Ah yes, I remember it well

In Artists, Collage, Collages, Dance, Food, Irish Mist, Mary Etteridge, Music, Now playing in a theater near you, Once in a parking lot, Radio, Revision, Ridgewood, Sanford Meisner, Summer Story, Tea on July 21, 2014 at 7:26 am

Goodness – so to speak. Which of the culinary disasters comes to mind first. The purple chicken? The picnic tomato aspic (straw hampers, back then, not coolers; hot summer day; picture the consequences). Both of these are illustrations of Marguerite’s good intentions gone astray. Leftover Soup and Hambone in Milk belong to another category: Marguerite Getting Even. As does her unforgettable Friday special:  lay unsuspecting fillets of fish in a pyrex dish. Sprinkle them with dry mustard. Cover them in milk. Slide the dish in a slow (or fast) oven somewhere around two or three and remove once the milk has cooked away to a brown lacquered sheen, the tips of the fillets curl up, and the smell reminds you something’s going on in the – oh, the kitchen.

Marguerite was born and raised in a family with a live-in cook/drudge/baby-sitter and unpaid servant called Nellie. For a host of reasons, Marguerite married a boy from the working class district of Saint-Henri. Among other surprises, she discovered matrimony involved the production of three meals per day.She also discovered money was scarce and her charming, witty spouse,  a fiend about budgets. Marguerite chafed at the bit, cried in the soup, and sulked in the bedroom to no avail. Cook she must. Cook she did. Her children remember the results to this day. One of them carries on the family tradition. Her bouncy cubes of beef with a garnish of watery turnip and noodles cooked to the point of disintegration lives on in my taste buds. Oh, yes it does.

But the purple chicken. Such a study in the powers of transposition. Start with a Good Housekeeping Magazine recipe for sweet and sour chicken. You don’t have chicken parts but you have a whole chicken you are loathe to cut up. Frying the whole thing . Scratch to the head. Will produce raw and overcooked bits (a lesson learned from roasting disasters). Ah: boil the chicken instead. Plum sauce? Unknown in an early fifties Quebecois kitchen. Ahhhh: Welch’s Grape jelly. Add to pot. Boil, boil, boil (don’t want a replay of the half and half experience). Serve.

My father. Lifting the greyish purple length of flaccid chicken skin from the pot. The moment of hushed reverence. Loaded, loaded moment. I promise you we ate the chicken.

Rummaging through a green cardboard file labelled Four Strong Winds, I come across a bunch of attempts at getting a story together. On one of the sheets of paper, three attempts at a lead-in to a scene. On one, an ornery old woman speaks. On the last, one character orders sole in the restaurant and the other asks for the same. The middle one holds my attention. Part of a song, I think. It reads: For the price o’ their souls was a gospel sae cold it would freeze up the joy in their hearts.

To which some replied as expected, and others, not.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: