Cod is King? A recipe and a tale.
From the RV Desk of Melanie Anne Chambers. www.gorving.ca
Shortly after arriving in St.John’s, I went to a kitchen party and met author Edward A. Jones, whose book Salt Cod Cuisine. The International Table, just hit book shelves. You can’t say that word anywhere in Newfoundland without eliciting an emotional response from a Newfoundlander. Other countries feel the same way. Included in Edwards’ book are 30 countries' recipes with historical ties to the fish; it's a traditional yet contemporary compilation. Having just arrived home from Portugal a month earlier, where Portuguese also claim that cod is king, Ed and I had much to discuss.
Sure many countries claim cod is king, but even the Portuguese get their national fish from the shores of Norway today. For 300 years, cod was really king in Newfoundland.
At its peak in 1968, fishermen of Newfoundland hauled in a whooping 810,000 tons of cod fish. The end was inevitable and in 1992 a moratorium would not only stop commercial cod fishing, it would decimate many rural Newfoundland towns.
One such town was Cow Head in Gros Morne; with a thriving fishing plant, the town’s population was once about 1,200. Today it’s 300. Some statistics say 60,000 were left unemployed. For a province of 500,000, that number is shattering.
A view from the RV park. The fishing plant was just to the left of this picture.
In bar conversation, I mentioned cod a few times and heard a resounding, ‘it’s coming back.’ Frustration was also in their voices: the fishery wasn’t managed well then, and Newfoundlanders fear the same for the future. I didn’t mean to get political, but this is a province of fishermen, and women, who feel no control over their own waters and what is in them, and yet, this fish is part of their psyche. For a rocky unforgiving land, which doesn’t produce much more than root vegetables, a salted cod could withstand long Newfoundland winters when food was scarce. I guess you could say Newfoundlanders’ fortitude and resilience is quite similar to cod fish. The two are intertwined.
So, while sipping a cold glass of bakeapple icewine, I cooked a quintessential cod dish in hopes that some day cod and Newfoundlanders can find their way back to each other.
For many cultures it is customary to eat the snout to tail of a fish. Why waste, eh? Cheeks are chocked full of meat and fish eyes are high in some mega enriched mineral, right?
Newfoundlanders are also not a wasteful lot. Case in point: cod tongues. Yes, they rip those little tongues out of the mouths before the cod can even say… well, you get the point.
So, ready to try anything local, I stopped at the Fish Market on the #430 highway up to L’Anse Aux Meadows and bought a few cod tongues and halibut (in case the cod tongues were not to my liking).
Here is how I prepared the little suckers.
Drain all the water off the tongues and pat dry with a paper towel.
In a bowl, mix flour, salt, garlic powder and pepper.
Dredge the tongues in the mixture and then on low heat, fry until crispy. Throw in some onions and peppers if you want to add some more flavour.
Result: Some of the bigger ones were a bit chewy, but that might be the cook’s fault, not the tongues.
I served it with garlic mashed taters and steamed kale.
Wash it down with some Bakeapple ice wine, and voila, tongues will be wagging from your fish prowess.