Tag Archives: mary knight

Let’s Just “Gruel” in the New Year

Let’s Just “Gruel” in the New Year

When I used to watch old movies as a child; gruel was served to orphans as an economic necessity. You certainly couldn’t feed hundreds of children steak and eggs on the city’s dime and Dickens loved using gruel as a metephor for cruelty. The Dickensian delights of the Victorian workhouse, immortalised in the moment when a starving Oliver Twist dares to ask for some more watery gruel.

In my family–the gruel came with much praise and many comments every day in January — undoubting the decision of its wholesomeness along with a small side bowl of prunes for everyone’s constitution. In today’s realm it would be much like yogurt attempts to advertise for the thoughts of regular constitution.

Gruel can actually be quite tasty they say. Mary Louise Deller Knight’s was not. Like the 1976 tune “Give Peace a Chance” I was instructed to give gruel a chance- every single day. The thin porridge has had a bad reputation with me ever since. My grandmother decided the month of January should be dedicated to getting everyone’s body ready for the rest of the Winter and layers of morning gruel lining my intestines would do it.

You know maybe if Grammy had followed the old recipe above I might have given it a chance. But- she made her slushy gruel, containing oats, water, milk and onion. That’s right — onion. As my grandfather would say:

“There’s no flavour at all without the onion.”

I begged to differ.

As she rejoyced about it ‘sticking to my insides’, today I would have retorted, “They call that Dysphagia!” In yesterday’s life it was “eat your meals or starve.”

Today, in these nutritionally conscious times, gruel is an all-rounder. It’s got all the carbs and water you need to barely survive for another day. For the health-conscious gruel can be made more interesting by adding bee pollen, maca, hemp seeds, coconut butter, lentil sprouts or fermented tree-nut cheese. Consider yourself warned this might become a new food trend!

Me? I think I will just eat my ethically-sourced, fair trade hat and avoid it like the Black Plague.

More gruel recipes click here.

Pease Pudding in the Pot, Nine Days Old

The Dead End Perfection of Mary Louise Deller Knight

The Dead End Perfection of Mary Louise Deller Knight

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They say that ritual and perfection is important to us as human beings, but I have never been in love of any of it. My grandmother used to do things almost robotically and I used to giggle at her. But now to my horror I find I am doing much the same thing.

Mary Louise Deller Knight used to get up exactly at 6am and start the wood stove and put on coffee. She would feed my grandfather every day at exactly 6:20 am. Fred Knight had one boiled egg in a white ironstone egg cup which he would tap exactly four times with a silver spoon to break it. He would then cut his toast in four diagonals and then eat the egg with a knife and fork in a rhythmic pattern. My grandmother would begin baking something sweet every single day at exactly 6:30am.

At 7am she would hang out laundry and water her garden in the summer. Her zinnias were about 4 feet tall and stood regimental in a long line in front of her vegetable garden, every third one was a red one. I realized a few years ago she was ahead of her time in the 60’s when she set her veggie “compost” in an empty spot in the garden. Things ended growing out of that pile that scientists should have investigated.

At exactly 9am and on non-school days, I had to walk across the street to the Dairy and get one quart of milk in a clear glass bottle with the paper tab closure on top. I loved the smell of the Cowansville Dairy and the noise of the machines that were preparing milk. The dairy’s freezer also held great interest with tiny little cups of ice cream with strawberries on them, and little wooden sticks/spoons lay on top of each one of them seeming to cry out your name.

Noon time came and my grandfather would sit in front of the old wooden radio to listen to the headlines on the BBC news. My grandmother’s recipe for “chicken stew for two” with huge dumplings would be simmering on the wood stove and the smell filled the house. When my grandfather would go back to work at exactly 12:55 my grandmother would rush in and adjust the clear plastic over the couch ready for him to sit down on it at exactly 5pm.

We watched specific programs at night and never really strayed. Lawrence Welk and Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights, Hymn Sing, Ed Sullivan and Bonanza on Sundays, and of course Tommy Hunter’s Country Jamboree on Friday night.

Before Friday night TV it was altar guild night, and we would get ready for Sunday’s services. Some Friday nights were very special when we would decorate the pews for a wedding. My grandmother had all her boxes neatly shelved in the vestry that contained the huge white ribbons that were neatly ironed. We would lovingly decorate them with apple blossoms or other flowers in season and huge bows.

My Grandfather always told her to strive for progress, not perfection, but Mary never listened and he ignored her ways until one day. Each day as Mary went grocery shopping she could not believe the indecency of the sign that said Dead End almost opposite one of the local funeral homes. As she saw cars come and go filled with families that were distraught from a passing loved one Mary knew she had to do something about it.

She felt our forefathers would feel the same way as she did and no one needed to see a sign that said Dead End, and the town needed to show some respect. So Mary filed a complaint with the town of Cowansville, but told me she never heard from anyone. Well sign elves must have used their magic, as a few weeks later there stood a new sign that said No Exit that replaced the Dead End sign.

My Grandfather and Father could not believe what she had done and Mary became famous not only for her baking but for how she took on the town. From then on if I had a problem they both looked at me and said,

”If nothing is going well, talk to your grandmother”.

And I did– because you know what?  I never underestimated the power of my Grammy Knight after that day.

Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun

Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun



This month the Townships Sun in the Eastern Townships of Quebec dedicated a good portion of their magazine to my personal  writings. I was above the moon and beyond, and when I opened the magazine I saw that Mrs. Lewis, as I once called her, had written a small piece about my grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight.

For anyone that knew my family in Cowansville, Quebec we were staunch Anglicans and attended Trinity Anglican Church every Sunday. One had to pretty well have malaria not to go under my grandmother’s watchful eyes. It didn’t even matter towards the end of my grandfather’s life that he had a falling out with the minister, Sunday prayer was a mandatory wireless access to God with no roaming fee.

Seemingly as it was banged into my head, a person’s character was also shown to other parishioners each week by where we sat. I would say we wore out the same spot on the bench through the years, and my Grandmother actually died in church one Sunday ten minutes before the service in the same spot she had sat for the past 65 years. That my friends is holy devotion.

I began wiping dishes in the church kitchen at 6. At 7 I went with Grammy every Friday night for altar duty. I decorated pews, I sang in the choir, and even was in charge of the Sunday School at 16.  I cherished my Grandmother through my life and a lot of what I write is about her, as she was everything to me. Thank you Mrs. Lewis for writing this piece about Mary Deller Louise Knight. Sending you massive hugs– she would have been thrilled to read what you wrote.



The Eastern Townships Sun




Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte


The Secret World of Menopausal Mary

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Linda’s Nickel Opinions — Blasts From the Past Part 11

The Secret World of Menopausal Mary



From the Sherbrooke Record

Looking closely at my body, I wonder how a person ends up becoming this particular shape in life. I think I have half a brain and know if you eat sensibly you lose weight. So how come for 60 odd years I have tried every diet in the universe and only a few pounds have fallen off? Is there something blocking a fat cell somewhere or is my lack of diet success just hereditary?
My mother was tall and slender like Rita Hayworth, and my father, who I am the spitting image of, was the shape of a box like his mother. There you have it; no wonder as the years have passed, people say I look just like my grandmother. I have become the junior version of Mary Deller Knight and have followed her quack diet ideas like ducks flock to water.
Mary was a pretty British gal when my grandfather met her on the seashore in Devon, England. She was no “skinny minnie” and had quite the caboose going, but Fred loved her no matter what she looked like. Mary always worried about her size and wore slimming navy blue dresses with her belt strategically located inches below her bust. I never saw her with a full plate of food, and considering how little we saw her eat in public, it was amazing that she did not look like a stick figure. All of us wondered why she was so stocky and asked ourselves if Mary really was what we would now call a “closet eater”?
She always started her morning with a cup of “slimming tea” followed by a piece of dry toast. Lunch was the same, and dinner was a small portion of whatever we ate, with the addition of fresh sliced tomatoes. I only saw her eat a piece of chocolate on Saturday nights, when my Grandfather would go across the street and buy a bar for them to have with their weekly glass of sherry. Personally, I always thought my Grandfather had that glass of sherry to get through the Lawrence Welk program she so dearly loved.
When the slimming tea did not work, my Grandmother read a magazine ad that advised her to take up smoking if she craved sweets. So instead of brewing her tea Grammy reached for a Lucky Strike instead. Seeing no one smoked in the family she did it on the sly amongst the fresh mint that grew on the side of the barn. Every time she served mint on her leg of lamb, I swear all I could taste were ashes and wondered when my Grandfather would catch on. Actually, it did not take Grampy long to find out and he insisted she stop smoking, or she was going to get hemorrhoids. I had no clue to what that was but I just nodded in agreement.
For a long period of time I noticed all these strange things in the drawers of the white bureau in her kitchen. They were $1.00 trial boxes of candy guaranteed to make you slimmer, called Kelpadine, and bottles of Ballard’s Liniment that was guaranteed to rub the fat off you.
Then the sugar company put an ad out stating that a little bit of sugar might be just what you need to curb your appetite. Following their suggestion to have a soft drink before your main meal, she had so much caffeine in her at one point she began to talk fast and slur her speech. My alarmed Grandfather immediately cut her off and he had to wean her like a lab rat getting off of cheese.
Six months later she read a magazine article that stated that a family who ate lard together remained happy.  She began to smile as she continued to read because on the other side of the page was an ad for Ayds.  It was the worst name ever to be associated with any weight loss product or anything else for that matter.
When she died we found cartons of the “vitamin enriched” stuff in chocolate and vanilla flavours tucked away amongst her folded towels. Mary had finally given in and gave up her grapefruit diets and the plates of cottage cheese.  She truly believed that if she ate Ayds before meals they would become her final diet salvation.  At last, Mary could eat the vegetables she really loved, like carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie. All was now well in Mary’s eating world and maybe someday it will be in mine. One has only got to hope!
 Notes from the Peanut Gallery

“Never eat more than you can lift!” – Patricia Plumber