Much of what we reacted to was real, but more, surely was imagined where we may well have been too quick to take offence. We got over it, of course, and so did Canada as we all moved ahead. Our reputation as something that had to be rescued by Canada — something that did not quite have the sense to take care of itself — drifted into the past.
Earlier this week I discovered one of those unfortunate little oversights in a nearly 30-year-old edition of “Canadian Living’s FOOD” magazine. The publication achieved a countrywide circulation, but had a short lifespan. Billed as Canada’s magazine of beautiful cooking, it commenced publication in 1988 and was issued six times yearly. The edition for November/December 1988 contained a three-page “regional roundup of what’s cooking.” It was intended as a Canada-wide pre-Christmas survey.
Starting in the far west, journalist Frank Baldock explored what was on offer from a selection of eating places or producers of edible treats in selected cities “Cross Canada.” He focused on Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Guelph, Montreal, Quebec City, Tyne Valley and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, Peggy’s Cove and Halifax in Nova Scotia and Saint John in New Brunswick. Baldock’s Canada, apparently, ended at the mouth of the St. Lawrence.
Perhaps Baldock checked us out and found nothing worthy of mention. Bah and humbug. The article reads as though he was unaware that Canada had a 10th province. The editors should have picked up his oversight. Then again, perhaps they did but preferred not to act.
Baldock is no slouch (as we say here). He was (and is, I believe) a wine and food consultant and writer of some note. In fact, an online profile says he helped launch the magazine in question here.
So I checked 1992
I needed to check on what kind of eating-places might have been considered here in 1988. The closest source I could find was a 1992 (that’s only four years later) “Where to Eat in Canada.” You may be surprised by the places selected. Or you may not.
In St. John’s there was Magic Wok and there was The Stone House on Kenna’s Hill, this latter restaurant, “Always a favourite with travellers, many of whom write to tell us how much they’ve enjoyed the flipper pie or caribou steak cooked with burgundy and red grapes.” Also mentioned was The China House — “There isn’t much to be said for the Torbay Road Mall as a setting for a serious restaurant, but, despite all appearances, The China House is the real thing. The kitchen is at ease with most of the regional cuisines of China.” The Cabot Club in Hotel Newfoundland received a favourable nod.
You will be intrigued, no doubt, to know that 25 years ago there were other places to eat in Newfoundland besides St. John’s. Parkway Motel at Glovertown was listed. The authors quoted “one seasoned traveller” who advised, “the girl who runs it knows a thing or two” and the guide dutifully reported that the motel served good homemade soups, fresh pan-fried fish, homemade muffins and “lovely chocolate chip cookies.”
“The Seaside” in Trout River (not far from Woody Point) was worth visiting if you happened to be in that area. “Where to Eat” reported, “in winter some things may be frozen, but in summer they have fresh catfish, wolf-fish, ocean perch and capelin as well as the usual cod, halibut and salmon, all caught locally, all carefully pan-fried ... May Hann makes her own chowders, her own tartare sauce, her own mashed potatoes and she has some stunning raspberry and partridge-berry pies.”
The Southern Shore
Of special interest to me was the inclusion of a listing for Calvert on the Southern Shore. Many readers will know already to whom I am referring — and yes, of course, it’s Kitty Sullivan. I had a meal at Mrs. Sullivan’s kitchen table once, in company with eight others. We weren’t familiar with how she handled dinner for nine so when she placed a small roasted chicken in the middle of the table (around which sat nine hungry and expectant customers) and retreated to her pantry/kitchen, we silently looked at each other in surprise. One small chicken to be shredded among nine adults?
Within short order, the looks of surprise changed to smiles. Loaded plate after loaded plate helped set a hefty Newfoundland boiled dinner before us. “Where to Eat” reported, “there’s no menu. Mrs. Sullivan makes what she feels like making, which might be cod or salmon in the summer, a rabbit stew or Jiggs’ dinner (corned beef with pease pudding and vegetables) in winter. All meals come with a homemade soup, homemade bread and a pudding or pie made from local berries or preserves.”
I also happen to have a 1957 copy of Gourmet’s Guide to Good Eating, listing worthwhile places across the U.S. and Canada. In the Canada section of the 232-page book eight provinces are represented. Neither Prince Edward Island nor Newfoundland gets a look-in.
Paul Sparkes is a longtime journalist intrigued by the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org