There is a lot to fall in love with in Newfoundland - the rugged beauty, the friendly hospitality, and their culture vibrant culture, for example. However, there has always been something not quite right about those Newfies, and perhaps it is in the food. While they enjoy many of the same delicacies that all Canadians enjoy, Newfoundlanders have their very own unique incarnations and local flavours. The quirky foods that can be found in Newfoundland prove that while Canada is one nation, it can occasionally be so very different.
Newfoundlanders have always had a torrid and passionate love affair with cod. As such, not only cod, but the local delicacy of cod tongue can be found just about everywhere. While the name may sound off putting, cod tongue is, strictly speaking, not actually tongue at all, but don't try to argue that point over with the locals. This bit of meat is taken from the folds at the base of the fish's mouth. After being cut away from the fish, the cod's tongue is seasoned and fried up. It tastes like the filet of a cod, but holds a different texture. The bit of meat is particularly gelatinous, so instead of a moist, yet firm bit of fish filet that people would expect, the tongue has a texture more akin to a clam. Newfoundlanders gained a taste for cod's tongue decades back when fish heads were free for the taking at the docks.
While Newfoundlanders enjoy Tim Horton's as much as any Canadian, their breakfast pastry of choice is not the donut, but rather the touton. A touton is something of a mix between a biscuit, a pancake and Yorkshire pudding. The pastry was created as a way to use extra bread dough. Cooks would drop it into a pan with a little extra fatback to create a dense and savoury treat. Today, the touton is still quite common among breakfast menus in local restaurants. Due to the rising health consciousness sweeping the world these days, it's rare to find a touton made with fatback anymore, now olive oil, clarified butter or canola oil are more common ingredients. The touton is commonly served with a pat of butter and a drizzle of molasses or corn syrup. However, the breakfast dish has recently found its way to brunch and lunch menu being served as a side to beans, fried eggs and a slice of fried bologna.
"Jiggs dinner (cropped)" by celinecelines -Wikimedia Commons
As corned beef and hash is to Irish descendants in New England, Jiggs Dinner is to Irish descendants in Newfoundland. Jiggs Dinner is a common Sunday dinner in Newfoundland, though not always served on Sundays. Instead of corned beef, Newfies enjoy their Jiggs Dinner with salt beef boiled up in a bubbling pot of water with carrots, cabbage, turnips and native blue potatoes (that really are blue). After all the vegetables are cooked and thoroughly and flavoured by the salt beef, the whole lot is thrown on a plate for diners. Some Jiggs Dinner plates also include pease pudding, which is mashed split pease that are boiled in a bag with the lot of other ingredients. While this may seem like a meal that would only be found in private households, many restaurants in Newfoundland offer a Jiggs Dinner plate on certain days of the week.
If visitors go to bite into a bakeapple flavour anything expecting the taste of an apple they are going to be in for a bit of a rough surprise. Instead of the nice balance of sweet and tart that apples have, bakeapples host a distinctively tart taste and a creamy, yogurt-like texture. Bakeapple is not actually an apple at all, but a berry more commonly referred to as a cloudberry. Visitors to Scandinavia will be familiar with their popular cloudberry desserts, but they are also native across the pond in Newfoundland. As the story goes, in Newfoundland a French visitor took a bite of a cloudberry and asked, “baie qu’appelle” (what is this berry called), and somehow that French saying got muddled into the cloudberry's new Canadian name of bakeapple. Unfortunately, cloudberries are difficult to pick and in high demand, so bakeapple tarts, jam and other such goods will be pretty pricey.
Fish and Brewis
Fish and brewis is a simple concoction, but it was born more out of necessity than pleasure for the palate. It's unclear even why Newfoundlanders eat it still today other than because it has become somewhat of a tradition. Fish and brewis consists of hardtack or chunks of very stale bread being combined with bits of salt cod and pork fat. The mixture is then covered in melted butter and eaten. As a sea-faring people, Newfoundlanders probably found this to be a wonderful meal when out at sea for long periods of time with no fresh food. However, while hungry sailors probably loved it, the fact the fish and brewis is even sold packaged in grocery stores in Newfoundland means someone enjoys it still today.
Have you sampled any of these Newfie specialties?
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