I’ve translated an excerpt from a classic Finnish cookbook - and it has given me incredible insights into rye bread.
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.
FINALLY... the end of a busy semester - which means I have time to focus on what really matters: food!
“Don't worry - I’ve done it all: I’ve choked and coughed my wine out on the table, I’ve dribbled it onto my chin and drooled into my lap.”
This post is about my experiences learning about wine at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s Level 1 course held in St. John’s in October. In a nutshell: it was a blast. We tasted wine from 9am to 5pm on a Sunday. We were taught by Erin Turke, former sommelier at the beloved Raymonds, about why to pass up a Pinot Grigio and hail a Riesling, about pairing a Sauternes with a jube-jube, about why you shouldn't eat spicey food with a Barolo. In fact learned so much about wine on that windy autumn Sunday in October that I find it genuinely hard to believe the attendance was so low: only seven people showed! So I’m going to share a thing or two about the secrets us lucky seven were let in on.
“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?
Weeks before I had expressed interest in how chickens were slaughtered, which is why Pam, Brad's wife, had hurriedly emailed me the night before to let me know the next day's grim activities. But actually killing one myself? This I hadn’t expected. Brad emerged from his greenhouse carrying a dog kennel housing two young roosters. He explained that the neighbours didn’t care much for roosters; they already had alarm clocks. Also, two roosters will fight for dominance and mate with the hens and generally be a nuisance. “And so they must go,” Brad said matter-of-factly. Sixteen weeks prior, the chickens had been purchased as chicks, when you couldn’t easily tell the boys from the girls. Now it was a different story; the boys clearly stuck out. Luckily, Plymouth Rock chickens are a dual-purpose breed, meaning they are valued for both their eggs and meat. Obviously, the boys don't lay eggs - so their value is more singular.
Brad set the kennel down and with a docile voice told the roosters that everything would be alright. This reassured me. Maybe everything would be alright...
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.