Claws for Alarm has a
Newfoundland (a.k.a. “The Rock”)
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!