Ow’s it cuttin’, me cockies? And welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes! Last week, I regaled us all with the riveting tale of how I was enraged by a food program within half a minute. If you missed it, here’s the basics: Exactly what I just said. Seriously, how much more do you need?
Alright, alright: specifics, got it. Andrew Zimmern went to Newfoundland, where they used 4-5 words I’d NEVER heard before. There are plenty of locations where that would be unremarkable, but in an English speaking country literally adjacent to mine, it was jarring and confusing. Research showed this is at least somewhat due to the fact that Newfoundland has a distinct and interesting regional dialect, because it’s a huge island settled at a time where ship travel took long enough to isolate cultures.
"Goodbye! Have a fun trip! See you in 9 months!"
I do want to make one small note about just how deeply this incredibly trivial event affected me: I bought the episode. In order to fully plumb all the details and nuances, I made my FIRST YouTube video purchase, dropping a whole $3 to own this episode of Bizarre Foods. Which, since the episode I WANTED was from “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations”, turned out to be unhelpful, so I had to buy that one from Amazon. But yes, these mark the first time I’ve paid for video files online from a streaming service. It was…bizarre. CUE THE CSI MIAMI MUSIC!
That revelation out of the way, in true culinary compendium style let’s visit the words these Newfies dine on, in dictionary format!
1. (n) Also known as Cloudberry, Bakeapples are a “circumpolar boreal” berry, meaning “Plants that grow near the North Pole”. They look like pale raspberries, and are taste like apricots or honey.
2. Supposedly, the Newfoundland name of Bakeapple is a bastardization of French, “bale qu’appelle” or “What is that berry’s name?” Which, if true, would put it on one of my favorite lists of names, “Names that Mean No One Had a Translator”. The issue with this claim is that, as the nation of France is perfectly willing to tell you, “We would never phrase that question that way. No one in three hundred years would do that, unless it was one of those goddamn slop-mouthed Acadian, who never saw a French sentence they couldn’t butcher.”
1. (n) An old-timey word for pants.
2. (n) The egg-sac of a Cod, so named because it looks like a little pair of pants.
I JUST said that, Andrew. Get your own comments.
1. (n) The food Newfoundland’s food eats.
2. (n) a small fish devoured by Cod. Newfoundlanders have been known to smoke them to form a snack food not unlike American Beef Jerky, except consisting of whole fish.
1.(n) The term for a type of pudding popular on the Eastern American seaboard. Cooked in Newfoundland, but also found in New England cookbooks. “Pudding” in the classical sense of a boiled cake-like dish, often made as part of a JIGG’S DINNER (see below)
2.(n) The Official Beer of Springfield, State Unknown.
FISH AND BREWIS
1. (n)The dish that started all this: salt cod, boiled hardtack, and SCRUNCHIONS, all stirred together. Given the salinity and density of the two main ingredients, the recipe requires they both be soaked overnight, then boiled separately, then stirred together. Remember that pattern, it’ll be a little important later.
2. As with many Newfoundland words, the exact etymology is somewhat disputed. Some claim the “brewis” refers to the need to crack the hardtack before cooking it, giving it a “bruise”. Others say it’s from the “brewing” the hardtack does, while etymologists suspect it’s actually a continuation of a Middle English word meaning “bread soaked in fat.”
1. (n) No, not a pie made from everyone’s favorite Dolphin. For one thing, that would be a very limited range of people it could feed. No, this is a kind of pot-pie, made from the flipper of nature’s most adorable sea meat, the seal!
Yes? Did someone call for cuteness?
2. Yes, seal. A fascinating protein option, when you look into it. The meat bears little in the way of visible fat marbling, instead using a pervasive oil. This makes it more volatile than other meats, as the oil goes rancid in air more quickly. However, when prepared and eaten in time, the meat is incredibly dark, essentially being the reddest red meat you can find. The flavor is heavily beefy, with that same taste of iron and mineral. Apparently, seal is as delicious as they are adorable. Unlike Koalas, who are rumored to taste like eucalyptus in a not-entirely-pleasant way. I say “rumored” because they’ve been on the Endangered Species list for quite some time, and therefore few if any have eaten it in recent years.
1. (slang) “Go on”, used as the instruction to continue, or an exclamation of surprise or dismay.
2. This one isn’t actually a food term, it’s just one of my preferred words used in Newfoundland slang, because I’ve actually seen it in other creoles and pidgins, and it’s something of an interesting thing, See, it’s basically a calque of itself, if you recall that term from last week. “Gwan” (say it like “Swan”) is just a literal reproduction of the local population’s pronunciation of “Go on”, with the two o sounds being shifted to a sort of dipthong.
1. (n) A traditional Newfoundland meal, being in essence a culturally unified menu for what Sunday dinner with the family should look like. Given the short growing season and harsh winters, the meal consists mostly of preserved meat and root vegetables. Specifically, it consists of salt beef, which before cooking has to be soaked overnight to reduce the salinity. Then the beef is put into a pot with other ingredients, most vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, cabbage and carrots, but also including a Porridge bag, either to make DUFF or PEAS PUDDING, and boiled for several hours.
2. This is the return of the FISH AND BREWIS pattern mentioned earlier, and is a fact of the cooking due to their location: the cold climate and remoteness of the island forced the people to be self-sufficient, and early settlers relied heavily on salted meat products to endure the long winter.
3. Presumably takes its name from a long-running Canadian comic strip character, who enjoyed corned beef and cabbage, like the Dagwood sandwich in America.
You could probably put all of this on a Dagwood sandwich, without comment.
1. (n) a regional variation on Pease Porridge, of the nursery rhyme, Peas pudding consists of dried split peas, stuffed in a pudding bag, and boiled to a paste-like consistency, often as part of a JIGG’S DINNER
1. (n) the word that originally set me off on this endeavor. Scrunchions are a common component in Newfoundland cuisine, being pieces of pork fat, frequently tossed into pans before other foods, in order to produce flavorful oil to cook them . In that regard, they’re much like Bacon . And their name, while initially risible, is actually rather intelligible when you remember that pork skin and fat is called a great many silly names like chitterlings (the full spelling of what is often pronounced “Chit-lins”) and “pork scratchings”. Indeed, it’s not hard to mentally trace the kind of evolution it would take for scratching to become scrunchion.
And at 1500 mg of sodium a serving, I'm certain it'll cause some biological evolution as well.
1. (n) a style of fry-bread in Newfoundland cooking, served as a side dish to FISH AND BREWIS, and with many other foods. Often cooked in rendered pork fat, the closest American equivalent would be a half-way point between pancakes and Donuts. Indeed, Toutons are frequently served at breakfast, drizzled with molasses, just as a pancake and syrup would be.
2. Etymology not exactly known, but spelling and local culture suggests some sort of relationship to CROUTONs, the baked bread bits for salads.
And there you go. A wide array of foreign words, mixed with a sense of the familiar, Newfoundland’s food scene, while linguistically jarring, is rather understandable once you learn the lingo. Salt and smoke to pass the winter, wild game and seafood for the spring and summer, and just a crap ton of frying and boiling going on. Really no different than a Minnesota menu. So was I right to be so angry? Of course, I’m never wrong, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just jealous. But it’s a wise man who looks past the initial shock of affront, and learns from an incident. Also, I’m super strong and handsome, and quite humble.
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MONDAY: JON GETS BEEFY, WITH THE HELP OF BONES AND FAT.