Two White Horses

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I recently signed up for a two-day art and writing class. The assignment was to write a story related to food, include a recipe in the story, and create a homemade book for the text. Here is my attempt:

Nanna's strawberries
Nanna’s strawberries

This is a true story, or as true as any story can be that has passed through three generations.

If you find the details scant, it’s because Nana was a private person. Details were not something she shared, especially if there was any unpleasantness involved. And while this is a tale of young love and optimism, I suspect it hides a family backstory, some of which – in Nana’s mind at least – was probably best forgotten.

As a former journalist, missing pieces turn my auburn hair to grey. It is, after all, in the tiniest of minutiae that the most is often revealed. But even with its bare bones, this is a cherished family story that regularly gets retold among our brood, especially during Christmas cookie making sessions.

Muriel had been wearing Art’s engagement ring for weeks, on her little toe, hidden from view.

Her father did not much like her choice in this man and she did not want to make waves.

Her mother wasn’t around to offer womanly support or advice. She had passed when Muriel was six.

It was a warm spring day, May 22, 1926; just two months shy of Muriel’s 19th birthday. Art wasn’t much older. The two of them decided to escape from the city for the afternoon. Picnic lunch in hand, they boarded a Toronto streetcar heading west towards Kitchener.

As they settled into their seats, Art looked at Muriel and said, as he had several times of late, “Will you marry me today?”

“If we see two white horses, I will marry you today.”

The trip took several hours. At some point along the way, they saw two white horses grazing in a field. I can only imagine the conversation that ensued, with Art grinning from ear to ear and Muriel rolling her eyes and sighing with feigned exasperation.

True to her word though, Muriel allowed Art to escort her off the streetcar when it stopped in the tiny community of Breslau. They found a local minister who married them on the spot.

In later telling the story to their children and grandchildren (my husband is one of their grandsons), Nana said that she only promised to marry Gampy that day because she did not expect to see two white horses. Gampy would quickly retort that she said she would marry him because she knew she would see two white horses.

I am not privy to what was in their picnic basket that day in 1926, but I like to think Nana included some ‘strawberries’, which have become a Christmas classic in our house. They are a romantic cookie for the most romantic of stories.

Strawberries

Makes approx. 4 dozen

4 cups desiccated or fine coconut

1 tin sweetened condensed milk

4 small (3 oz.) packages strawberry Jello

2 T. icing sugar

Set aside 1 package Jello. Mix all other ingredients together. Pinching off pieces of the dough, form into small strawberry shapes. Roll in the package of Jello that you have set aside. Make a butter icing and add green food colouring. Using a pastry bag with appropriate tip, add 2 icing ‘leaves’ to each strawberry. Chill and store in a tin, in layers separated by waxed paper.

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