Sunday, July 19, 2015

1910 era Chicken and Some Very Bad Girls

Marion Nicholson's Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1912...

Chicken was a relatively expensive meat in the 1910 era, available only half the year. (A 1895 bill shows a whole 4 1/2 pound chicken bought for 45 cents. Beef steak was also 10 cents a pound. Half a steer was purchased for 6 bucks.)

 Here's Fannie's recipe. "Dress, clean, stuff, and truss a chicken. Place on its back on a rack in a dripping pan, rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast and legs with three tablespoons butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with two tablespoons flour. Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven and when flour is well browned, reduce the heat and then baste. Stuffing 1: I cup cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup boiling water, salt and pepper, Powdered sage, summer savory or marjoram."

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, don't eat beef, claims a recent CBC article.  Pork is OK. Chicken is OK. Or at least better for the environment that beef. The CBC message boards lit up, people were divided on the topic.

This story comes around every five years, suggested one person on the message boards.

I myself don't put much store in articles like this, based on random studies.

I've always understood that pork is the creepiest meat, for a number of reasons.

And, and I've written about often on this blog, chicken isn't chicken anymore. It seems like industrial protein mush.

Just last week I bought my usual breaded chicken strips - a brand I like - and almost gagged. "They've changed the recipe," I told my husband. "They are using processed chicken."

But, no. The packaged insisted the chicken fingers were made from 'chicken breast strips'.

So I guess they've changed the chickens themselves. I have noticed that BBQ chickens are mushier this past year, except the Costco ones that they inject with salt.

OK. So how can I transition this food rant into the story of my book about the suffragettes in Montreal in 1912/13 Sister Salvation?


I'm writing up the March 1913 scenes... and in March, 1913 Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother, writes a letter home to her Mom saying she made her first chicken and three apple pies, "and on the Sabbath too!"

Marion is an elementary school teacher and she made the bold move back in September of finding a flat for her and 3 other teachers to live in, BY THEMSELVES.

This was a very daring thing to do in the era of the Social Evil, Prostitution.

Even 27 year olds like Marion, with 6 years working experience, had to be careful about the image they projected in public.

The area of Hutchison where Marion lived in 1912/13.

But Marion took the flat, on Hutchison, with her sister Flora, also a teacher but in her first year, and her cousin May, also a teacher but in her second year and another girl who was the daughter of an M.N.A. also a teacher.

She did this by promising that her Mother was coming to keep house for her, but that wasn't entirely the case. Mother Margaret would come down once in a while for a couple of weeks at a time.

May's mother too.

Otherwise the 'working girls' were on their own and apparently their flat was topsy turvy most of the time.

But Marion got to see her beau, Mr. Blair, as much as she wanted to. And that was the point, I guess.

In a January 1913 letter her little sister Flora writes her Mom saying "Hugh is over as usual."

Hugh and Marion at Tighsolas with Floss. Norman 'receives' Hugh for a visit in Spring 1913.  The couple would marry in October. Read Threshold Girl

In this chicken letter it seems that ambitious career-minded Marion is getting ready for some much homelier activities, by cooking and nursing her roommates who, as first year teachers, are always sick with colds.

It is clear that Mr. Blair or "Romeo" is thinking of proposing. In another March letter, Marion warns her father, Norman, to be ready to receive Mr. Blair  "whenever he wants to come."

... So this is what is happening to the Nicholson women in my story... the month that McGill Professor and prominent Social Reformer Carrie Derick turns down the Presidency of the soon-to-be-formed Montreal Suffrage Association. She claims she has too much work at McGill.

But a month later she takes on the position and the MSA is launched at a April 25 press conference and claims to be 'a sane and reasonable' organization and about to embark on a quiet education of the people.

The MSA must distance themselves from the British militant suffragettes. Their movement is peaking at that moment with Pankhurst's troops conducting a campaign of civil disobedience and deliberate destruction of government property - and getting a lot of headlines for it.

 Why does Derick changer her mind? Because President Peterson of McGill tells her that her job, as Full Professor of Morphological Botany, is merely a 'courtesy' position - and that she still has to work as a lowly lab demonstrator.

Pretty deflating for a woman who has fought all her life for each and every career advancement.

Meanwhile, in my Furies Cross the Mersey ebook,  two students at McGill's RVC, Royal Victoria College, are planning to have a suffrage march down Sherbrooke, inspired by Caroline Kenney, the sister of Annie Kenney, who is in Montreal trying to start a 'militant' organization.

---- So I better get to writing it out.
Just as Montrealers mount their new suffrage association, the suffragettes in England act up for real. Both these articles are from February 1913 Montreal Gazettes. "Recruits won for cause." Using military metaphors...despite the fact that the Montreal Suffrage Exhibit being reported on was filled with jonquils and valentines and 'sweet suffragette chocolates'.

Anyway, the Nicholson family accounts from the ear show that beef and pork is REAL CHEAP in Quebec in 1910, but chicken is pricey... available for only a few months a year. Chicken was pricey in the 20's as well, a luxury. That line "a chicken in every pot" meant a lot during the Depression.