Now and Then: Home cooking and Flin Flon food

I recently experienced a Flin Flon flashback that I am sure will generate fond memories for those who were hangin’ around town in the ‘50s era. My total sensory event occurred this summer when I encountered an outdoor food booth offering grilled, footlong hot dogs. I had to have one, loaded with mustard, ketchup and fried onions. Wham – time travel!

On first bite I was swept back to those Saturday nights after Teen Canteen at the Jubilee Hall when a carload of us would head for the Gateway Drive In and order up one of those fabulous footlongs along with a chocolate shake. Hey, thanks for the memories as I laboured through something that I would have easily wolfed down in my teen years.

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There are other Flin Flon flashback foods that come to mind, like when I would pop into the P&G bakery during my high school lunch break and pick up a loaf of fresh Irish bread, rush home, fry up a couple of wieners, slather on the butter and mustard and fall into a state of reverie. Another favourite for us uptowners was to Fall In to Freedman’s on Main Street and order up a milkshake. We’d sit at the counter on high stools on the wavy-wavy floor while Mr. Freedman chomped on his cigar and muttered to himself about something that annoyed him – that being his perpetual state. The shakes were served in the aluminum containers and it was great fun to suck every last bit of milkshake from the bottom, of course creating a racket that would cause Mr. Freeman to holler at us from the till to, “Turn it down, boys!”

Freedman’s also offered the best ever ice cream sandwiches – a thick slice of tri-coloured Neapolitan ice cream between two large wafers, for only 25 cents!

Now, a tribute to my mother, an excellent cook, even with having to deal with a clunky kitchen wood stove for many years. She created meals that now seem miraculous considering her limited financial resources. An all time favorite remains homemade tomato soup. It’s basic and delicious. A large can of tomatoes, a tin of evaporated milk, a pinch of baking soda and a pat of butter. Bring the tomatoes to a boil in one pot, just warm the milk, baking soda and butter in another pot and then pour the tomatoes into the milk. Add a side of soda crackers slathered with butter! I still cook it up from time to time. It’s a comfort food as it brings back fond memories of the tiny kitchen in our little house on the side of a rock on Church Street.

Another staple of the day for us and, I am sure, for many others, was wieners and beans with a bit of molasses added for “health” as Mother would say. A side of P&G bread with butter, of course. A can of salmon mixed in with mashed potatoes, an egg and chopped onions created salmon fritters, pancake sized offerings that were fried up and eaten with a blob of ketchup. A substitute for cereal was loaf ends of bread cut into cubes served with warm milk and a sprinkling of white sugar. Still tastes good! Liver and onions were also one of my personal favourites with a ton of mashed potatoes. The key here is to pour the gravy on the liver and load the potatoes with – you guessed it – butter!

There are all kinds of snack foods on the store shelves nowadays, but back in the day the selection was limited, as were the funds to purchase some. Mother created a tasty snack for us by heating (not too hot) a bit of butter in a frying pan and then adding a whack of puffed wheat cereal. Easy to make but you have to keep stirring the puffs around as they absorb the butter as they begin to shrivel and brown. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and, like they say, I bet you can’t eat just one!

Not all went well in our kitchen. Wieners used to be individually wrapped in cellophane. On one occasion my mother failed to notice this and fried them up ‘as is’. We struggled to peel off the fried cellophane because Mother refused to chuck them out. Waste not, want not and besides, “Don’t you know there are children starving in (you fill in the name of the country).”

Bon appetit!

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