Tea at Tympani Lane Records

World Message of Peace

It is the celebration of St. Valentine's Day at Tea at Tympani Lane Records. This is my grandmother's birthday and to honour the occasion I am publishing the introductory excerpt from The Grandmother Chronicles: my grandmother's recipes. This is a work in progress and when finished, as well as the poem about my memories of my grandmother and her family, there is a collection of her Old-time recipes, from the earliest days of her mother's and grandmothers Protestant pioneer kitchen.


The Grandmother Chronicles: my grandmother’s recipes

At the House on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia


Odd the silence after the life cycle of gardens each year tilling the soil, planting how the life of seeds would start in the small greenhouse off the summer kitchen a miasma of Summer large gardens and all manner of wildberries and currants and gooseberries, the crabapple and pear trees the vegetables the peonies o’ the wild roses and all the flowers all the food of naught she would tend the gardens over the great expanse of years until the lilac trees went farrow after she died how she loves amethysts and violets, the purple of things how the house went silent, haunted once again as children my uncle told us of the last owner who had shot himself in the garage, we laughed uncomfortable vaguely the place a tomb unexpressed, a lost conviction how the fields are wild, the small babbling creek out back gone dry over time the sycamore trees at the side of the house also lost to the sky

. . . a gift from the aunt a Mexican silver bracelet with mother of pearl inlay some Mazetlan dream in Noplace the train would come by the

backstreets wandering down the field the engineer smiled and waved I smiled and waved . . .

the old green and white house . . . the bay window front porch, the place of gathering . . . the cold room in winter, beneath the seat under the

window the place where she kept homemade mincemeat in an old gray crock, the venison culled by her brother boiled with suet, raisins and

currants, sweet and something dark like brandy at Christmas . . . in the corner a large magical conch shell, the uncle placed the sea shell to my ear,

I could hear the ocean . . . also the plant room haunt of the Seraphina cat, Lady Jane … the boys would play war games wrapped in blankets with

little toy soldiers hiding under blankets one summer I tried to join them but could not understand the secret language of soldiers . . .

became bored, wandered off

at Aunt Ella’s Acacia House Boarding Inn and Tea Room they would come from the big cities for the ocean’s song of summer o’ one night a

restaurant reviewer stood and applauded the cook with all the guests and so stood the light a testament to the culinary craft of the righteous

Protestant household so she worked as a teenager cleaning rooms and helped with the cooking and o’ one day he came to stay, an impressive

French man from Montreal working on the fishing boats learning English . . . not like the other Frenchmen, elegant with kind ways dark youthful

looks and so the dance began . . . the head of the Protestant Women’s League caught in a secret Catholic wedding to a Catholic (why deny

their happiness) she was 3 months away the first child showing before anyone knew, secret wepts and ties but what is done is done their

anniversary date mystery veiled in secrecy 60 years of marriage took me out for dinner on that date such a casual perusal and so

there you go someone in the kitchen said “that’s big news we never knew” someone else said “why did they take you along?” she thought

“we didn’t want her to be without food”

when living in town, 4 or 5 children born on Sunday 4 or 5 more to follow 9 in total she would go to her mothers on Sunday in the kitchen he would

make “blanc mange” dyed in different colours (blue a favourite) so the children would eat it later in the house on the hill he would experiment

making candy sugar, sugar spun spongewater taffy o’ one night leaving the bowl out on the counter came down to breakfast a mouse stuck

in the cold friandise

in Summer everyone went up the hill back to pick berries except the dark she would make dinner made Cottage Pudding and dropped it on the

floor bringing it to table scooping it back into the dish quickly made a sauce to cover it and so no one knew . . .

milking the cow in the dark to make fudge . . . any excuse for Seafood Chowder, wicked, wicked and so the large dark ugly

sea nap pot, stir, stir, and stir the clams, the fish, the scallops o’ one Summer evening, the dark he allergic

in throat retches the drogs to secret laughter and the quiet revenge . . .

she and I going up back the hill, picking wild strawberries, “she’s good to pick with, quiet” the small berries under straw, such quiet and rote

endeavour, and you can taste the sweet, the days of sun in the strawberries from the fields, the days of rain, the wet and dry, the

weather in the harvest . . . the sweet in the landscape of the place . . . coming back down the hill “it’s not good,

I can’t ground her head”

going for eggs at Neven’s for a quarter, Queenie the collie and the chicken coop . . . the warm flying feathers noise of distaff . . . as we waited for

the hens to lay … when they moved in the man and his wife their children came over for a welcoming fete, Orville confused doors when going

home, a heap at the bottom of the basement stairs, and laughter too much Raspberry Vinegar . . . up at McNeils, the dairy farm they

sent the milk ‘round the cows the lambs and the barn cats how he hand nursed the runt lamb cast out by its mother

tall windows of the diningroom, the big antique mahogany table and chairs, by the bricked up fireplace the

potbelly stove, the old fashioned china cabinet with her collection of teacups, one for each grandchild, it was

Summer travels with my uncle down by Digby Flats . . . we each had a helping of fried clams, this is heaven . . . back for

dinner she was chagrained we did not finish our plates

. . . downstairs, the distinct smell of water, mothballs in the closet . . . how the uncle would come down the backstairs into the kitchen dressed only

in his big grey wool blanket, I the King, foraging for food, inspiration to inspire and so . . . there playing marbles in the end he gathered them into

the sac . . . in Summer holding the blue butterfly caught between my fingers to later put into the chloroform bottle for the pinned treasures

the collection of death . . . “I know you are but what am I” the taunts . . . his dog, Sandy the tan purebred german shepherd whose ears

would not stand up

upstairs, from some poorly lit gallery, you could look through the old chimney hole into the kitchen through the old fashioned grill . . . I can’t

remember if you could hear the conversation drifting up, anything you weren’t supposed to know, but it wasn’t that kind of day . . . the old

kitchen cupboards were a fantamasgoria of nooks, the perfect drawer that pulled out for the tall bag of flour, how the ironing board folded up

into the perfect cupboard by the window . . . and the old wood stove, how my uncle would rise early, bring in wood and kindling to light

the fire that would heat the entire house in winter, if you were up early enough grandfather would be by the old radio listening to the CBC,

eating bacon and eggs she would clean the old stove top with a steelwool pad under a cloth . . . at the counter where my grandmother spent

much of her time, there was a nail (or was it a screw) under the cupboard to hold the muslin jelly bag as it leaked the golden juice of

currants into a bowl . . . she spent entire arrays of time standing there baking cookies, pies and dinners . . . she made quilts, baked

and cooked and cleaned and crocheted and sewed . . . through more than 1,000 hours of time and years

she would often keep her recipes in her head, she made them frequently and the rest written on any scrap piece of paper she could

find . . . Gumdrop Cake copied on a Calendar Page August 1962 the 31st was circled and “the cow” printed under it the cow due to calve

on that date she would not measure exactly, the tops of teaspoons or tablespoons were rounded (not sliced flat with a knife) and

the cups of flour and grain were rounded on top rather than being exact much of the flavouring was to taste (as adding a dollop

of molasses to the baked beans) all through Summer the berries were put down made into jam and jelly poured into sterilized cast

off bottles boiled on the stove the tops waxed and lids on tightly stored in the shelves of the Summer kitchen front porch a

treasure trove of jam through the Summer into winter

Popcorn Balls were served at Hallowe’en the neighbourhood kids were disappointed if these were not given . . .

o’ Hallowe’en she dressed up in a white sheet and standing on the hill in front of the front door, scaring the kids by the by’ . . .

she, Kay, and Ella dressed up as hobos one year and went ‘round collecting candy

Mustard String Bean Pickles were always served with baked beans in the 1960’s salad dressing wasn’t invented yet, she made

something called Boiled Dressing which was the first real mayonnaise

and great grandfather waiting for dinner, sat flustered in silence after evening prayer “and food for our bodies”

“I guess you girls know what you are doing” how Bethsheba had sat in that rocking chair tripping o’er her grandfather’s royal

auspicies her grandmothers breakdown after 8 children born to a plant the unlocked kitchen pantry, the silent frig machine

gander, the war of thoughts, the serving of the lemon and sugar cake o’ you’re kidding and my thoughts were rolling out round and round again

Ginger Snaps were made and sent to Germaine, his mother every Christmas, the favourite tea you could feel the cold of morning, the quiet

death of night into night Christmas it was freezing to wear a sweater to bed, standing over the heat grate could not keep warm after

the wood stove had been replaced by an electric wonder, so the heat was even, so the cakes and cookies didn’t have to be turned while

baking, wouldn’t burn the heat from the oil furnace too quiet everyone to the rafters the cousin explaining to the dark he avowed

godless one and secret torturer of children how painfully Christ dies hanging on the cross

the aunt guarding the Christmas tree from lost songs, laying in front of the presents so the baby wouldn’t destroy the paper so pretty . . .

he was an avid teatotaller was helping her make coffee in the kitchen that Christmas and he joked “maybe we should put some rum extract

in the coffee – they’ll think they’re getting something they’re not” we laughed Christmas eve and standing room only some unexpected

loose cousin of the dark he lost on tree ornaments no comment

Old Fashioned Doughnuts a favourite made sporadically throughout the year sure to turn up at Christmas one of the last

Christmas’ she and he had together she was too busy to make the recipe so Hepsabah made a batch and sent

them through the mail

sitting round the kitchen table, crayons and colouring books colouring inside the lines . . . talk of The Indian List and

was that uncle on it and you had to be careful well you didn’t want to be on the Indian List or they wouldn’t let you drink

how there really shouldn’t be an Indian List worse than quiet laughter . . . you have to outline the pictures first than

colour it in, talk of where this one or that one came from, how they remember how they agree to disagree I don’t remember

it that way looking back . . . the sister in the rocking chair as Bethsheba said just you mind how they coloured in happy

marriages, families and jobs somewhere in radioland the shadow, “the shadow knows” see the girl scribbled everywhere

and so the children grown and married with family she would make up Christmas boxes to the dark she care packages a

special present for each of us and a big box of Christmas baking shortbread, chocolate tipped coconut cookies, jamjams,

fig cookies, old fashioned doughnuts and maybe if you were really lucky a mincemeat pie

all the cousins gather with the Summer, the planet of the apes hunting for berries in the tall grass, strawberries,

blueberries, blackberries . . . o’ one Summer discovery of the ripe pink gooseberries sweet feast of mammon, she was

chagrained, not enough for gooseberry jam this year . . . exploring the rivershed under the road, pausing at

columbine flowers the bearer of honey sucking sweet nectar from flowers . . . walking back through the thick woods to

the river and the train tracks . . . the uncle kept ants in a jar and threatened to cover them with chocolate for breakfast the next

time I visited catching butterflies in the fields to be put down pinned to paper eventually stored in a gilt box chest lost into

the attic and summer sitting at the picnic table up from the pond the two boy cousins scare the girls with snakes . . . the yelling

they throw them into the gorse

camphor wintergreen pennyroyal you could smell it in the heat of Summer wind from up the hill . . . on solitary walks in the long grass,

quiet so quiet disturbing the pheasant as it flew up in mayhem screeching into thin air recounting the story at suppertime

she laughed . . . losing my glasses in the grass, to be miraculously found by the she the pear tree ripe with fruit high up whipping

crabapples until the fruit fell down the fruit flesh sweet and fresh the brown bread thick with oats and molasses sometimes raisins

made every week . . . she gave this recipe to me as she made it reciting from her memory as I copied it down the year was 1982 after I’d finished


always a place for rhubarb in her garden, and somehow is sweeter than the more acidic variety in NoPlace have you tried making an upside down

cake Blushing Betty, probably the first upside down cake, the rhubarb goes in the bottom of the pan with the

cake batter thick on top perhaps you could make a pineapple upside down cake, and could you bake that in an electric fry pan

when you went to visit you brought food with you as a sign of respect for the elders, some ancient ritual of dance . . . Aunt Helen’s daughter

brought rosehip jam made with pineapple before the berries had seen their first frost, good for sore throats, the winter

how she didn’t want to look in mirrors anymore because the wrinkles so badly I thought I think you are beautiful a secret

not saying outloud chastise myself for . . . talk of quilting in winter but no place to go no place to run he had his first heart attack,

back in Noplace again

in the office, the velvet painting beautiful blues and greens on fungus awards and Summer fairs the

painting by the father for he who may arrive when he does people at the scene of a crime that uncle found the small ceramic

wine jug in the wall in the upstairs bedroom but that was years ago before in the vision of the unexpressed, thoughts can be

as loud as words if you listen silence or your own for long enough . . . Lane, that uncles friend, had a really old car, o’

one day the goats got in the front seat in Wagner’s driveway the car startled reeled it into the chicken coop not only goats

but chickens o’ . . . so the other uncle in a car crash into the woods he walked away his glasses folded up, unbroken and in

their case at the scene that great melan minosi uncle, round and round and round the block, the tailpipe stinking against

the ground you can’t leave her like that when someone came to visit Noplace

at the diningroom table the white cookies and butter icing, who made the cookies, Andy and I did the icing, well the icings good

anyways and we laughed . . . the uncle thought those sisters some ill wind, the six sisters on some foul dark ocean tarbender

of night the fog mists had conjured bad witches from long ago wars come to prevent me from my love affair heart how you could

probably go from room to room, room to room looking for glimpses of people as if the walls could talk but only so much silence

as if the place had been struck, struck hard, lightening into silence

how I remember their halflights, drawn swords at midnight, he set the cuckoo clock and as remembering the future this

is how she will set her door . . . he would not say a word, not a thought, quiet as a blank page . . . how he approached

me to paint my face with icing, I cowered and then he approached Mathilde . . . for long conversations only two the

files of the years at the cannery a certain conversation stopped and the tea . . . he would snip the corner of the tea bag

and pour a couple of grains in the cup add hot water I quietly exalted the use of the entire bag perhaps twice or thrice we

agreed to disagree

how she and I had been down to the beach, the Red Head, the cliff and water blue, she stamped her walking stick “I claim this

land in the name of the King” how I laughed as she covered my eyes as my tears broke no could not find words of comfort enough

in the rocking chair, for a cracked bowl, the shermontan . . . tell her the troops are walking

the world is wide with open empty spaces, I long to fill with words but never will

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