“I’m making a salad!”, Mother would call from the kitchen.
Audry Stafford at the Stafford house, 1963
Mother’s request for vegetables 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.
Stafford house, 3rd Line, Tay Valley Township
The old rope swing beckoned me as I passed by, but I was on a mission, so the swing would have to wait.
The vegetable garden was at the front of the old house, on the other side of the driveway, and so offered a splendid view of the Third Line, while I also glanced around at the long rows of flourishing plants, and decided where to begin my harvest.
I always began with the carrots first; something to snack on while I chose the rest of the vegetables.
I’d 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 for our salad. I’d pull about three large ones, and then move onto the lettuce. Sometimes the lettuce was chewed a bit at the edges, so I’d try to find some perfect 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 delicious on thick, toasted slices of Mother’s homemade bread.
I would continue down the rows, breaking off one green pepper, and one ripe cucumber, then pull about four bunches of green onions from the ground. Sometimes Mother sliced the cucumbers and onions and soaked them in a glass of vinegar and water for a treat for us 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 our country garden, and marvel at the results of all of our hard work. The tiny seeds planted in the spring, along with the watering, weeding, and hoeing, had yielded these ripe and tasty vegetables for our table.
Though I’ve tasted many salads since those days so long ago, none could ever compare to the warm, ripe 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)
“Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales From Our Mother’s Kitchen”