In My Father’s House

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Back then, smack in the centre of Southwestern Ontario, there were a couple of things men didn’t do.

Men did not discuss their feelings. There may have been the occasional ambiguous grunt or two, but that was it.

What’s more, men did not cook.

Oh, yes, they barbecued. After all, it took a man to make the critical decision between charcoal and briquettes; and, to get things going, whether starter fluid or torn up bits of Friday’s newspaper were the honourable option.

Of course, campfires were a man’s jurisdiction, what with the selection of twigs and the stacking of pyramids of kindling. A man plucked his jackknife from his jacket pocket to sharpen the sticks to skewer the hot dogs.

If there were marshmallows involved, that was assigned to women. Mind you, a man could, in the absence of a woman, say, or if he found himself in some other kind of unnatural situation, toast marshmallows. As long as he didn’t do it too carefully, or talk about how brown was too done, or whether it needed to be toasted evenly on all sides. None of that stuff, thank you very much.

The kitchen, though, you could say, was, except for carving the turkey or doing the dishes, my mother’s undisputed territory.

Occasionally, Mom needed to be away from our house overnight, or even for two nights. Long enough away so she couldn’t simply leave behind a supper of salmon sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.

So, of necessity since restaurants were out of the question, in my mother’s unexplained absence, Dad would have to cook supper.

He could cook two meals. Sausage and scrambled eggs. Sardines and soda crackers.

If there were only one supper to cook, it would have been sausage and eggs. Dad cracked four eggs into a cereal bowl, whisked them together with homogenized milk from the glass bottle in the fridge, shook in some salt and pepper from the plastic red and white shakers that sat on the back of the stove. He checked for bits of eggshell and then poured this mixture into our electric, mind you, frying pan.

The sausages were cooked within half an inch of their little piggy lives.

I liked that meal well enough, but my favourite Dad-cooked supper was sardines with saltine crackers. We didn’t eat sardines that much when Mom was around. Well, not inside the house at least.

With Dad and me, opening the cans the sardines came in was part of our ceremony. You couldn’t use a can opener. Good luck with that. The sardine tin came with its own special key that sometimes broke off. Then, my father would end up using a hammer and an old screwdriver to pound successive holes in the lid so he could slide out the sardines from one end of the can.

Those were special times for Dad and me. Hard to explain to anyone else except to say it was, for a night or a couple of nights, he and I, roughing it together, just the two of us. I knew I was safe. And looked after. And loved.

And, yes, I still buy sardines when they are on sale.

And eat them.

With the windows open.


Sardines for Supper
Oh, what I’d give
For a can of sardines
I’d put on a clean shirt
And wear my best jeans

Sardines are in canned goods
Beside salmon and tuna
Those extravagant fishes
That cost too much moolah

The high-priced sardines
They’re not any good
I tried those last Tuesday
Just to see if I should

The cheapest sardines
Yes, they’re the best
In oil or spring water
You can deep six the rest

Tasty and cheap
And Dad didn’t foresee
They have polyunsaturate
Omega three

Just my special supper
With Dad, so delicious
With a few saltine crackers
And I’d do the dishes

Oh, so delectable
Always good, never bad
A cold sardine entree
With warm memories of Dad


In My Father's House

Born, raised and living again in Sarnia, Ontario, Bob Boulton began writing poetry, short stories and humorous articles for his high school newspaper in the period just after dinosaurs roamed the earth. After a break of about 40 years, he reactivated his passion for writing, including his blog “Bob’s Write from the Start” aimed at new and renewing writers. Bob’s Write From The Start blog can be found at
2 Responses
  1. author

    Sharon Berg2 years ago

    Ah, I see that you have been saving up your special brand of humour since your childhood, Bob. Always good, with or without the salty edge… er, saltines.

  2. author

    Steve McNamara2 years ago

    Oh the memories. You and I so alike! Still eat those sardines but with Italian bread dipped in the oil. Yummy!


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