at the Stafford House
Everyone came home…..if they could. By the mid-1970s Tim and Roger were both in the O.P.P., which meant they weren’t always able to be there for family holidays. Judy and Jackie were busy with their careers, and I was at the Perth High School, trying to figure out what I’d do when the time came for me to try my luck in the world.
The setting was postcard-perfect. A big red brick farmhouse, with enormous maple trees displaying their kaleidoscope of fall colours. At the back of the house a dozen McIntosh apple trees stood, branches hanging low, loaded with ripe red fruit. By October it was warm in the daytime, and cool enough at night for local farmers to fire up their wood stoves. The rich scent of wood smoke drifted across the fields and was the perfect fall incense.
As we gathered together, the old house was filled once again with our pockets of conversation in the kitchen and living room. Dad and the boys were always talking about cars, and Mother discussed her menu with us, assigning our jobs – “fill up the pickle dish”, “pour the tomato juice into the small glasses”, “fold the napkins….diagonally across”.
In the evening after the meal there were games – sometimes cards, or maybe Monopoly. There were jokes and laughter, and unguarded conversations sprinkled with the news of the day, and our hopes for the future.
left to right – Judy Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, & Roger Stafford (the kitchen at Stafford House)
Mother’s homemade stuffing was a holiday favourite. (recipe below) This old family recipe was her mother’s. Granny Rutherford’s father owned a butcher shop – the Canterbury Meat Company, in Huddersfield, England, and savory ground sausage meat was the key ingredient to their traditional stuffing, along with dried bread crumbs and seasonings.
Canterbury Meat Company, 15 Market Street, Huddersfield, England, 1906
Traditional Sausage Dressing
There were lots of Thanksgiving favourites – the homemade pumpkin pie baked in Mother’s light, flaky pastry, the farm-fresh buttery mashed potatoes drizzled with velvety seasoned gravy, smooth buttered turnip, and light homemade rolls, fresh from the oven.
There would be many decades of Thanksgivings at the Stafford House on the 3rd Line of Bathurst. The setting was always the same – the sturdy welcoming red brick house, a spectacular backdrop of maple leaves in orange, red and yellow, as far as the eye could see. The sounds were always the same – the pots and pans clanging and clattering in the kitchen, Dad’s soft melodic voice sharing a joke or story with the boys, and the girls talking about the latest fashions, or a dreamy new movie star. The unforgettable scents of autumn were the same outside – the dried leaves on the ground, and the sweet McIntosh apples hanging low on the trees behind the house. Inside the scent of turkey filled the air for hours, along with the aroma of the sausage meat, and the homemade rolls baking in the oven.
Those special Thanksgivings still live in our hearts and in our minds – the times when we were all together, back in the old house, enjoying a special meal made with love for all to share, the warm smiles and the laughter, walking through the yard, under the colourful sprawling maples. We were home again.
1 lb of sausage meat
1 cup hot milk
7 cups bread crumbs
1 c chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped onions
1 Tsp salt
4 Tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning
Method: Fry meat until brown, drain off fat, add the eggs, hot milk, and the rest of the ingredients
Mother stuffed the turkey cavity, and any extra stuffing was wrapped in aluminum foil and baked in the oven.
Granny Rutherford’s sausage dressing recipe from: “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen” ISBN 978-0-9877026-09, page 49.
(kids featured on the cover of the book: Tim Stafford and Judy Stafford, photo taken in 1947)