Saturday, 9 May 2015

Kissing The Cod and All That Good Stuff


Or, kiss a bottle of screech and stuff the cod!
No, kiss the cod, drink the screech, stuff some squid, eat fish and chips and all that Newfoundland kind of stuff.
For all those Newfoundlander wannabes, this is for you.
Come on down and become an honorary citizen of the most beautiful province on your bucket list. 

Now, most Canadians have heard of a screech in ceremony and know it involves fish and drinking and leave it at that. All good.
I had the chance to be screeched in at the Toutons, Tom Cods and Tunes event at the Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival last year. 

Pucker up!

How does such an unimaginable tradition like this get started?

Many, many years back, when salt fish was being shipped to the West Indies, it was exchanged for rum.
It was unbelievably strong, but those early fishermen didn't care. My theory is that it kept them nice and warm and why fix what isn't broken?
When the government took over the trade, they didn't change the recipe, they just put it in a nice bottle so that it looked good on the shelf.

So, during the war years, the American servicemen came over and they got themselves a little sample of this lovely, coloured liquid. And the story goes, one of them just tossed one right back. Well, after breathing again,  he asked a Newfoundlander, "What the cripes is that ungodly screech?"


To which he replied, "'Tis the rum, my son." So, of course, everyone had to have a try and that's how the name stuck. (I'm sure there's other versions, but I found this one on the Screech site)

So, how do you get screeched in?

First of all, you must be a natural, born Newfoundlander to perform the ceremony. 
Andrea Maunder, owner and operator of the award-winning restaurant, Bacalao in St. John's presided at mine.
Pour the screech into a glass, or a red plastic tumbler as the above picture indicates. Or a boot, or a teapot--something that will hold liquid and not leak. Or if it leaks, stop up the leak with a few capelin for a couple of minutes.
Get your cod ready. It can be frozen or fresh. Mine had just been in a cod-splitting demonstration and so I had a handsome head at the ready.

Gorgeous, wasn't he?
Sorry he's a little blurry. I wasn't taking the pictures, Basil was. I think it's because he was laughing. Maybe crying. No, probably laughing.




Now, kiss the cod. Not good enough? Okay, another one. Not just a peck, one on the full mouth. 

Next, everyone in the room is supposed to recite something. Honestly, I don't remember that part at all. But here it is:

"From the waters of the Avalon, to the shores of Labrador,
We've always stuck together, with a Rant and a Roar,
To those who've never been, soon they'll understand,
From coast to coast, we raise a toast, we love thee Newfoundland!"

You're then asked, "Is ye a Screecher?"
To which you reply, "Deed I is me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!"
Translation: Deed I is--Indeed I am.
                   Me old cock--an old English Cockney term meaning friend of buddy
                   Long may your big jib draw--May there always be wind in your sails, a Mariner's saying meaning good luck.

This may need to be repeated a few times to make sure you say it right. And anyone who knows me, knows that I'm hard of hearing (I don't think I was wearing my hearing aid that day), so I repeated what I thought I heard them say. Let's just say, they made allowances in my case.
It's only at this point that you are allowed to down the Screech. And since they put me through the wringer with the kissing stuff, I asked for another shot. Yum, rum!
If you can survive this ceremony, you have now become an Honorary Newfoundlander.

And that, was my screech in ceremony. 

Last I heard, there were still some tickets available for the Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival. Act quickly before they're all gone. 
And yes, 10% off  when you show me a ticket from one of the events on your stay that weekend at the The Bayside.

And, it's your last chance to enter for a trip for two to Newfoundland. Enter the What's In A Name? contest right here and come stop by for a cup of tea. Or maybe a shot of Screech.

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