I had an amazing Uncle until really recently. My Uncle Ed was warm and friendly, funny and loyal, fell in love with his childhood sweetheart and had an amazing marriage for over 50 years.
I wish that I had even known him better.
About two months ago we heard that he had pancreatic cancer and my Aunt warned us that “this story wouldn’t have a happy ending”.
I brought my mom to see him just before she had her hip replaced and he was already a shadowy presence in the house. A big man who we always called Frier Tuck, had shrunken into himself and was lost most of the time in a number of memories.
At moments though he joined into the conversation with a funny anecdote and as always, my mom and he spoke about their mother.
They talked about this diminuative woman who when widowed at 42 walked home from the hospital to her nine children (ages 6 months to 17 years) sitting on the curb in front of the house waiting for their Daddy in the midst of World War II. My Grandfather was a plumber for the small town they lived in and died of a burst gall bladder. It was 1942.
They both said that that was the moment that my Gran decided she would keep them all together no matter what-and that’s what she did. I’ve never heard of them call her anything other than mum. There is something very sweet about hearing two elderly people somehow become children again when they talk about “mum”.
Meal times were sacrosanct and happened at exactly 5:30 each day. The family was a crowd unto themselves but there was always another extra body or two or five present. My Grandmother could stretch food to feed an army and learned how to pinch a penny until it screamed for mercy. From the time they were 13 my Aunt Marion would join Ed more times than not. When they finally announced they were getting married after completing school and establishing themselves, my Grandmother commented “What took you so long?”
I’ve asked about the food that was served and the favourite memory is the meal that was served every Friday. My Gran would make small, fluffy buns and serve little hamburger patties with them. The cupboards were raided for homemade pickles, potatoes were baked in the little Quebec heater in the front room to save the coal and cookies with endless pots of tea were available for afters.
I only knew my Grandma Kelly when she was suffering from dementia and seemed VERY elderly but I will take this memory for my own and share it with my daughter. A teacher by trade she was unable to be employed in her widowhood as it would have taken a job away from a man and she became a school “lunch lady” instead.
During our visit, Uncle Ed would cry periodically and my Aunt would gently wipe away his tears and pat his hand. She would ask him about what he was thinking and tell him to have “his moment”.
I admit I had my own moment when I made these sliders for my own family tonight. I’ve made the recipe as close to the memories as I’ve been able.
We celebrated Ed’s life on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the church that he was baptised in, was part of the choir with his 8 brothers and sisters, was married in, had his girls’ baptised and became a deacon.
People spoke of his life as a school principal, being a father to his two lovely girls, his adoration of his mum and mostly his extraordinary marriage to his golden Marion. I hope that I have a very long time before a day like that comes for me but I also hope that I am half as well remembered.
I think it is time to get serious about starting traditions with my little family now.
Grandma Kelly’s Sliders:
In a bowl combine: 1 lb. ground beef, 1/2 a minced onion, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup oatmeal and 1 egg. Supposedly my Gran would add a bit of beef base and a bit more oatmeal if the crowd got bigger than she had meat for.
If the crowd got really big she would quickly open a can of salmon and make salmon patties too.
They would all be this cute size.
Four Roses Rolls: (from my very old copy of the “Five Roses Cookbook”-it has my Gran’s writing in it and I’m guessing this is the roll recipe that she used all the time). If you don’t have this book you need it. It’s available online even now.
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 c. flour
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 c. water
1 c. milk
1/4 c. cooking oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and mix well. In saucepan, heat water, milk and oil until warm. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Blend on low speed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour to create a firm dough.
Let rise to double in bulk. Punch down. Divide into 2 parts to make 2 loaves (or form into buns and let rise in muffin tins). Cover and let rise. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.