Ahhh, the sweet smell of a freshly baked loaf of golden bread smothered in dripping butter and wild strawberry jam, made with buckets of berries that took all day to collect.  The deep, musky scent of coffee percolating on the stove and eggs delicately sizzling in a bath of bacon fat.  Having grown up in Quebec, these memories are so real I can still taste them.

If there is one thing we know well in Quebec, it is food.  Really good food.  It seemed to me that the front door of every house opened up to the kitchen.  It was always the biggest room and everyone just naturally gathered there, enticed by the aromas and the vibrant chatter of mothers, aunts and grandmothers sharing secrets of smooth gravy and perfect pie crust.   It was the heart of the home, and after a long day it felt more like a welcoming hug than just a place to eat.

Today I would love to invite you into such a place as we continue our photoblog series “The Antiques Toad Show” featuring a series of photographs we captured during a visit to the Metchosin Pioneer Museum last year.  With many thanks to our dear friend the Curator, we were able to spend a day alone in the museum exploring many objects that were used by the very families who established this local community in the mid 1800’s.  So without further ado, please come in, sit a spell and enjoy an afternoon in an old country kitchen….

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

When I was a little girl, I just loved to play house.  In fact I even used to pretend that I had my own cooking show, and I would chop and dice and talk to an invisible camera like millions of adoring foodies were hanging on my every word!  And while I still love to cook, albeit a little more quietly, I would certainly do even more of it if I had a kitchen such as this.  Beautiful antique silver trays and sparkling crystal bowls are without a doubt some of my favourite things, and inspire even the most modest chef to let their creativity soar.  A vase of freshly cut wildflowers adds the finishing touch to a table just begging to be shared.

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Now while sugar and spice most certainly have earned their rightful place on the pantry shelf, snips and snails and puppy-dog tails are fortunately not to be found.  Fragrant and exotic spices from all over the world gather here to become savoury stews and casseroles, sweet puddings and pies, or any number of tasty treats.  And of course, no well-used kitchen is complete without those personal little touches like a pink crocheted chicken!

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Isn’t it wonderful that a tin decorated with bright colours and whimsical designs can make even lard sound palatable?  Perhaps that’s why they did this, I just can’t imagine it would have the same effect to see it packaged in a contemporary clear plastic container!

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

This fabulous old tin mixing bowl looks like it was well loved, just like the ones in my mother’s kitchen.  These dishes were made to be used, and used they were.  Mixing bread, washing dishes, picking berries, soaking a sore elbow or even serving as temporary housing for a handful of lucky caterpillars, these bowls served many duties and lasted forever.

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Just as the washing machine and electric iron, this once modern toaster would have been a real luxury, no doubt.  It makes me laugh to imagine what my great-aunts would have thought of this marvel of toasting technology. The bread loaves lovingly crafted by little old French ladies in Gaspe, who could beat anything in their kitchens into submission, are so large that the only way to toast a slice is to throw it on top of the stove!  Surely there would have been much rolling of eyes and gales of giggles.

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Now any of us who can remember at least one or two of those little tins on the pantry shelf would also know that if you wanted to be as strong as Popeye, you had to eat your spinach.  I’m not sure I could pop the can open with my fist, but luckily we don’t have to thanks to another indispensable kitchen gadget, the can opener!

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Paws down, this has to be my favourite item.  If you cannot trust a squirrel’s endorsement of peanut butter, then who?

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

And of course, what modern day nineteenth century kitchen is complete without the grind-anything-you-have-on-hand tool?  This surely makes light work of one of my favourite recipes, ragout de boulettes or meatball stew, a delicious medley of beef, pork and cinnamon served over buttered mashed potatoes.  Mmmmmm.

Kitchen Scene - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Kitchen Scene – Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

If justice is a dish best served cold, then friendship is a dish best served warm and lovingly.  We gather over food at every occasion, be it weddings or birthdays, Christmas or Thanksgiving, even wakes and funerals.  Creating unique dishes and sharing them with friends and family has always been a part of every people and culture, indeed helping to define them.  Food is what sustains us, without it we cannot survive.  And it can be art, whether by the finest Michelin star chef in a fusion restaurant or by a newlywed making her first dinner for her new husband.  Even in a place where survival was a daily task, chefs of all kinds patiently and deliberately mixed pinches of this and sprinkles of that until the last taste finally met with their exhausting standards and at last the delicious bounty found its way to the table.  Nice to know some things never change.

Thank you for stopping by and puttering with me in the kitchen today.  No kitchen is complete without a few friends, so please feel free to stop in anytime.  I’ll keep a chair open and a place set just for you, the tea is always on!

Maybe you have your own fond kitchen memories, we’d love to hear about them!  Please do feel free to leave your thoughts and comments, we sure appreciate them.  Until next time!

Warmly,

Mrs. Toad




  1. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    I TOTALLY want some squirrel peanut butter. Seriously!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      I can surely check the tin Chris, but something tells me the peanut butter may be past the expiry date! Thanks so much for your visit 🙂

  2. avatar Mrs. Mudpuppy says:

    You write with such warmth and hospitality Mrs. Toad! One would be so honored to be welcomed into YOUR kitchen! I too love the Squirrel Peanut Butter and fondly remember enjoying this myself as a young mudpuppy! Great photo essay, keep up the fabulous job!

  3. avatar Rachel Cohen says:

    What a wonderful and down home post!! Fantastic processing on all the images too!! Makes me feel like I stepped back in time a bit! :))

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      I must admit Rachel that I love these old fashioned kitchens beyond words, makes me wish I had the time to cook on an old wood stove just for the wonderful smells! Thanks so much for your comments today.

  4. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Wonderful images and post Mr & Mrs Toad. Very rustic setting reminding us of a time gone by. One question about that first image. The view out of the window – is it real or painted (it looks too nice to be real)?

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Hi Len, thanks for your kind words. In fact, the scene has been carefully added to the windows (there are several like this one) to lend it some authenticity. The folks who tend to this little museum really go the extra mile to ensure those little details are not overlooked. Funny thing is, the real scene outside is not that much different from what you see! Thanks for popping by:)

  5. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Once again the Toads have produced another fantastic post for all to enjoy!

    Those old items like the lard tin and peanut butter can are classic throw-backs in time. All of the images are wonderful and of course, writing superior.

    Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful finds. 😉

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Hi Jimi, I would have to agree that these items really take you back to a simpler time when things like peanut butter and homemade jam were real treats. We really didn’t have all the choices that kids do today. I still contend that those little green glass bottles of Coke that you had to open with the opener on the vending machine tasted way better! Thanks so much for your great comments.

  6. Great series Mrs Toad, that first paragraph made me hungry! great place!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much Mike, I think a few of us are suddenly thinking that a pie or some jam sounds great! Thanks for your visit today and for taking the time to leave these great comments.

  7. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Wow The Toads have done it again. Wonderful post and images. Mrs. Toad I grew up in Montreal and you are so right, the kitchen was and is the heart of the home. I remember no matter how many people we had over they would always gather in the kitchen even though it was a smaller room everyone wnanted to be in there. I really love this series.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you very much for your warm and wonderful comments today Edith, it means a lot to us! I would love to know where in Montreal you grew up, I lived in Pointe-Claire until I finished school and then my family built a house in Morin-Heights. We used to visit family in Gaspe often as well, mostly Sayabec and Baie Comeau. Any of these places sound familiar to you? I just knew we were long-lost friends!

  8. As I was reading that first paragraph, I could almost taste it! This is a very interesting collection of images. You guys are a great team! Fabulous post and pictures as usual!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thanks Michael, I have to admit my favourite part of all of this, other than getting to chat with some really great folks such as yourself, is the grand adventures that Mr. Toad and I share while on these great photo shoots. We were very lucky to be able to have after-hours access to this wonderful museum thanks to our good friends. Thanks for popping by!

  9. I love this series Mrs Toad and great to see some writing from your good self too. For me coming from England, it strikes me as remarkable how the majority of items are recognisable and would have been in use here, (my folks had a hand meat grinding thing like that).
    This just makes the small items more alien, the Squirrel peanut butter for example.
    wonderful

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Hi Chris, thank you so much for your wonderful comments, they are very much appreciated! I agree with you, seeing these little bottles and tins again really bring back a simpler time for me as well, and it’s fun to see that some of them really haven’t changed at all like the Keens mustard, for example. I have one of those in my spice rack at this very moment! And of course, who wouldn’t buy peanut butter from a squirrel? Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  10. avatar LensScaper says:

    Wonderful evocative writing Mrs Toad, and accompanied by some great images that remind us of all those tins and packages and ‘primitive gadgets that we had forgotten from a long gone childhood. I’m raising a glass to you both. Great post

  11. avatar Mrs. Toad says:

    Thank you so very much Andy, we sure appreciate your vote of support! I just love the old tins and bottles too, really brings back memories of simpler times. Thanks for commenting, and cheers!

  12. avatar ehpem says:

    Mrs Toad! You have done it again – terrific words that complement the strong photographs perfectly. You guys make a great team. I look forward to more from the two of you.

    You sure are doing this museum justice too, it has to be one of the best documented museums anywhere. More!

  13. avatar Sandra Kent says:

    Wonderful photos and writing, Mrs. Toad. This is the first time I have been to your blog and I must say I love it!!. I took me back to my childhood. I remember those spices in my mother’s cupboard and the toaster on the counter….and of course, i don’t remember my mother having any other peanut butter in the house but squirrel!!. These are loving memories that take me back….not that long ago.;-))) Thank you for sharing. I have bookmarked your blog…I want to hear more stories and see more photos.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Sandra, it is just wonderful to meet you and I hope you will become a regular visitor to the Hollow! Thank you very much for your lovely comments, I feel the same way, I just love to see these “old” items, it really takes me back as well. I really miss those little tins and bottles, you really don’t see that so much anymore now that everything seems to come in plastic containers. Thanks so much for your visit and welcome!