A Perfect Family Photo

A long time ago on a warm sunny day, eager little shoes make their way through tickling green grass. The teetering toddler, eyes sparkling, grasps her mother’s hands. Just a few feet from the waiting father the young mother lets go of the tiny fingers and they both watch proudly as their giggling daughter takes her first solo steps to rest her hands on her father’s leg. The excited mother runs to the house to return with the camera to capture this perfect family moment.

Eugene pauses his mending, Gloria at his knee with Marguerite’s shadow in the foreground.
Photo taken early September, 1950

I am unsure of the scene that played out before the shutter was triggered. I imagine it as a special event, such as I took the liberty to describe, as film would have been expensive to waste. I am almost there in that photo, just out of view, because I can feel the ground underfoot, smell the air and hear the sound of distant waves swish as they reach the shore in the background. I feel the soft breeze that teases the man’s hair and I can hear his voice as he softly coos to the tiny girl at his knee, just like he used to do to me. This photo was captured 15 years before my arrival on this earth, but the man in the centre of the photo would play a huge role in my life.

After bobbing back and forth across the Atlantic on a WWII Flower Class corvette, Eugene Perry came back home to North East Harbour, Shelburne County, NS in late 1945. He built a house on the property next door to his father’s and, a true man of the sea, started his work-life as a fisherman catching herring in the summer and lobster in the winter. Soon after, he married Lena “Marguerite” Smith and they began their life together in the little house on the hill overlooking the harbour.

The fishing industry is quite a bit different today compared to years ago, and actual fishing was only part of the job. The rest was all the never-ending chores entailed around the tools, gear and equipment of the trade. From the boat that safely held them in the palm of the cold moody ocean to the nets and traps that captured and brought to the sea’s surface each day’s catch, it was a constant agenda of building, repainting, repairing and replacing; all by hand. And it all catered to the weather and the seasons as to which chores needed to be completed and when.

I have been told by family members that Marguerite was a worker who could be seen “on the hill” mending nets alongside her husband to aid with the constant to-do list. To mend a net, a wooden chair would be borrowed from the kitchen – I still have the table and two of the four chairs which Eugene ordered from an Eaton’s catalogue – and carried out to the hill to sit on. A damaged net was laid out, dry and ready to be stretched and pulled taught by strong hands that cinched knots and repaired holes, most likely torn by a large vigorously-wriggling fish desperate to escape.

One of my stepfather’s chairs ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue. It could be the very chair he is sitting on in the photo above.
A needle used to mend nets; it is still wrapped with twine from when my stepfather used it last, probably back in the 1980s. I believe Eugene would have hand carved this needle as many fishermen’s tools were handmade at that time.

As with all young couples after the war, they wanted to start a family. Disappointment would come with the birth of a stillborn baby girl on November 20, 1947. But their prayers would be answered on September 29, 1949 with the birth of a healthy baby girl. They named her Gloria Lena Perry and she was their pride and joy.

I have several photos of Gloria which I will share in future posts. She and I, in a way, were somewhat alike. We grew up in the same house and the same neighbourhood, although years apart. We also loved spending time around our (step)father. We would eventually meet each other after her mother passes away from pneumonia on March 21, 1965. The loss of Marguerite was devastating for Gloria and her father. Eugene struggled with preparing for the upcoming herring fishing season with a 15-year old daughter to care for. Enter my mother and I. But that is a story for another day.

This family photo is so heartwarming, and tells so many stories. As a child who grew up on that same property, I recognize that spot where Eugene is sitting. I have stood there many times to look out at the harbour beyond the ledge in the background. Eugene is wearing his Royal Navy issued pants as he would have stated they were “still good enough” after wearing them home from the war as there was “nothing wrong with them”. A package of cigarettes(?) is stuffed in his shirt pocket. (If you think you recognize what is in his pocket, please let me know in the comments below.)

It is a warm sunny day as you can tell by the little dress Gloria is wearing. She would have been close to a year old. It was late summer and just before her 1st birthday at the end of September. The sun played an important role that day as well; without it, Marguerite’s shadow would not be in the foreground. You can see how she holds the camera about chest height, her elbow at her side, her head tilted down as she centres the subjects in the camera-top viewfinder before pressing the shutter. This camera would be the same Kodak Eugene bought just before heading to war.

I am unaware of any other photos of Marguerite, and I feel this is probably the only photo of this little family unit. Yet, in its own way, it is perfect. In that moment they are together and happy, and what can be more perfect than that?

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”
Andy Warhol

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Recipes from the Trunk

Amongst the items I found in the trunks (read Transitions & Traditions, December 2021) were some brand name recipe booklets. Now, many of you who know me know that cooking is not my…passion. It’s not that I can’t cook, it’s just that I don’t relish (no pun intended) cooking…at all. And yet, there have been occasions (say, once every 2 – 3 years) where I’ve awakened and thought, “I think I’d like to bake a 4-layer raspberry chocolate truffle cake with raspberry cream filling and chocolate buttercream frosting today.” There has to be some kind of cosmic glitch or star alignment for that to happen, though!

However, considering these booklets are vintage, and passed down from my great-grandmother to grandmother to mother, how can I not feel an attraction to them? So, occasionally, and much sooner than once every 2-3 years, I will make a recipe from one of these cook booklets. Mwahahahahaha…

The Walter M. Lowney Co. Limited was founded in Boston, MA in 1883. They made chocolate, hard candy and marshmellows (Smithsonian Libraries, 2021). In 1905, they built a factory in Montreal, QC with offices in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver (McMaster University, n.d.). It is probably from one of these offices that my grandmother Rebecca ordered “55 Dainty Marshmallow Recipes”. She payed 10¢ for the booklet. It cost the Lowney Company 2¢ to drop it in the mail on May 15, 1957.

A little background about Marshmallows:
Marshmallow is a sticky sap that comes from the roots of the mallow plant that grows in, you guessed it, marshes. The Romans used the sap to sooth such ailments as sore throats, tooth aches, bee stings and other small wounds (Wells, 2016). It was the Ancient Egyptians that started mixing it with honey and nuts, consumed only by nobility, and as an offering to the gods. In France in the early 1800s, marshmallow became a treat sold from small candy stores. Made by the store owners themselves, they combined the sap with sugar and egg whites to form into their own confectionary delights. Since the late 1800s the sap was replaced with other protein sources, including beef or pork gelatin, to improve and increase production (Wikipedia, 2022).

Looking through this marshmallow recipe booklet, the first thing you would note is how recipes have changed, in both looks and taste, since the 1950s. During WWII, families were rationed such foods as meat, dairy and sugar. Imagine the new recipes that came about after all the creative cooking women did in the 40s with a ration of 1 cup of sugar per week per person (CBC Kids, 2022). Notably, today the average American consumes 77 gms (over 1/3-cup) of sugar per day (American Heart Association, 2022).

If you have ever looked through a recipe book or cooking magazine from the 50s you would definitely see several jellied recipes. Most every food item made its way eventually into a jelly shape of some form or colour. So, the recipe I just had to try first was Moonbeam Salad Loaf. Not sure why it’s called “moonbeam”, but seemed fitting considering my previous cosmic glitch comment.

Moonbeam Salad Loaf
Lisa’s Ingredients:
1 pkg of lime jello (I used Sobeys’ Compliments brand)
2 cups of water (1 boiling + 1 cold)
1 500g container of 2% M.F. cottage cheese (I used Scotsburn)
24 regular-sized marshmallows, cut in eighths

Lisa’s Instructions, with photos:
• Boil some water.
• While water is boiling, put cottage cheese through a sieve into a small bowl.
This will break the curds into a smaller, more uniform size. Set aside.
• In a medium bowl, mix lime jello powder with 1 cup of hot water.
Stir until sugar crystals dissolve then add 1 cup of cold water.
(I used the package directions rather than just adding 1-1/2 cups of boiling water.)

Sieved cottage cheese. Cup of hot water being added to jello powder.

• Add sieved cottage cheese to jello mixture. Place in fridge until mixture gets quivery (their word, not mine…lol).
• Count out 24 marshmallows and cut each into 8 pieces.
(Honestly, cutting marshmallows with scissors is a true exercise in futility.
The cut pieces stick to your fingers and hands as well as the scissors which also get gummed up between the blades.
After dipping the blades in a mug of hot water, the exercise got a whole lot easier.
Easiest, however, would have been to just buy mini marshmallows;
eight minis to one regular marshmallow would have worked perfectly!
However, I was trying to be as true to the recipe as possible,
using the regular-sized marshmallows and truly having fun!)

• Remove quivery (half set) lime jello and cottage cheese mixture from the fridge and add cut marshmallows.

Quivery (partially set) lime jello and cottage cheese mixture ready for cut marshmallows to be added.

• Once the marshmallows have been added, stir well to break apart those that are stuck together.
• Pour the mixture into a single-loaf glass bread pan. Place in fridge until set.

Cut marshmallows added, the mixture is put in the fridge until completely set.

• Once the mixture is completely set (a few hours or leave overnight), remove from fridge.
• Using a knife or spatula, loosen the salad loaf from the sides of the pan.
• Place decorative serving plate upside down over the glass bread pan.
Flip pan and plate over as a unit to allow the salad loaf to gently plop onto the serving plate.
(You might have to shake the pan a bit, but who doesn’t like jiggling a pan of jello?)

The set salad loaf ready for transfer to serving plate.

• Garnish with grapes and serve to anyone willing to experience this delightful 1950s recipe.
(The recipe mentions peaches as an optional garnish, but I couldn’t imagine
the two colours – lime green and peachy-orange – working together in an appetizing fashion.

But I do think a peach version with peach jello would work very nicely.)

Here it is! Moonbeam Salad Loaf.

My thoughts on this recipe:
It actually tasted good. It was sampled by my husband, son and daughter-in-law with a surprised nod and smile. Yeah!

As an afterthought, since those cut marshmallows were sticky, I could have stuck them on the inside bottom of the glass bread pan so as to appear in the finished dessert as they do in the booklet photo above, or some other pattern. That would be fun for next time.
I would also love to try this recipe again in another flavour, such as peach, raspberry or orange.

Do you have the “55 Dainty Marshmallow Recipes” booklet? If you do, have you ever made, or do you have, a favourite recipe from it? Will you try Moonbeam Salad Loaf? Let me know if you do, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Smithsonian Libraries, Adopt-A-Book, Lowney’s Cook Book, May 2, 2021: https://library.si.edu/donate/adopt-a-book/lowneys-cook-book
McMaster University, Archives & Research Collections, Collection RC0401 – Walter M. Lowney Company of Canada collection, March 8, 2022: https://archives.mcmaster.ca/index.php/walter-m-lowney-company-of-canada-collection
Mental Floss, From the Archives, The Long, Sweet History of Marshmallows, Jeff Wells, October 13, 2016: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86346/long-sweet-history-marshmallows
Wikipedia, Marshmallow, February 18, 2022: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshmallow
CBC Kids, Explore, Did you know we had to ration food during the war?, March 7, 2022: https://www.cbc.ca/kidscbc2/the-feed/did-you-know-we-had-to-ration-food-during-the-war#:~:text=What%20were%20the%20rations%20like%3F&text=One%20cup%20%E2%80%94%20about%20200%20grams,about%201%20stick)%20of%20butter.
American Heart Association, How much sugar is too much?, March 7, 2022: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/how-much-sugar-is-too-much#:~:text=American%20adults%20consume%20an%20average,%2Dpound%20bowling%20balls%2C%20folks!

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