I recently spent some time in Newfoundland and fell in love with the place. It’s rugged beauty, friendly hospitality, culture of music, food, and parties are definitely worth a return visit. I made sure to eat my way through this amazing place, and here are 6 things I had never eaten (or even heard of) before visiting.
So I’m in a kitchen in Newfoundland, and the by’s are complimenting the host on her bakeapple tarts. Being quite a fan of apple-related items, I took a bite of one. Ooops! What I bit into was not a baked apple tart, but a bakeapple tart. A bakeapple is a berry native to Newfoundland (and several other northern regions). It is commonly referred to as a “cloudberry”, but not in Newfoundland! Why? Well, apparently a French person asked, “baie qu’appelle” (what is this berry called) and bam! Now it’s called a bakeapple! Pretty cool, eh? So these babies are very difficult to pick and demand is high, so you can see how I paid $8 for a jar of this bakeapple jam.
2) Fish ‘n’ Brewis
This one is simple. Take some really hard inedible bread, soak it in water until it’s sorta soggy, and then throw in some salt cod and fried pork fat tidbits. Then, douse the concoction with “drawn butter” – whatever that is. Why would anyone eat this? Well, if you were out at sea for long periods of time and desperate for unspoiled food, you’d probably worship your vessel’s cook for coming up with this. “Brewis” (pronounced “brews”) = hard tack = really-hard-break-your-tooth bread. It probably never spoils (remember this for the apocalypse, kids). The little bits of pork fat are called “scrunchions”, and are even sold in grocery stores in Newfoundland. I witnessed fish ‘n’ brewis being peddled at Velma’s and the Bagel Cafe in St John’s.
I had never heard tell of a touton, until I was told on my first day in Newfoundland. At the Bagel Cafe in St. John’s I had to keep repeating the word, and rehearsing it before ordering, to make sure I was saying it right. The “tout” is pronounced the way Canadians say “about” – if that helps (it doesn’t). Anyways, it’s fried bread dough. Commonly served for breakfast/brunch, toutons are usually accompanied by molasses. But at the Bagel Cafe in St. John’s you can get a touton breakfast sandwich featuring your choice of – well, to hell with it – might as well just get bologna (i.e. Newfie steak). To make things even more interesting, toutons are very often rolled into cylinders before frying, in which case they are called “little dicks”. Gotta love Newfoundland…
4) Fries with Dressing and Gravy
So my friends in Newfoundland suggested we go for a “dirty feed”, which, apparently, is when you go out and eat raunchy unhealthy food. A local favourite is fries with dressing and gravy. That’s cool, I thought. You can get a “stuffed poutine” in Halifax… ya know, a poutine with Stovetop stuffing on top. But I was corrected: it’s DRESSING, not STUFFING. What’s the difference? Well, stuffing is what you stuff in the turkey. Dressing doesn’t go in a turkey. Right, thought I, just like “stove-top stuffing” – same effin’ thing! So my french fries and gravy, sans cheese curds, arrived at the table with some sort of weird breadcrumb mixture on it. Eureka! So THIS is what you Newfies call “dressing”. It’s breadcrumbs with savory and butter (no soggy bread cubes), and yes, they do serve this with turkey as well. Who knew?!
To explain pease pudding, I would have to explain Jiggs Dinner. Okay. So. On the north-east coast of things, descendants of Irish-type-people sometimes eat what is called a “boiled dinner”. In New England this is made with corned beef or ham. In Newfoundland, for whatever reason, they call it “Jiggs Dinner” and it is generally made with salt beef. Salt beef is different from corned beef in that it is just salt preserved, and not treated with vinegar and spices. In either case, the meat is cooked in a big bubbling pot of water and carrots, cabbage, turnip, and potatoes. Then everything, now delightfully flavoured by the meat, is scooped out and thrown on your plate. In Newfoundland there is also a mesh bag in the big bubbling pot, full of split yellow peas, which are removed and mashed and served with the dinner. This is absolutely awesome for lovers of bean paste and/or mush, of which I am a serious advocate.
And what would a trip to Newfoundland be without some fried cod tongues? Anyone who knows Newfoundland knows how they love their cod! I saw this dish everywhere I went. It is kind of like eating cod, only with a different texture or… textures? A cod “tongue” isn’t really a tongue in the technical sense of the word (a muscle) but it is taken from folds at the base of the fish’s mouth and is referred to as such (don’t argue with the locals!).
Other cool stuff if you’re interested: partridgeberry, Pineapple Crush (and other weird flavours of Crush, like birch beer), cod au gratin, pea soup (different than the Dutch or French Canadian versions), moose… marinated … in a jar.
And yes, I did kiss a cod fish.