My parents moved into their house in 1971. It was the sort of deal where they could choose from a number of floor plans and then it would be built. I guess that is similar to how developers work now, but somehow back then developers could afford to build homes on large lots and make the homes look different from the others on the street. My parents moved to Cranbrook for my Dad’s job, and Mom also found work teaching here. I wasn’t born for 3 years, so they had their new 4 bedroom house and the time to do what they wanted.
I can imagine the two of them – a young hyper-organized couple with no children moving from their rental apartment in Trail, BC into their brand new home – their own – with all sorts of plans and ideas for each room. Mom still lives in the same home today that is a mix of the original decoration and improvements made over the 40 years. The wood siding and stone fireplace in the family room installed by my dad, the orange shag carpet picked out by my mom. The custom teak furniture designed by both of my parents to make sure it could store the 8 tracks, records, dishes, and glassware effectively. But cosmetics of most of the house is updated, the bathroom redone, the extra bedrooms turned into more usable rooms. Better storage solutions, etc.
Our kitchen originally had dark brown wood cupboards, loud brightly coloured vegetable wallpaper and a bright green linoleum floor. My mom designed two storage racks and my dad built them out of orange stained wood. One rack was small and held the spices. The other rack was large and held jars – 6 rows of 5. These jars were empty Kraft Miracle Whip glass jars with the labels removed and the lids carefully painted white with a round of the room’s wallpaper glued on the top. The jars were used to store dry goods – pasta, rice, coffee, raisins, etc. This is how much my Dad loved Miracle Whip; my parents had 30 empty jars to make into storage. Wow.
The rack with the jars are still up today, but the orange wood is painted white to match the walls that no longer have wallpaper on them. There are plans in the works to build a bigger rack that will hold 6 jars per row. One spot will always hold a pile of mom’s ashtrays. The jars no longer have their original metal lids, but been replaced with white plastic ones today.
One of those jars usually stores homemade croutons. Mom keeps her pantry full, ready for whatever dinner decision may come. If I am home, she cannot count on those croutons being there when she wants them. Made from stale old bread that my mom and brother save, they’re fried in margarine and random spices and then oven roasted for 30 minutes. Each day will find me grabbing that jar and snacking on a handful. The salt content is high – hitting the back of your mouth with a punch – and they are some how crunchy and dissolve at the same time. They are nothing like the hard store-bought ones that always seem to remind you of how croutons should taste.
There isn’t a recipe. I’m made them several just like mom showed me how, but they don’t taste right. Not enough salt? Used Butter instead of Margarine? I don’t know, but they don’t taste right unless I have them from my mother’s Kraft Miracle Whip jar.
Tonight’s dinner plan is Barbeque Chicken Caesar Salad and I admitted to mom that new croutons would be required as they had been otherwise consumed. I was hoping she’d make a big batch so there would be extra for snacking. I love them and thought tomorrow – my last full day here – would allow time for crouton munching.
March 11th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event: Upon my confession, my mother saying “You know, croutons are okay, but I really prefer the store bought ones if I have any at all.” What?!?