Nellie McClung's The Stream Runs Fast

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

The Nellie McClung House (803-15th Avenue SW) is currently home to the Colombian Consulate. An enhanced replica of McClung's Calgary home opened in 2014 at Heritage Park as the Famous Five Centre of Canadian Women. (Photo: Calgary Herald)

The Nellie McClung House (803-15th Avenue SW) is currently home to the Colombian Consulate. An enhanced replica of McClung's Calgary home opened in 2014 at Heritage Park as the Famous Five Centre of Canadian Women. (Photo: Calgary Herald)

The morning after the 1926 provincial election, Nellie McClung slept until she heard “the clip-clop of the milkman’s horses” outside her half-timbered Calgary home on the corner of 15th Avenue and 7th Street West. The radio confirmed what she suspected: she had lost her Liberal opposition seat in the Alberta legislature. The defeat came as a shock, but on that sunny June morning, McClung rallied, rolled up her sleeves and set to work.

 

No woman can be utterly cast down who has a nice bright kitchen facing the west, with a good gas range and a blue-and-white checked linoleum on the floor, a cookbook, oil-cloth covered and dropsical with looseleaf editions. I set off at once on a perfect debauch of cooking. I grated cheese, stoned dates, whipped cream, and made salad dressing, and I let the phone ring. It could tear itself out by the roots for all I cared. I was in another world–the pleasant, landlocked, stormless haven of double boilers, jelly moulds, flour sifters. The old stone sugar crock with the cracked and handleless cup in it seemed glad to see me, and even the marmalade tins with their typed labels, sitting in a prim row, welcomed me back and asked no questions. I patted their honest flat heads and admitted that the years had been long; reminding them, too, that I had seen a lot more wear and tear than they had…

I do not think I could have endured it that day if my cooking had gone wrong, but nothing failed me, and no woman can turn out an ovenfull of good flaky pies with well-cooked undercrusts and not find peace for her troubled soul.

 

Nellie McClung, The Stream Runs Fast (1945)