You Can Have Your Chicken and Eat It Too.
My mother had finished the 11th grade in 1937 and because her family, like a lot of others, needed help financially, she never went to grade 12. The only job she was able to get was as a nanny/housekeeper.
Her dream had been to be a nurse but that meant getting her high school diploma. Times were tough and it just wasn’t possible then.
The war broke out in 1939 and they needed welders to make smoke bombs. She volunteered and was sent by train across the country to learn to be a welder. She left Calgary, Alberta, and went to a small town outside of Toronto, Ontario. After two years she was told they were desperate for nurses for the war effort, and they would let you in training to be a registered nurse without grade 12.
Fried chicken for the soul.
In 1942 she joined the spring class of the Kitchener Waterloo Hospital School of Nursing. At this time she had not been home for several years, and communication was by letters. You didn’t use the telephone to call home in those days.
The food at the hospital wasn’t good. Frequently people would bring food from home to their family. The students ate in the cafeteria and it was basically the same food as the patients received.
My grandparents lived in a small house with a few chickens in the backyard in Calgary, and as was custom, they would have fried chicken for Sunday dinner.
Mum had written home about how much she missed her father’s fried chicken and thereafter she received a parcel in the mail about 3 times a year. Everybody knew her chicken had arrived as the halls in the residence filled with the great smell of crunchy, fried chicken skin covering the delicious moist tender meat below.
Grandpa would get a chicken that had lived its life eating and scratching in the backyard. He would cut its head off, dip it into boiling water to make the feathers easier to pluck, and then cut the chicken up and fry it. This would be done in the morning. Grandpa would then package the fried chicken and take it to the post office and 3 or 4 days later it would arrive at the school of nursing and mum would share her chicken with friends.
There was no freezing of the chicken for weeks before it was fried. It wasn’t warehoused anywhere. They didn’t use steroids back then.
No one ever got sick from this chicken. This may have been from the fact the chicken was fresher, disease-free, and our postal system was a lot faster!
My mother moved to a little town on the West Coast outside of Vancouver after she finished her training where her parents had moved to. She ended up living here for her whole life. She lived a full and happy life into her 92 year.
I would guess that there wasn’t any problem with her eating chicken left out from the fridge for more than a few hours back in the day. With help from her girlfriends, she never had any leftovers.
These chickens never saw an antibiotic. They were at no time in a cage, just protected in their hen house in the night. They were free-range before that was a saying. They were transferred to my mum within 4 days from the time they were killed to the time they were being eaten.
I would never recommend sending fried chicken in the mail these days, of course, but it was another time. I would also not recommend leaving chicken out of the fridge for any length of time either.
This was a small thing that everyone in the residence looked forward to. To my mother, it was a little bit of home. She left Calgary in early 1940 and did not see her parents until 1945. Over five years. She did not see her older brother who was in the war until the war ended. She spent the war years without family and not sure if her brother would make it home.
She always talked warmly of her times back east and said her training days were some of her best memories. It was tough being without family. It was tough worrying and not knowing when the war would end and if those overseas were coming home.
There were a lot of hard times during that period but my mother came through them as did a lot of others. When we complain about our situation now, being isolated from our friends and family due to the pandemic, at least we know where they are. We can talk, Zoom or do garage visits if we choose.
My mother rarely talked about it being a tough time. She saw the good in most situations and she knew how to have a good time.
My mum was interested in everyone she met. She wanted to hear about your life and your ambitions rather than telling you hers. When I left home and joined the workforce, anytime we had a party, everyone would ask about mum and if she would be there.
She was resilient. She worked hard and knew that sharing what she did have would help everyone to make it.
I hope I can show my children and grandchildren how to survive this pandemic by example. Caring for others, listening to people, and sharing what we can.
PS My mum made fantastic fried chicken every Sunday dinner we were home.