Happy Thanksgiving!

At least here in Canada. Maybe its because winter comes earlier to us than to the majority of our southern neighbours, but we celebrate thanksgiving the 2nd Monday in October.  Like them its a shopping holi…. no wait, wait sorry, it isn’t!

While we don’t have any history of pilgrims and sharing with the native Indians, and our thanksgiving history is all over the map (celebrated in April at one point! See the link above) it, at least now, is a celebration of the harvest, thankfulness for what we have, and of course family and friends.

Newfoundland Blue - courtesy Melissa Wiseman

Newfoundland Blue – courtesy Melissa Wiseman

It is also known in our lighter way as Turkey Day, and turkey is the traditional meal cooked for some on the Sunday or other the actual Monday holiday.  In my family, and I think for most Newfoundlanders, we ate thanksgiving dinner at Newfoundland dinner time (lunch) on Sunday, and it consisted of Jiggs dinner with all the fixings, dressing, peas pudding, etc.  One thing I want to mention though is something I really haven’t seen since I moved away. We, in Newfoundland, had what I thought was a common blue potato, but I don’t see them up here.  All blue potatoes I see here have flesh that is completely blue, not like the blue we had back home, and pictured.  These have bluish/purplish skin and white flesh with blue veins.

Also with dinner there were likely to be puddings!

Now the problem with pudding is… what kind?  My dad used to make a flour and baking powder pudding that is similar in taste to a tea biscuit, and its served with the dinner.  My buddy Bernard calls it a gravy biscuit.  There’s also pudding, or duff, that is, well I honestly don’t know what its made from, but its boiled in the boiler with the dinner usually, and served for dessert traditionally with molasses cody.

Apsey Brook United Thanksgiving

Apsey Brook United Thanksgiving

Besides the traditional gathering of family and friends, and belly bursting food, Thanksgiving was also traditionally a time to share the bounty.  We would always have a special thanksgiving church service, and people would bring vegetables, meats, fish, preserves and other purchased staples to the church, which would be gathered and shared with the more needy after the fact.  I’m sure there was also a little “showing off” involved, as it was always nice to have pride in how good a crop of potatoes or carrots or whatever you had.  It also often led to trading.  Often times people back home traded what they had for what they didn’t, and this worked in reverse in other years.  For example, if you were lucky enough to kill a moose, or own a cow, you might trade a quarter of beef or moose for potatoes or vegetables, etc.

I hope you and yours have a great thanksgiving from me and mine.  Loosen your belt, laugh with family, eat some duff, splurge on the gravy, and remember to hold everyone dear close.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Going to Work with Dad

Dad at Work

Dad at Work

From the time I was born till he retired, Dad worked at the department of highways as a clerk.  Now a clerk for the department of highways may be an office job, but the offices them selves were usually one room buildings attached to bunk houses the department had set up in various working areas around the province.  Sometimes, when I was young dad may have stayed at these locations overnight or worked later than is the norm now.  One of the curiosities I remember was dad calling home on the old mobile phones and having to say over after we finished speaking.

As a kid one of the great things about Dad’s work, was that in summer time I could actually go spend the day at his work site, in many of the locations.  When I was a small boy, he worked out of Shoal Harbour Pit, a pipe yard for making concrete ditch pipes.  The old pit is gone now, but it was located where the ball field is now.  I can’t really remember much about this location except the little white shack dad worked in.

For another summer at least he worked out of a similar camp in Robinson’s Bight, not where the community is now (there wasn’t one there then) but closer to lady cove, in an old gravel pit by a brook.  As a kid I spent days there with him, playing around the area, catching trout in ice cream tubs, catching water skippers (I hadn’t remembered water skippers in years till I started writing this!), and of course sharing lunch from dad’s seemingly huge lunch can.

Mostly though, i remember dad working at the salt shed in Clarenville, first in the old style camps, and the later, as seen in the picture a better building, still with an attached kitchen and bunk house.  As a kid I’d go to work with dad, and sometimes spend the day, exploring the yard, playing with the glass beads they used to add to paint for road lines, marveling at all the salt in the salt shed, making castles out of the sand blasting sand, and of course playing poker with the adults at lunch time :).

Other days tho, I got a kid’s delight, heading out on the old float (flat bed) with Ches Baggs, or on a dump truck with someone, perhaps Ted Ryan, I forget who did what now, or hanging out with Paddy Mitchell, though I complete forget what he did.  Also trips on the grader, bulldozer, and god knows what else anymore; all in all a young boys delight.

So many characters were there too, with their many accents and mannerisms, and so much shared food and fun.  Of course nowadays, you’d never get away with such things, nor would you likely trust your child to be gone for the whole day with a lunch can on heavy equipment with co-workers you really only knew from work.  But it was a more trusting time, and a smaller world.  And I was lucky to have got to spend so many wonderful days with such patient men who took a young scrawny kid and spent the day with him, as well as spending wonderful days with my dad.

Troutin’ with da byes

I’m not sure what year it was, or even many of the details now, but one summer many moons ago, there were tales of huge sea-trout coming up the brooks and rivers of southern Newfoundland.

Always up for trouting, and also for a chance to explore more of our great province, Eric and I decided to go have a look and see what we could find.  Another one of the gang, not necessarily a usual suspect in all our schemes, but a gang member all the same, Cory Avery took the trip with us.

We got up one morning, packed up our tackle and gear, and headed west out the highway, and then out around Bishop’s Falls, took the Bay D’Espoir highway south, driving down past Conne River and seeing places and sights that were all new to us.

This part of the province is pretty remote, but beautiful beyond belief, with gorgeous coves, beautiful ocean and beaches and rivers.

We really had no idea where to go, and I’m not really sure that mattered, but we made our way to Head of Bay D’Espoir and found some promising looking bridges and brooks, and tried our luck.

Unfortunately, no trout were to be had that day, but we did explore and see a lot, including a trip in what I believe was a power utility road to a lake that was dammed for power.   In there we also tried our luck, but again no trout.  Eric (I think it was Eric) did hook and bring ashore a ouananiche (landlocked salmon).

We farted around a bit more down in this area, and then packed up and made our way back home.  The packing up though will be something I’ll always remember, because I broke the tip off my prized rod closing the trunk.  I’m sure it was nothing fancy, but it was one I got during the closing sale of the old Chain Store, and I loved it, best rod I ever had.

Anyway, another story and trip to remember for a lifetime :).

Going nuts!

Beaked Hazelnut

Near Andy Marshall’s house, by Apsey Brook before Hurricane Igor pretty much wiped out the brook area, there were a few beaked hazelnut trees. We didn’t really gather them for anything, but come late summer, when their spiny husk started to dry and the brown of the shell started to show through the husk, we’d always like to go get a few for a treat.

Across the road from Random Island Academy there was also a field that we used for sports and activities, at least until the brook shifted and washed a lot of the field away.  There were many many of these trees there near the brook as well, and early in the school year we’d often go across at recess and lunch to get some.  But to be fair we mostly threw them at each other then rather than eating them.

They were much more abundant before the great squirrel invasion.  For those that don’t know, or are too young to remember, squirrels aren’t native to Newfoundland, and are only a recent comer.  I don’t think I ever saw one before my teens, maybe later.  Wikipedia says they were introduced in 1963, but if so it took a while before they became the overpopulated nuisance they are now.  In any event, most of these wild nuts seem to be consumed by them before we ever got a chance to get any.

Would make ya go nuts wouldn’t it?

Bakeapple Led

Back home, when someone went astray, or got disoriented, the old folks would say they were fairy led. As in led astray by the fairies.  Well there were no fairies involved in this story, but we were definitely astray!

Bakeapples, or as they are known in some parts, cloud berries, are a favorite back home.  They are very sweet, with a sticky consistency, that’s great for jams and to top other things with.  Mom has been known to make a bakeapple tart in the same manner as people make partridge berry tarts.

I was never a big fan of them myself, I do like them, but find them overwhelmingly sweet, and don’t want a lot of them.  But for some reason, one summer, around the same time as now, prior to me moving away to Nova Scotia, Bernard and I decided to go bakeapple picking.

On the upper end of Random Island, there is a big big barren where bakeapples grow.  One thing about bakeapples though is that they grow one berry per plant, nearly on the ground, and the plants are often 6 inches to several feet apart.  We went through the woods at the tv tower, and walked through the short bit of woods till we got in on the barren.  We then walked till we found some berries and got down to picking.

The big issue though is that once you’re in the middle of a barren, with your head down, when you look up all the directions look pretty much the same.  We picked and picked till we were both tired and later evening was coming on, and then decided to make our way out of the woods.  Well of course when we looked up, nothing looked much different than anything else.  Luckily the barren was up on a rise, and we could see water, but unluckily, Random Island is an island, and water was visible in many directions.  Also unfortunately trees blocked some of the view, so we could only see water in the distance, and not see the bar bridge.

Well there was nothing for it, but to pick a direction and start walking and so we did, for what seemed like hours till we got to the edge of the barren and found a path.  We decided to follow it, with no better plan, and it shortly intersected with a much larger path, which turned out to be the road that someone whose name now escapes me had at the upper edge of the island for their mill.

We finally made it back to the road, and started our hike back to the car which was about 2 or 3 miles back at the old tv tower.  Not much traffic on the island, so we were resigned to walking the whole way, when finally a car came by, and who did it turn out to be?  Dad and Mom!  So of course the picked us up and carried us back to the car, from where we finally made our way home after being …… bakeapple led.

Who you longs to?

Not sure if I mentioned this one in my sayings post, but this was a common question back home, essentially asking who your parents are.

Well the sarcastic portion of me was likely to respond, I longs to me mudder bye!

My mother, like a lot of Newfoundland mothers was and is parent to many more than her own.  The door was always open, a crowd was always welcome.  We’ve been know to have to take shifts eating to make room at the table.

We never had a lot, but it was shared, and many people called my home theirs, as I did with many others.  We don’t ask for anything when at these extended mudder’s houses, we go to the fridge and take it, cause their home was ours, and ours was theirs.

So to my mudder, my sister, all my extended mudders, and to all the wunnerful mudders I’ve never met, happy mudders day!


Nikki’s Nook

One of the treats of going to Clarenville when I was a boy was a trip to Nikki’s Nook.  Its possible my early memories have combined several places into one, but if memory serves. Nikki’s Nook started out down by the old railway station, not far from Duffett’s, Stanley’s and an old favorite for another post, Western Tire.  I don’t remember much about it, other than we could get that old Newfoundland take-out staple, french fries (or as we all called them then, chips) in a grey cardboard package, and eaten with a toothpick.  Of course we had to drench them in malt vinegar too, and not the weak stuff you get now, but the dark stuff that could take your breath away at 10 paces.

The other main treat there, and my first memory of ever having it, was a custard cone, or as it’s been named nowadays, soft serve.  It was soooo good, and soooo new to us back then, I remember people would be lining up for them. And then later you could get them chocolate dipped, and as a kid I was in heaven.  Kinda reminds me, back then you could also buy ice milk at the grocery store, which tasted similar, but haven’t seen in years.

Nikki’s Nook moved at least once, and I think maybe more.  I seem to remember it moving down Marine Drive to a little building near where the Lethbridges lived.  This may be a memory of another take out though, I’m not sure.  Later on they moved up near the stadium on the shopping center parking lot in another small building, and that became probably the most popular spot.  We’d come out from events at the stadium and get a custard cone.  I can remember it most especially on Clarenville Day (another topic for another day).

Eventually the owners built a new modern building closer to the old Scotiabank, but still within the shopping center parking lot, and opened a full scale sit down restaurant.  I’m not sure if the overhead was too much, or what happened, but eventually this closed down, and if memory serves, George’s Pub opened in the same building.

I’m not sure what, or if, anything remains there now, but god I’d love some chips in cardboard box and a custard cone!

Random Island (and Newfoundland) from Space

Just a gallery of Commander Hadfield’s pictures of Newfoundland from space.  Will add as he posts more (if he does).  Thanks Commander!

Meat Cakes!

Growing up in Newfoundland, one of our staples of course was cod, and to keep it for winter, salt cod.  Cooking salt cod also generally led to fish cakes for leftovers, and these are still one of my favorite foods.

But another staple for many was canned corn beef, and corn beef hash.  Combining the ideas from these two staples leads to ….. Meat Cakes! Fry some onion, mash some left over potato, mix it with some canned corned beef, form into patties and fry, and yum! We’d generally serve with bread, mixed pickles, pickled beets.

This post brought to you by today’s supper. 🙂


This commercial is for Newfoundland tourism, and talks about all the dialects we have back home.  I know there’s people I met from back home that I couldn’t understand.  And I know out near Port aux Port they speak with french accents, even if they don’t speak french.  I also remember my buddy Dave Quinton telling me he met people out there that spoke with french sentence structure. “Throw the baby down over the stairs a bottle” was one such expression.


But we also have more sayings and word usages that are unique, and for most of us we probably don’t even realize it.  Not gonna define these, but I’m sure all Newfoundlanders will recognize them, you CFA‘s ask if you want to know!

  • I’m gonna give you a klout up the side of the head!
  • Poverty, and the devil throwing rocks at it.
  • you’re some stunned
  • where you longs to?
  • your hair is like a birch broom in the fits!
  • Now d’wonce
  • arn?
  • born tired
  • I’m gutfounded!
  • Lard dyin! You got the stove on siz, take the side outta her!
  • whoever knit you dropped a stitch
  • what odds?
  • I squat all me chips!
  • De arse is gone right outta her
  • Caplin weather
  • Mauzy old day
  • he’s some hard ticket
  • you’re gonna get a tannin (thanks Eric)

I know there’s a ton not coming to mind now, I’ll update this one sometimes, and comment on any you remember!