My mom Anna and her friend Pat started the second handmade soap company in all of Canada. It’s hard to believe, with all the thousands of soap sellers at craft fairs and shops these days, but it’s true! North Mountain Soapery started in a corner of Pat’s house in Burlington, then moved to rented spaces including a dusty nook behind Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe in Port Williams. In about 1985, when I was nine, they renovated a barn on Pat’s property and went big-time, selling soap and potpourri and bath salts at shows in Toronto and even at Disney’s Epcot Centre in Florida. I remember asking my mom to pack me up inside one of the boxes destined for Dopey Drive.
|Me, Meagan and Sarah
Every few years, we sit down to watch and howl at Mom and Pat’s appearance on “On the Road Again” with Wayne Rostad. In the video, Pat’s kids, Sarah and Jesse, are joined by my sister and I in a highly staged portrayal of quaint rural life. Pat calls us from the barn and we come running, to wash up for supper, with North Mountain Soapery soap in an old washtub on the porch. Mom and Pat are so young and sweet in their interview, so passionate about what they were making, and with all that 80s hair going on, it is really a scream. Or, in the case of Pat and Sarah, a snort.
We lived just down the road from Pat and her husband Doug, and Meagan, Sarah and I were pretty much all the same age, so we were together fairly often. We played in Sarah’s treehouse, gorged ourselves on fruit in Doug’s orchard, and dared each other to walk across the beams of the barn next door. We went on picnics in the woods, swam in the pond stocked with salmon, and cooked supper together when our moms were away in Toronto (legendary meals cooked by our Dads included Kraft Dinner with ground venison, highly salted spaghetti that made me throw up, and burgers undercooked by me that made Sarah throw up. These recipes aren’t included here).
Sarah and I were both home sick one day, and mom had to go to work, so I was to spend the day at Sarah’s convalescing with her while our Moms worked next door. Pat had a Crock-Pot of baked beans on the go for supper. Somehow, one of us tripped over the cord and the whole thing came crashing down onto the floor. We were terrified. Despite our illness, we sprang into action, all the while on high alert should one of our mothers walk in the door. We scooped up the beans with a dustpan and hastily dumped them back into the pot. We added water to bring the beans back up to their original volume, plugged it back in and wiped everything up as best we could. Lucky for me, we went home for supper. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling as I imagined her pretending to enjoy the tainted beans.
|Me, Sarah, Meagan and Lyss in Cuba
Well, 25 years later, Meagan and I are still friends with Sarah. We can tell the same stories over and over and cry with laughter every time. Sarah and Jesse own a business together that Doug started towards the end of North Mountain Soapery (they sold it in 1989), Country Stoves and Sunrooms
in Aylesford. And Mom and Pat are still wonderful friends, now working together on another big project, a book this time, about the history of the people of Burlington. We all have shared many meals together, with very few of them hitting the floor first. Pat makes an amazing Bok Choy salad that I first tasted when she brought me a meal after the birth of my daughter, Molly. Both Sarah and Pat are famous for the mouthwatering yet very simple Garlic Brie that makes an appearance at their parties, and Sarah willingly (I think) makes Peanut Butter Chocolate Chestnuts that her girlfriends clamour for each Christmas.
4 Cloves Garlic
2 T. Olive Oil
1 small wheel Brie or Camembert
Mince the garlic and combine with the oil. Place the brie on a pie plate and spoon the garlic oil over top. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or simply heat in the microwave until the cheese is soft and warm, about 30-60 seconds. Serve with your favourite crackers to everyone at the party.
Bok Choy Salad serves many
Pat calls this “Sugar Salad” for obvious reasons. You can cut back on the butter (use 2-3 T.) and the sugar (use 1/2 C.) and it will still be good. I suggest making it as is and sharing it with your delighted friends.
1 large head Bok Choy, chopped (any cabbage will do nicely, really)
2 bunches Green Onion, sliced
½ C. Slivered Almonds
2 pkg. broken Ramen Noodles (throw out the seasoning and bash up the noodles while still in the bag)
½ C. Sesame Seeds
½ C. Butter
1 C. Sugar
½ C. Vinegar
2 T. Soy Sauce
1 C. Canola Oil
Place the bok choy and green onions in a large bowl. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the almonds, ramen noodles and sesame seeds. Stir and cook until everything is toasty. Drain on paper towels. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and canola oil until sugar has dissolved. Just before serving, toss the bok choy and green onions with enough dressing to coat, then shake on the nuts and noodles and toss again. Oh boy.
Webster’s Baked Beans with a little Union Street twist (thanks, Alexis!)
This traditional (almost) baked bean recipe comes to you straight from Webster Farms, a bean and raspberry grower in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. We use their Jacob’s Cattle Beans for this, but you can use almost any white or speckled dried bean.
1 lb. Webster Farms Dried Beans
2 tsp. Dried Mustard
1/2 t. Ground Ginger
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Molasses
1/2 C. Ketchup
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
4 strips Bacon (or not)
1 tsp. Vinegar
1 medium Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Soak beans overnight in plenty of water to cover. Place beans in large pot with 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer until beans are tender, approximately 30 minutes. Eat a bean to make sure it’s tender, they will not soften further once the remaining ingredients are added! Place in slow cooker (in a secure location:). Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine. Cook on high for 4-6 hours covered. Alternatively, bake in the oven for 4-6 hours at 300 degrees, checking in once in a while to make sure beans have enough liquid.