Opening words . . .

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Ketchup and Mustard on Toast and Other Snacks

We had played hard all morning and therefore, felt deserving of a snack. It was summer holidays and my cousin, Michelle who lived all of ten kilometers away, was visiting the “family neighbourhood,” staying with our grandparents. Since Michelle was staying at said house, it is where we headed for our mid-morning morsels. It made the most sense at the time, considering the whole neighbourhood who seemed to have a sense about kids that time of the morning and could see them coming a mile away, and Grammy wasn’t around.

The neighbourhood consisted of three main households - that of our grandparents occupying the center house, with the two oldest siblings and their families on either side. Another joined the lineup in the next few years. The “family-hood” was a natural situation for cousins as playmates and provided a farm (Gram’s barn in which we were never supposed to enter, eh-hem, and a sawmill on the premises with ever present danger, enough to keep everyone a little on edge.) We, the kids, lived the constant reminders through macabre stories of people with their fingers cut off told to us many times over, particularly from uncles, the younger siblings of our parents. But by school age, each kid had learned the ropes and could see through the “concerned” warnings to the glint in their eyes, their love of the story and the fun in infusing unreasonable fear to keep us awake at nights. In spite of the rules and the stories, we managed to have one heck of a time.

The farm provided a rhubarb patch and an apple orchard. The rhubarb patch launched our summer snacks. We would pull the long rhubarb stalks with both hands, often landing on our bottoms when the roots gave way. A small bowl of sugar and the dipping and jabbing of the shredded rhubarb ends soaking up the sugar was the ultimate in sweet and sour delights. We faithfully returned the soaked up clumps of sugar in the dishes to Grammy’s kitchen counter.

The apples were on our barometer for future snacks just as the rhubarb patch had provided its bounty in early summer. Wild strawberries were also available, but unfortunately took work for their provision. Also cream and sugar would be needed. In Gram’s apple orchard, the yellow transparent apples were the snack we all patiently waited for - all summer.

It was during one of the lulls - in between our natural, outdoor snacks, when ketchup and mustard on toast was introduced to me on a midsummer’s day, leaving me with a conundrum. I watched closely, unbelieving that this combination of colour and sludge on toast was a legitimate snack.

“So what about the wiener?” I questioned while watching Michelle munch her first bites in between spouting out words of explanation that we didn’t really need a wiener.

It was my turn to give it a try. With my very first bite, I was convinced that all along we had been duped about the wiener in a hot dog. We really didn’t need one. The mixed flavours of ketchup and mustard and bread were enough - missing nothing.  It was definitely worth another piece and certainly worth referencing for the future to ward off any potential snack famines. There was also the added benefit of only one messy knife used for spreading being left in the kitchen sink. A few crumbs around the toaster, but certainly not severe, and we were gone again out the back door.

The wild spread of barnyard and lumber piles stretched before us like a playground. Ketchup and mustard on toast energized us for out-manoeuvring and surviving any machine or uncle that would come our way.