pelts’ as we tried to mimic all the steps that my father took with his. Of course, we thought our ‘pelts’ would be going out in the mail with our father’s pelts to The Hudson Bay Company and that money would be coming back to us. Little did we know! This is one of my fondest memories of my kind, caring and easy-going Dad.

Before 1960 and electricity, the house was lit by kerosene lamps. There was at least one in every room and also, a small one kept in the upstairs hall as a night light. On Saturday mornings we collected all these and brought them to the kitchen. The wicks were trimmed, if needed, the chimneys all cleaned and polished, and the lamps refilled with kerosene. There was always a lamp on the table in the kitchen but a new kind of lamp, coming late in my life, called the the Aladdin lamp made a big change to all the bespectacled people in our home. It was wall-mounted, had a long slim chimney and a mantle. As I recall, it was almost equally as bright as an electric light. It cast a brilliant, bright, white light in comparison to the poor yellow light from the old kerosene lamp. Now, this Aladdin lamp also used kerosene, but it gave no odor, no smoke and was more fuel efficient, using less kerosene.

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Shirley Daly Robichaud is a retired nurse living by the sea in Bayport, Nova Scotia. She grew up in St. Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland and still calls it “home”. Her love of the sea is evident by the dory moored in front of her house and the lovely yellow kayak by the shore. An avid reader, she likes to run, snowboard, cycle, kayak, and row.
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    Libby Noseworthy-Boss10 months ago

    I absolutely loved reading this, Shirley, and was sorry when I had finished it. You’ve really captured the essence of Newfoundland here. Growing up “around the bay”…. what wonderful memories. You write beautifully. Hope you are well.
    Libby

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