“I’m making a salad!”, Mother would call from the kitchen. That was my cue to go to the big wooden sideboard in the kitchen, grab one of the deep plastic mixing bowls and head outside to the garden.
I’d pass by the old rope swing, and it would beckon me to come over and play, but Dad would be home from work soon, and I was on a mission, so the swing would have to wait.
The vegetable garden was at the front of the house, on the other side of the driveway, and so offered a good view of the Third Line, as I glanced around at the rows of plants, and decided where to begin my harvest. I’d start with the carrots first, so I had a snack to munch on, while I picked out the other vegetables.
I’d gaze down the row of carrots, and find the biggest one, grab it firmly, close to the ground, give it a good yank and wipe it off on the grass. I’d break off the spindly end, and bite down, and give some thought to the next carrot that I would pull. I’d pull about three big ones, and then move onto the lettuce. Sometimes the lettuce would have been chewed a bit at the edges, so I’d try to find some good leaves that were all intact and pick a bunch of those.
Tomatoes were next, and I’d look for the reddest, ripest and largest to add to my plastic bowl. We usually grew ‘Beefsteak’ tomatoes and they were juicy, flavourful and tasty on thick, toasted slices of Mother’s homemade bread.
I would break off one green pepper and one cucumber and pull up about four bunches of green onions to finish off. Sometimes Mother would cut up the cucumbers and onions and soak them in a glass of vinegar and water for a treat to have with supper.
Our food wasn’t fancy at home, but it was always fresh and Mother’s crowning glory for the salad was of course, her homemade dressing.
It was always a pleasure on those hot summer afternoons to go to the garden, and see the results of all of our hard work. The tiny seeds that were planted in the spring, all of the watering, weeding, and hoeing that had been done over the past months had yielded these ripe and tasty vegetables for our table. Though we’ve tasted many salads since those days, none could ever compare to the warm, summer vegetables from our own country garden.
Mother’s Homemade Salad Dressing
1 c white sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c vinegar
1 heaping tsp dry mustard
1 cup milk
Measure dry ingredients into a saucepan
Add egg and mix into a paste
Add milk, and stir
Add vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally until it boils.
Cool, and serve
Use on garden salads, raw veggies as a dip, on toasted tomato sandwiches, and the Stafford family’s favourite – in potato salad!
(Salad Dressing – from Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen, ISBN 9780987702609, p. 132)