A Love Letter for Newfoundland

I hear an island of choristers singing “we coulda told ya, b’y.” Moving from Western Newfoundland to Kingston, Ontario 16 months ago, and I, well, have some perspective on travel and place: I miss Newfoundland.

Now, before we get all weepy here and break into song about the glories of Terre Neuve, I feel like the less-sentimental, and more pragmatic side of me has something to say: namely, that there are certain things I do not miss: hurricane season, losing power for days on end and the lonely isolation of winter being the top three. I think we can all agree on those.

I do, however, miss the beautiful autumn of the Humber Valley.

I miss the small but honest farmer’s market, where you can find jam, Newfoundland honey, and the season’s best vegetables at honest and fair prices.

I miss the landscape. The sea, the rough hills. I also miss hikes and walks followed by Jiggs dinner.

Well, I miss the idea of Jiggs dinner. I don’t actually miss cabbage hash and pease pudding — let’s be honest.

I miss having the time to run on Corner Brook’s steam trail. Even though my mind doesn’t miss all the hills and stairs, my body definitely misses the range of running terrain.

I miss the lovely ladies who work at the library. I miss their weekly phone calls to let me know a new book came in, or the latest issue of Food & Wine arrived. I miss the view from the stacks.

And I miss the architecture: Salt-box style houses, bright colors, and well-built designs with cozy nooks to read, write and hunker down (during hurricane season and snow-storms, of course).

But most of all, I miss the adventure in cooking. Perhaps it’s autumn, when the weather cools down long enough to turn on the oven and prepare a roast, perhaps it’s that delight of coming across a new menu with local ingredients, or perhaps it’s knowing just how difficult it is to find certain items elsewhere…like moose.

On the island, and in Corner Brook in particular, sometimes you just have to try harder to find the missing ingredient to make the meal you crave. It’s not about going out for dinner at that special new place in town — it’s about making your own place — and meals — special. Corner Brookers do that really well.

And there is something equally special about living within limits. It, ironically, expands you. It makes you more creative, more innovative. And, of course, grateful.

So, for any Corner Brookers out there who somehow come across this love letter for Newfoundland, or if you’re an ex-pat who misses home once in a while, I say this: enjoy where you are and what it has to offer. And know that one lowly Newfoundland visitor understands — and misses — how incomparable Corner Brook really is.

(Would you like to see a little of what I’ve been up to lately? Visit me at my new home, here, and feel free to drop me a line to say hi)

Between an Aubergine and Asparagus Or: Requiem for Autumn

Perhaps you’ll agree that the least inspiring season is that dangling period when winter loses its magic and the only hope for spring is the occasional dripping icicle. The promise of spring brings with it the promise of leeks, spring onions, asparagus, fiddle-heads, and mushrooms. But in February, March, and even April, these delights (at least in most of Canada) seem like a distant hope. Blizzard conditions can send you indoors to cook hibernation fare one day, while a surprise spike in the mercury can leave you craving pesto, salads, and Sauvignon Blanc the next. The season is filled with unsettling indecision about what to cook.

Autumn sits on the opposite end of this dangling season. Like spring, it is filled with endless varieties of fresh culinary inspirations, and like spring, it is impossible to recreate the appetites it stirs.

Corner Brook is a delightful place to be during the Autumn season. Just as the Humber Valley ripens into a New England-like, post-card-worthy tableau…

…so too, does the West Coast Farmer’s Market ripen with delights. The market is, by most comparisons, small, but it runs until late October and every week there’s something new to love and cook.

Like fresh eggplant and the local “Jam Man’s” raspberry jam:

Large tubs of Newfoundland Wildflower Honey:

Fresh tomatoes, perfect for a light salad with a few splashes of olive oil,  balsamic vinegar and goat cheese:

Later in the season, the bounty expands:

Local apples, apple cider, and sweet, sweet pumpkins.

So, you see,  autumn one has all the resources for endless culinary magic. Like hot-toddy cider, and baked apples with cinnamon and creme fraiche:

and delicious home-made pumpkin pie:

Oh, pumpkin pie, how we miss you.

Let’s not forget, autumn in Newfoundland is famously Moose-hunting season. And although you may only find the occasional Moose burger at the Farmer’s Market, you are likely to run into someone who will be only too willing give you a chunk of their beast for a delicious home-made Moose Bourguinon (eat your heart out, Julia Child):

Alas, for now, our counters lack the fresh wonders of autumn and its local market goods, and wait impatiently for the first signs of spring and all its delightful possibilities.