Damn you Sheila!

It seems every year, right around St. Patrick’s Day, we have one last blast (well we can hope its the last anyway) of winter.  This year is no exception with a snowfall warning for tonight.  Growing up, and likely still, people called this storm Sheila’s Brush.

I’m sure there are many variations on the legend of Sheila, but the one that stuck with me is that she was Paddy’s wife, and tired of his drunken partying on his namesake day, gets her brush and cleans up after him, stirring up a storm of bad weather for those mere mortals like us.

In any event, after all these years I wish the two of them would learn to get along, I’m sick of winter already!  Stay warm everyone, and if necessary, make like Paddy and have a sip of Bushmills :).

Prognosticating Pancakes

Today is Mardi Gras, or for me and most in my original locale, Shrove Tuesday, better know to us as Pancake Day!  Pancake day is always the last day before Lent, and was back when more people actually observed the practices and traditions of lent, was an opportunity to use up rich fatty foods like milk and eggs prior to the Lenten fasting.

My family and immediate neighbours were all protestant, and never really followed the more catholic practices, but we did definitely observe pancake day!  Often times pancake suppers were held in the old school, and maybe a time afterwards.  These weren’t made from boxed mixes though, flour, lard, eggs from home were the ingredients   And we didn’t have maple syrup or Aunt Jamamias.  We had homemade syrup made from corn starch or molasses. But they tasted even better because of that!  I can remember stacking them, adding a pat of butter between each and then pouring a mess of syrup over the works, ahhh my belly rumbles thinking of it!

Also….. these weren’t ordinary pancakes, they had special powers!

Traditionally on pancake day, the cook would add items to the kids pancakes, not chocolate chips or blueberries, but things like coins, straws, nails, or buttons.  These things were powerful portents of what was to come.  Find a coin?  A bankers life for you.  A straw? Farmer it is.  Nail? A career in carpentry awaits.  A Button? Guess you are going to be a tailor! I’m sure there were other things hiding in there too, I can’t really remember any now though.  Comment and let me know what you remember?

Goin to de time de nite?

One of the traditions of outport Newfoundland was the “time”.  Havin a time seemed to die out over the years, but I do remember many held at the old one room school houses back on Random Island.  Most of these buildings had a stage for little community concerts and recitals.  And they mostly all had home made hardwood floors.

What was a time? Well it was a combination of food, dance and music generally, often held as a fund raiser for the church, women’s group, cemetery  or to help someone out. Someone likely had a guitar, or accordion or some musical instrument, and sometimes someone might even sing a tune or two.  They’d gather on the stage, or more likely around the old pot bellied stove, we’d push back the tables and desks, and we’d be thumping our feet and dancing jigs around the place.  Was a tame time if someone didn’t accidentally get thrown into a wall.

The night might have started off with a soup supper, or bean supper, or a pot luck (god I love pot lucks!) where we’d stuff our faces, and need the dance later to work it off.

And of course there were a few drinks involved too, but generally they were home made; home brew, moonshine, lemon gin, blueberry wine, and of course, the next best thing to paint thinner, dogberry wine.  You’d see people in later years at least go outside for a smoke, or drink or just to cool off.  I can remember blasts of frost coming in through the door now, and people yelling “Close the door!”

Eventually everyone would stumble home, walking generally, times were pretty close to home usually.  Next day, with big heads, I can hear us now, “Some time at the time last night wha?”



If it’s not Scottish it’s crap!

Today is Robbie Burns day.  To be honest I don’t think I had any inkling of him growing up (that’s my growing up, not his. I’m not THAT old), Newfoundland heritage is predominately Irish and English, and while I may have learned of him in school, it never stuck with me. Nowadays, his birthday is a day of Scottish celebration, and this being New Scotland, he’s pretty popular here.

One thing everyone associates with Scottish culture is haggis. I’ve had it once or twice, but to be honest was always with a few beverages, and I can’t really recall many thoughts. It does though remind me of a common thing I did enjoy growing up; white pudding and to a lesser extent blood pudding.


I’m sure wiki has the ingredients (apparently oatmeal, suet, etc), but to me white pudding has a texture similar to turkey dressing (stuffing) with lots of pepper.  you could get it in sausage size as seen here or in big slices. Both ways were usually fried till the outside was a little scorched and crispy, and the inner pudding was exploding out.  I liked to eat it scalding hot myself, but know people who preferred to eat it as a cold leftover.

Blood pudding or for the weak of stomach black pudding was a similar food, but additionally prepared with the blood of an animal.  Yes it sounds disgusting, but it was and is in some places a tasty food.


It may not be Scottish (though I’m sure they have their variation), and its not haggis, but its not crap either! I’m sure others may remember other foods we ate back home that we rarely if ever think of now.  Leave comments with yours, love to read them and bring back memories.



Jannying (or mummering) is a tradition from Newfoundland that had nearly died out until popularized in a song by Simani.  I had never actually seen a janny until I became one myself.

Traditions varied from location to location, but back home at least people would dress in in old silly clothing, wearing scarves and long underwear on the outside,often stuffed to disguise both gender and size.  Once dressed you would go from home to home, singing, stomping, and generally being silly while the people tried to guess who you were.  Jannys usually spoke with an indrawn breath as well in order to disguise thier voice.

Once you had been guessed the hosts generally shared some form of alcoholic beverage (mmmm Aunt Lil Pelly’s slush) and a piece of cake or cookie and then often picked up more members from that house and moved on to another.

The one side effect of Jannying I remember, other than a hangover, was the in and out from warm to cold while wearing warm costumes caused chills from the cooling sweat.  Am sure many a flu was contracted!

Today in some locations the tradition seems to be being replaced with a mummers parade.  While I like the parade concept, I am not sure I want it to wholly replace the tradition either.

Any mummers lowed in?

Please share any mummer stories or pictures you have!

Salt Fish and Scrunchions

Here in Nova Scotia the tradition for Christmas Eve seems to be lobster (blech).  Back home in Newfoundland, or at least my part of it, the traditional Christmas Eve meal was salt fish (cod) and scrunchions.

Scrunchions are basically small pieces of fat back pork, fried up crispy (like bacon fat) and then served with the liquid fat over your fish and potatoes.  Sounds gross to the uninitiated I know, but its sooooooo delicious.

Salting cod was (and still is I guess) the traditional way to keep it for the long winter months before everyone had electricity and deep freezers.  Salted and sundried, the fish would last for a very long time, and when wanted, was left to soak in water overnight and then drained and boiled the next day.

Fat back pork was another staple in every household, and used for anything needing fat, traditional Newfoundland foods had a high fat content, with lots of fried foods.  I can only assume the hard rugged lifestyle helped the older generation burn it off.

For me another treat from the salt fish were the leftovers. Why? Because they’d typically be mashed with leftover potato and onion and then fried (mmmm more fat) into fish cakes, one of my most favorite meals ever.

Are you hungry yet?

May you be blessed with your favorite foods, family and festivities over the holidays.  Merry Christmas!