Sunday, March 26, 2006

Newfoundland (a.k.a. "The Rock")

So here we are, five weeks from my book launch. There are about forty things I should be doing -- a conservative estimate, really -- and how am I spending my time?

Why, googling Newfoundland, of course!

Specifically, Pool's Island, which was really the inspiration for Murder on the Rocks; most of the family names in the book hail from that small lump of rock in Bonavista Bay. Why? Because my family is from there. The scenery is raw and beautiful, the people are wonderful, and the accents are wonderful -- they've got this whole Irish-Scottish-English brogue thing going on, and they tend to drop h's and add them in unusual places. Makes it hard for transplants like me to understand. And words like 'yaffle' -- which in case you were wondering, means "an armload of dried fish." (Really.)

The reason for all this Newfoundland nostalgia? My grandma called yesterday -- both she and my grandfather come from that little corner of the world, and (lucky me) it was to my grandparents' house that my parents shipped me in the summers. It was in my grandma's summer kitchen that I learned to love steamed puddings with Lyle's Golden Syrup, lattice-topped berry pies and British Cadbury bars. And the sea, and wild blueberries, fields of lupines and iris, moon jellies, icebergs like fairy castles on the horizon... (If you want to see some photos of the tiny little island where I spent those magical summers, I found some here.)

Well, as usual, after the talk turned to that gorgeous hunk of granite off the coast of Canada, it turned, inevitably, to food.

Specifically Fish and Brewis, which my grandma plans to cook up any day now and is a concoction I will never, ever, eat. (For me, it's up there with sweetbreads.)

It's classic Newfoundland fare, but after spending a long afternoon swatting hundreds of fat flies off of (and onto) the salted fish my grandparents were drying on what I think is called a fish flake in the back yard, somehow, I never got interested in it. For the intrepid among you, though, here's a recipe. Please hold the flies.

Fish And Brewis


1 lb salt cod
2 hardbread or hardtack cakes (a.k.a. Purity biscuits, which you can order from Downhomer if you really want to)
1 c salt pork; diced


"Fish and brewis (pronounced "brews") is one of the oldest traditional dishes of Newfoundland. ... The fish in Fish and Brewis is salt cod and the brewis is made from hardtack or hardbread, which is available everywhere in Newfoundland and in specialized grocery stores across Canada. The dish is always sprinkled with scrunchions, crisp fried bits of salt pork. Fisherman's Brewis is sometimes the same as Fish and Brewis, but often the fish and bread are chopped while hot and mixed together, or fresh cod is used instead of salt cod."

Cut cod into serving-size pieces. Soak cod and hardbread separately in cold water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain fish. In saucepan, cover fish with cold water. Heat to boiling and boil gently for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain.
Meanwhile, in skillet, fry salt pork until golden. Brain bread and place in saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to a full boil. Drain immediately and serve with fish on warm plates. Sprinkle with scrunchions.

SOURCE: The Thirties chapter in A Century of Canadian Home Cooking

I'll probably be waxing nostagic about Newfoundland again soon, so check back for more. The great photo, by the way, is of some fishing stages in Salvage Harbour, Salvage, Newfoundland. Even the place names are great; I promise I'll post more soon!


At 7:19 AM, March 28, 2006, Blogger Susan said...

Hey, Karen--I didn't know you had a blog! So glad I happened on it. I love your latest recipe: that is, I love reading it, for the place/time it evokes. Not so sure I'd love a steady diet of it, though! Good luck with your book launch!--Susan Albert

At 4:02 PM, March 29, 2006, Anonymous Merrie said...

Hey Karen: Enjoyed looking at your site, reading the excerpt from your upcoming book, etc. I'm so impressed!! Can't wait to read it. Take care, Merrie

At 12:36 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Karen MacInerney said...


Thanks so much for stopping by; what a treat to have Susan Wittig Albert visit my blog! I'll have to call my grandma and tell her... :)

And thanks for the well wishes. A book launch is an exciting time; and whenever I need tips or inspiration, I know whose web site to check out. ;) (For those of you who haven't discovered Susan's excellent and info-packed site, it's, and I love it -- check out Susan's blog, too -- the link is on the sidebar of Poisoned Pen Letters.)

Take care, and again, thanks! (And good luck with your book launch, too!)

At 12:37 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Karen MacInerney said...


Thanks for checking it out! And say hi to Dylan, Gillian, Cullen and Ed for me. Hope to see you soon! (Thanks for the kind words, too...)


At 10:21 PM, September 04, 2006, Anonymous Marchbanks said...

Agreed about fish and brewis. Did you ever read Farley Mowat's description of how it's made, in The Boat Who Wouldn't Float? He managed to turn Jack McClelland's stomach thoroughly. (Yes, Jack McClelland of McClelland & Stewart; he was Mowat's Canadian publisher at the time.)

At 3:19 PM, September 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe in a Trinity Bay community (for now at least)... I read your blog entry on your grandmas place in Bonavista Bay and your growing up there... growing up in Newfoundland is something to be treasured and I think you do...keep blogging and good luck...

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At 2:03 PM, February 29, 2012, Anonymous Cialis said...

Thank you for sharing that recipe!


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