“What do runners eat?”
Maybe I was just peckish. Or maybe I was subconsciously preparing for my conversion to a “real” runner. Whatever the case, this thought occurred to me shortly after I registered for my first running race in the fall of 2017. The race wasn’t your typical 5k charity fun run, either. It was the East Coast Trail Ultra Marathon, a 50 km race on the sinuous East Coast Trail which skirts the rugged coastline of Newfoundland’s most eastern shoreline. And so in the length of time it takes for a confirmation email to travel to an inbox, I started to question my decision of becoming an ultra-runner. Suddenly weighing heavy on my mind was the fact that I had done exactly no running training whatsoever at that point in my running career. To stand a chance in the race I would clearly have to start running (a lot) and I would have to adapt quickly to life as a runner. Among other things, I realized, that would mean eating the right food.
And its story doesn’t end here. The mysterious wakame leads a second life: one in the kitchen, where it has played an incredible role in cooking traditions going back hundreds of years. Wakame and other seaweeds are essential ingredients in dashi, the Japanese stock which forms the basis of many of that nation’s favourite soups and stews. It was seaweed that led researchers to discover the so-called “fifth taste,” umami, which has since been found in many other foods like Parmesan cheese and cured meats.
This post is the first in a series about edible seaweeds. I’ll let you know what I’ve learned from my recent adventures out to the frozen beaches of Newfoundland in search of sea vegetables - and what I’ve done with them back at home to prepare them as ingredients for food.
I woke up this morning to something I hadn’t seen since the last winter I spent in St. John's three years ago: a snow day. While looking out my bedroom window in the morning it immediately occurred to me: instead of studying for the next day's statistics exam I could play in the kitchen all day.
You’re right. There’s no logic there. But the term "snow day" is ingrained in people from St. John’s since childhood to mean a day where the seemingly unshakeable concepts of “deadlines” and “school” and “work “ lose all meaning in a glorious white-out of snow.
Bakers apparently, see things a little differently, as is evidenced by Georgetown Bakery staying open today despite the blizzard. (Check out the images of Brian as he made an epic quest this morning to get his ficelle.) I agree with the bakers at Georgetown: baking is a perfect snow storm activity.
This post records some notes and shenanigans from inside a kitchen entombed in snow: how to the get the crumb of rye bread just right, how to check your oven for hot spots, and how to get perfect crust.
“In Newfoundland, fish means codfish and nothing else.”
So goes a passage in The New Founde Lande, Farley Mowat’s loving memoir and history of Newfoundland. I had picked up the dusty hardcover from a used bookstore in Ottawa. Something to read on my trip back home to the island. But reading that passage got me thinking. I had never been jigging for codfish in my life. What kind of Newfoundlander was I? Later I found out that lots of Newfoundlanders these days have never been jigging, but at that moment I was struck with inspiration. “B'y jeezus,” I thought, “I need to go out and catch a fish.” And so that’s exactly what I did. This post is about the Atlantic Cod and what I learned from the Newfoundland food fishery. (Turns out, a lot.)
The Atlantic cod is at home in the icy banks of the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s got antifreeze in its blood. A beautiful fish: leopard spots and on olive green back, white belly and a long elegant stripe down its flank that streamlines it with the frigid water. Five fins that unfurl like the sails of schooners that used to fish for them on the Grand Banks. An idiosyncratic whisker-like barbel sticks off its chin. King of the whitefish, its flesh is the purest white you’ll ever see. From the Vikings and Basques right up to modern North American and European fishing fleets, cod has been fished off Newfoundland for over a thousand years. Cod trade with Europe is what lured the first inhabitants to Newfoundland’s rocky harbors. Which begs the question: is there any single animal more important to Newfoundland than the cod?
Let’s see if I can convert you to blueberry soup. I’ve put a recipe up here. You can also read the full post about Blueberry Soup by clicking the "Read More" icon.
I'm Erik, the Burnt Chef. I'm a Finnish-born Newfoundlander living in Norway. I have a passion for cooking and a deep fascination for the culinary history of the North. Simplicity guides my cooking. Time, place, and history guide my storytelling. This is my personal blog about food.