Confessions of an outport lass

Pam Frampton
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Christmas and feasting are synonymous for most of us. Many of our favourite memories of the holiday season are wrapped up with recollections of special foods that we only have at this time of year.

As a child, I remember the kitchen table being covered in a fine dusting of flour in the weeks leading up to Christmas as my mother punched down dough for a special Christmas bread or made moist pound cakes with jujubes inside.

There were buttery shortbread cookies with slivers of maraschino cherries or pieces of walnut on top, and baked ham with cloves and raisin sauce — the latter a food tradition that is carried on every Christmas Eve at my own house.

There were bowls of nuts in the shell — a rare treat — and Pot of Gold chocolates.

The drinks were special then, too — mixed cocktails and blueberry wine in a house where alcohol was infrequently consumed. I remember my sister and I making mocktails out of Sprite and fruit juice with fancy garnishes, and Purity syrup always made an annual appearance.

But not everything that’s traditional is good.

And I realize I’m about to put my neck on the chopping block here, but not everything that’s considered a Newfoundland tradition is cherished by one and all.

There — the cat’s out of the bag.

I heard CBC Radio host John Furlong talking about this on “The Fisheries Broadcast” a few weeks ago. He was lamenting the fact that because he’s a self-proclaimed townie who doesn’t feel the need to get his moose or go mummering or go gravel-pit camping or tap his ugly stick in accompaniment with the accordion music (those weren’t his exact words; I’m extrapolating here), that somehow that makes him a traitor, or at least something less than a true Newfoundlander.

I share some of John’s pain, which is in part what inspired this Christmas column. The rest of the inspiration came from my friend Des, who has “traditional food” horror stories that are eerily similar to my own. (Here’s a hint: we both have relatives who were partial to noisily sucking out the contents of the rabbit skulls floating in their bowls of soup. Shudder.)

I don’t use the same recipes my mother does (delicious though they may be), and I was never a big fan of jigs and reels. I don’t cook with salt meat and I don’t Screech folks in. I enjoy Jigg’s dinner on occasion, but I don’t make it myself. I have been known to turn down an offer of a meal of salt fish (I like it, but my husband doesn’t. Please don’t hate him — he’s not from here).

I prefer mango chutney to pickled beets, and I’ll give the Purity syrup a pass, thank you very much.

There, I’ve confessed. I have achieved cultural catharsis.

But before I go, here’s a song I wrote for John and Des and any other like-minded folk who might be out there. Imagine Julie Andrews singing “A Few of My Favourite Things” and you’ll get the tune. The words (with apologies) are mine.

My Least Favourite Things

Cod’s heads and cod tongues and coiled-up black puddings

Rabbit head soup? Now that’s

no good for nudding

Corned caplin sandwiches,

mussels in pickle

I hate them all but at least

I’m not fickle


Salt beef, limp cabbage

and sweet mustard pickles

Overdone moose

with great knobs of grey gristle

Moulded-up salads with jelly and peas

Only us Newfoundlanders would eat foods like these


When it’s mauzy,

When the fog’s thick,

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember the things that I like

And then I don’t feel so bad


Dried-up old mutton

and shriveled turr dinners

Black lumpy gravy,

made with moose liver

Overcooked vegetables,

mugs of pot liquor

Few things could drive me away

any quicker


Baked beans and head cheese,

pissy calves’ kidneys

Date squares and “meat” cakes

with dubious fillings

Unripened tomatoes

on pale lettuce leaves

I’d rather have nothing

than foods such as these


Pork-and-molasses buns,

what a strange pairing

Egg-and-onion sandwiches,

platters of herring

Dogberry wine or a drop of homebrew

Seal flippers fried

and turned into a stew


When it’s mauzy,

When the fog’s thick,

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember the things that I like

And then I don’t feel so bad


Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy New Year!


Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: CBC Radio

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Annie Frampton Davis
    December 31, 2012 - 14:57

    Dear Pam I loved your poem it brought back memories. I moved to the u.s. in 1954 but. In still like salt fish and Sweet mustard pickles. I enjoy reading your column

  • ginn
    December 31, 2012 - 09:54

    Deapite Frampton's claim to outport roots, she's now trying to keep up with the Sin Jahn's supposed elite by pandering to their ignorance and trying to upset enough people to write comments here. I guess she eats out all the time.

  • Anna
    December 30, 2012 - 15:49

    Love your poem Pam, I feel the same way. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Look forward to reading your columns in 2013.