The double whammy

Ed Smith
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I refer you to two recent occurrences filled with potential harm to our province.

Both have occurred within the past few days. Let me mention the least of these first. You already know what that is: the surprising and dramatic resignation of our premier, the Honourable Danny Williams. No need to say more about that.

The second — and by far the greatest — threat to our way of life, our culture and our identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians came to my ears shortly after. At the time, I was totally taken aback by the premier’s announcement. I was tempted to cry out like the biblical character, “Oh, woe is me, for I am undone!”

For those of you wondering why I don’t identify the biblical character in question, let me assure you that if I could remember who it was, I would certainly say so. On the other hand, it’s possible the character is Shakespearean in origin. Or it could have been one of Tiger Woods’ numerous women crying out when she hears the zipper in her dress coming down. So hard to pinpoint the sources of memorable sayings.

Most of us felt undone when the premier let go. I felt as if I were in a raging river holding on to the end of a rope. The other end was being held by Danny — and then he dropped it. That’s not a criticism of him; that’s a compliment to him.

My only hope is that he will sometime soon enter federal politics to become prime minister of Canada. He would probably lead us into war with Europe — and win it! At the very least, he would rescue us from the oblivion of mediocrity into which Canada has sunk.

Good Lord! The oblivion of mediocrity? That’s a Rex Murphy sentence. No more watching “The National” for me.

But there’s a far greater danger of which most of us are unaware. It’s creeping up on us like an amorphous blob with teeth, ready to rip us apart as a people and then devour us whole.

I admit that at the moment, this is mostly rumour. The friend I got it from got it from the friend of a friend, which is as reliable a source as you’re likely to find. I’m not sure which friend it was, but one was a sipper at Purity Factories before the strike.

The sipper’s job was of prime importance. They had to sip blindfolded from each bottle of red syrup and identify it as raspberry or strawberry before the label went on. The importance of the position is shown in the fact that they were expected to become honorary members of the Wine Tasters Union of Canada, although they were not permitted to hold any executive office.

No, I have not strayed that far from the subject at hand, given the fact that Purity Factories is the source of this latest threat to our way of life.

If you are sometimes given to passing out when experiencing a mental or emotional shock, I suggest you sit down for this one. The word on the street is that Purity Factories will not be producing any more of that stock-in.-trade of the Newfoundland character: hard bread.

Those of you who have not had the luxury of experiencing the Newfoundland and Labrador lifestyle may not know that hard bread is the main ingredient from which our national dish, fish and brewis, is made. But it had other uses, too.

No one of my generation would go trouting or cod fishing or hunting without a cake of hard bread in his pocket. This was for munching on and for general emergencies. If you ran out of water, chewing on hard bread would keep your mouth moist. I don’t know how. Perhaps it tasted so good you forgot all about the water.

My father-in-law was never without his cake of hard bread. He once had to be rushed to emergency while wintering in Florida. Other Half was with him as he lay on a stretcher in the emergency ward. After a time, he told her he was hungry. He couldn’t order out Ches’s fish and chips or Mary Brown’s, of course, so there was only one thing to do.

He asked OH to go get his clothes and in his coat pocket she would find something to eat. Sure enough, there it was — a full cake of hard bread. He chewed away contentedly until they admitted him.

Where would we be without our hard bread? Or, for that matter, our “scursion” bread? Scursion bread was softer and sweeter than hard bread and was meant mainly for wimps or people who had no teeth, not even in their pockets. Scursion was short for “excursion.”

I would as soon go without my Christmas pudding with hard sauce, my Christmas rye and my Purity syrup than be left with no fish and brewis. So would any Newfoundlander and Labradorian worth the salt water that laps our shores. It’s what we were fed and nourished on from the moment we could gum anything, and I do mean anything.

OH and I used to freeze fish and brewis in Becel butter cups and take them with us to the cabin on weekends. One tub fried up for breakfast over a roaring wood fire was the very nectar of the gods. So was everything else that went along with a hot breakfast, a hot fire and a hot bed on a cold winter’s morning in the cabin.

But nothing would ever be the same without our hard bread. So what if it contains more than 300 calories in a cake. When it’s refined into brewis and then further metamorphosed into fish and brewis, it becomes our dish of choice, our cordon bleu, in every sense of the word our soul food. It cannot be taken from us.

It is who we are!

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His e-mail address is

Organizations: Wine Tasters Union of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Europe, Newfoundland and Labrador Florida Springdale

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Recent comments

  • hassa
    December 04, 2010 - 07:47

    What is the purpose of mentioning Tiger's name? He is getting on with his life - suggest you do the same.