Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love

Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love

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This summer, my husband and I undertook a move. A relocation from Massachusetts to Arizona has been undertaken by others, no doubt. We decided to make things a little more interesting than a direct route. We headed north. Our circuitous route is winding us through Newfoundland, Portugal, and North Carolina. When one would think to take the southerly route from the Carolina’s to Arizona in the winter months, we will make Bugs Bunny’s famous right turn at Albuquerque to get to Bozeman, Montana. Then, we’ll drive to Arizona. Our 100 pound Golden Doodle, Kipper, was not consulted in the making of these plans, but we plied him with treats for the first three years of his life to the point he considers us his pack and blindly follows our direction. Our two sons weren’t consulted either. But, given that they abandoned us in their selfish quest to get a college education, we felt at liberty to leave a note on the front door explaining why other people now live in their house.

Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love

A friend who visited Newfoundland before us said, "What Italy is to food, Newfoundland is to views. What Newfoundland is to food, Italy is to American football." (Hint: Italians don't play American football, at least not very well.)

John Cabot is credited with being the first English explorer to land in Newfoundland in 1497. (It wasn't called Newfoundland by the native people. The Beothuk called it "Founditlongbeforey'all".) Cabot discovered an abundance of cod. Way too much for the natives to catch on their own, so plenty to share. But cod does not travel well on boats for the 15 or so days it takes to get back to England in what quickly became the English-owned cod market. What to do? What to do? Let's salt the ever living heck out of those suckers to preserve them, THEN send them back to England! Thus, salt cod was born.

So many cod parts to choose from! From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
So many cod parts to choose from!

The island gained in popularity over time, and by the 1620s, it was all the rage. In 1610, a guy named Guy brought over some guys who made the first settlement in what they called Cupids so it would sound romantic to the gals they brought over in 1612. The gals dug the digs and stuck around (more because they had no way to get back, not because they were lusty over the smell of cod on all the bedraggled fishermen). Having been from England and studied under their mothers the British art of ruining potentially delicious food, these women fed the men as they were taught. The gals kept the settlers alive with comfort foods like pigeon pie and blood pudding and, of course, salted cod. Everyone was happy.

Like any good (and terribly desperate) hunter-gatherer society on an island with the Motherland vaguely aware they sent some disposable citizens abroad years ago, the fishermen and ladies of newly-settled Newfoundland were not wasteful of their catches. You know that fleshy section on the side of your mouth called cheeks? Well, cods have them, too, and they’re edible! Cods also have tongues. You guessed it...pan fry a couple dozen of those for finger food at your next Superbowl party! Actually make two bowls of those and remember to label which tongue bowl contains the cod tongue WITH the gel packs still attached at the base of the tongue and which bowl contains tongues with gel packs removed. Believe me when I tell you the cod tongue with the gel pack is an acquired sensation...Oy.

A few Irish floated over at the end of the 17th century and brought with them intriguing additions to the dinner menu, mainly boiled meats and root vegetables. These exotic foreigners did wild and wonderful things with their cuisine, like mash root vegetables and layer the boiled meat on top. Or, have the boiled meat apart from the root vegetables on the plate. The possibilities were endless! Still, today in Newfoundland a Jiggs Dinner is a popular option available at many an eatery. Newfoundlanders put different spins on the Jiggs Dinner, but basically it boils down to boiled salt navel meat, pickled beets, and root vegetables together with a mixture of raisins, molasses, sugar, and spices. Gravy is a modern addition to the equation. Second helpings, anyone?

And so time passed in Newfoundland for the next 200 or so years, with no thoughts of improving on what was surely epicurean elitism. That is, until those Newfoundland gourmets were introduced to...THE DEEP FRYER!! Heads spun. Minds were blown. Taste buds danced an Irish jig. We can fry ANYTHING, you say?! Pickles?! Bread?! Onions?! Potatoes?! Mussels?! Clams?! And even Cod??!! A quick glance toward the motherland (England) revealed that you are not only allowed, but REQUIRED to have fried potatoes as the side dish to fried fish. Extra crispies from the bottom of the deep fryer for me, please!!

At first glance, it seemed to John and I that nothing much has changed in Newfoundland restaurants today since those early gourmet days. The first restaurants at which we ate shared a similar menu, with fish and chips, onion rings, and fish chowder as staples. I am as guilty of loving fried foods as any self-respecting Southerner. Gimme a few good hush puppies, a side of fried green tomatoes, a Krispy Kreme donut washed down with a Coke, and we got ourselves a meal! 

But, over the years I have adopted a few items into my repertoire that are actually food, not just edible things. My taste buds matured and my tolerance for the thick salt and oil coating that envelopes my tongue for the entire evening after eating a fried meal has diminished. So, after a few restaurant meals, we reminded each other that we didn't pick Newfoundland for the culinary experience, and we settled our eyes back on the boat pulling into harbor at sunset as the bay waters lapped against the rocky cliffs.

But, we kept trying different restaurants and our searching finally paid off! We wound up eating fantastic meals here! (Warning: Do not read the next part on an empty stomach.) From the poached salmon, egg, watercress, and goat cheese panini at The Rooms in St. John's to the seared salmon drizzled with blueberry balsamic glaze at the Twine Loft in Trinity to cinnamon maple French toast at Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi to the best eggs Benedict at The Barn in Dildo and the blackened cod at The Black Spruce Restaurant at Norris Point. Delish!

Amazing lunch at The Rooms! From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
Amazing lunch at The Rooms!

Anyone who knows me has respect for the sheer magnitude of how much I LOVE chocolate. It is no joke. It is beyond a normal level. Were you to occupy my brain, you would be astounded at how many hours out of every day I think about chocolate and how many calories I burn from the brain power I exert to figure ways of avoiding eating chocolate every second. 

That being said, when traveling with two friends, Lee Ann and Kris, we had two of the best things I have ever tasted in my life that didn't contain chocolate. First was the cucumber-infused gin and tonic made with seaweed gin from the Clarke's Beach Newfoundland Distillery. Next was the caramel bread pudding at The Twine Loft in Trinity. The bread pudding was a 4x4x4 inch square of warm caramel drenched spongy brown sugar and molasses-based cake with fresh whipped cream on the side. The warm caramel moistened (no...saturated!) every bite and made me moan. Kris and Lee Ann didn't finish theirs, at which point I had to literally hold my hands down under the table and think of warty toads to stop from grabbing theirs and finishing off the meal in an embarrassing display of euphoria. I have mentioned this experience and my commendable act of self-disciple to John half a dozen times; each time I fight back tears.

Friends, fun, food, and drink! From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
Friends, fun, food, and drink!

Our story of Newfoundland would not be complete without reflecting on how many times John and I said, "How do children, especially boys, survive into adulthood here?" Lest you think I'm still referencing lackluster cuisine choices and their impact on picky eaters, I'm actually referring to the hundreds of ways kids could be lost to the elements out their back door. Cliffs, loose gravel near the edge of cliffs, high winds, angry water, angry water near spiky rocks, angry or calm frigid water, hurricanes, slippery roads because of an unexpected downpour, dense fog...Need I go on?

Dense fog and rocky cliff. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
Dense fog and rocky cliff

A Google search is helpful for many questions, but when I used it for "How do children survive in Newfoundland," the results brought up a list of Newfoundland pediatricians and a site on proper nutrition for Newfoundland puppies. Second to a failed Google search is convincing ourselves the answer to the question wasn't all that important anyway, followed by wasting an hour watching YouTube videos that resulted from the search question. 

We decided to go with a third option...the ancient art of asking a person. We found the perfect candidate: a local artist named Daniel born and raised and still living in the seaside town of Twillingate. After a few minutes perusing his work in his gallery on Main Street, Daniel stepped out from behind a current painting in progress and began volunteering information about the locations of his paintings. Satisfied that he was a true local, I posed our survival question to him. He tilted his head back and chuckled. "Well, it is an interesting place to grow up." He proceeded to tell us of the area in Twillingate where he grew up. His small family home was down a narrow windy road with the ocean out his front door and a rocky island approximately a mile off shore. From a young age, his father told him never to go to the island.

Tucking that sound bit of advice in their back pockets, the artist and his friends attempted their first swim to the island at around age 10. He had a huge smile on his face as he continued by telling us of the day several years later when the now young teenage cohort went to the island and spent too much time climbing around the steep, craggy cliffs. One of his friends got stuck on a narrow ledge as high tide came in. Like any good teenage friends do, they left him there. After all, it was dinnertime and their parents might get mad if they were late. Once the boys, minus their stuck friend Andy, got back to shore they debated who was going to tell their parents that Andy was stuck on the island, and at what point in the evening they would spring this on the chosen parents. 

There was a lot to consider. The most lenient parents among the group did not have a boat with a spotlight on it for evening boating. They had to consider whether it would be better to confront the issue right away with the chosen parents or after dad had his evening beer. Would the other parents get wind of this the same night or could the boys who remained mute about the issue proceed with their evening as if nothing happened, anticipating their "talking to" later in the week? In the end, Andy was rescued, and each of the boys survived the parent factor well enough to visit the island through the entirety of their young lives. Clearly his favorite childhood antic was the time he and his buddies found a car hood, turned it upside down, strapped it to a rope then the rope to the back of a motor boat and took turns standing on the car hood while being buzzed around the ocean behind the boat. "Wow. I really could have died that day," he concluded.

Care for a quick swim to that island? From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
Care for a quick swim to that island?

Our remaining time in Newfoundland is running short, and facing that harsh reality has us considering our options. Become squatters and get our eviction tied up in legal red tape for a few years. Buy a home in Newfoundland and tell my Arizona-residing father we got permanently lost on our way out. Or figuring out how and when we can get back here to see and do all the things we missed in these eight weeks. Plans are in the works.

Newfoundland, my new found love! From Travel with Awe and Wonder: New Found Love
Newfoundland, my new found love!

 

 

More in this series: 
Travel with Awe and Wonder: A Change of Life Predeparture Checklist

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland, Part I

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Two: Muddling Through

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Three: On Command

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Newfoundland Weather

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Questions of Curiosity While Exploring Newfoundland

Christy Anselmi, the Travel with Awe and Wonder Editor for Wandering Educators, taught kindergarten and first grade for 13 years in public schools in Atlanta and Massachusetts. She took a two year diversion to teach and learn in a Montessori school in Bozeman, Montana and a 10 year sabbatical to raise her own children. Christy has an abiding interest in early childhood education and how to provide developmentally appropriate experiences to engage young people in connection and communication. Raised by parents who got Christy involved in travel at a young age, she developed a curiosity about what is around each corner. Married to a Wyoming man who developed his own wanderlust after years in the Army, the two (along with two sons) have lived in five states (Georgia, Montana, Utah, Kansas, Massachusetts, and soon to be Arizona) and one country (Germany). Christy is a life-long noticer of intriguing scenarios, phrases, and ironies in everyday life. Finally putting pen to paper, she has a growing passion for insightful travel-experience writing.

 

 

 

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