While sitting at my kitchen table I watched the chipmunks play hide-and-seek amongst the boards that were laid over the mud-bog driveway and wondered what I would prepare for supper.
Newly married, in fact only 3 months and 5 days ago, I knew from when my husband ate at my parent’s home, that he had a healthy appetite. Then, thinking of my parent’s home I longed for the comforts of their urban home down on the coast while I sat in this partially finished home in the Cariboo forest with no running water or electricity.
A car drove past then stopped and backed into the planked driveway. I watched a man get out of his car and approach the house. There was a front door, but no stairs to it. So I opened the kitchen window and called down to him,
“You will have to come around to the side door.”
“Are you Mrs. Durst?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I was told that you were a new bride and may be interested in this Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic cook book that I am selling.”
“How much is it?
“$5.00 and I am sure you will find it very useful.”
“Okay, come in and we shall have a look.”
As I browsed through the thick 1000 page book I found that it covered every dining problem you may encounter from how to set a proper dining table to butchering lamb, pork, veal or beef, then how to preserve any foods. It also had many menus suggestions for each meal of the day as well as many entertaining tips.
“Hmm, the menu suggestions for two is just what I need right now. Well this looks very helpful and I will take a copy.”
The first real use of the book came when my brother came to hunt for moose. He was successful and left us a front quarter. We hung the quarter of meat on a crossbar between the trees to age. That first night we heard a bear rummaging around and after chasing it away we realized that with no refrigeration and the weather still warm it was necessary to butcher the meat and preserve it. My new cook book said that I would have to partially cook the meat then cover it in melted lard. The jars were then processed in our wedding present pressure cooker. That supply of meat helped considerably through our first Cariboo winter.
Christmas arrived and we decided to spend it in our “new home” rather than travel to the Coast. We invited two young men who worked with my husband to join us for dinner. We would have roast chicken and a lemon pie for dessert –none of which I had previously cooked. Out came my thick new book and explained, told and showed me how to make a dressing for the bird, how long to roast “the bird”, and how to make pastry and then filling for the pie. All was found within the book and resulted in a much appreciated dinner under our meagre Christmas tree with candles glowing.
A year later, not wanting to face another harsh winter, we returned to the coast and were again amongst old friends and family. I could now share some new recipes with them. Our entertaining became more elaborate with a greater variety of foods available and I often referred to my encyclopaedic book for special desserts and soups.
We maintained our Cariboo friendships throughout the years. When we purchased a half-side of beef from a local rancher, our butchering reference was used again. We asked the rancher not to fatten the cow too much but he was taking the other half himself and we ended up with a thick layer of fat on the meat. We butchered the meat in our laundry room where the smell of the suet lingered and lingered. We also found we could not eat the meat from the freezer for some time – but when we did it was so good.