Halloween is coming and along with planning costumes, we’re thinking of the food to serve at our All Hallow’s night parties—graveyard cakes, dried cherry scabs, witch’s fingers and bat wings.
But we Atlantic Canadians don’t have to look very far to find some unusual food that, to those who are unfamiliar with it, may seem every bit as icky, scary or just plain strange as any contrived fright night dishes. A quick trip through the eastern provinces will provide enough culinary oddities to make a meal fit for any ghost or ghoul.
As your dinner guests arrive, pass around a lovely pate made of brawn. Brawn is the flesh of a pig’s head, particularly gelatinous. It’s easy to prepare—mince, boil and serve in a pate mould.
For your first course, offer a warm lingual salad—cod tongues on goose tongues. Cod tongues are the actual tongue of codfish, and are considered a delicacy in Newfoundland (moreso now with the cod moratorium). Roll the cod tongues in a little seasoned flour, fry in butter with scrunchions (pork back fat) and serve on a bed of goose tongue. Unlike cod tongues, goose tongues aren’t tongues at all, but a Nova Scotian marsh green named for its resemblance to the birds’ mouth organs. The jelly-like texture of the cod tongues will provide a nice contrast to the salty crispness of the goose tongues.
After the salad is cleared, present your appetizer of whore’s eggs. Whore’s eggs is the name given in Newfoundland to the spiny sea urchin; once the urchin is cracked open, the soft tissue that fills the inside of the urchin shell may be retrieved using a spoon. Don’t forget to provide gloves, as the spines of the urchin are designed to protect it from predators.
On to the main course, featuring the famed New Brunswick Acadian rappie pie, surely the greasiest meat pie in all the land. This pie is composed of grated raw potato and any available meat, usually pork. In the beginning, this pie was extremely fatty because of the pork; today’s leaner pork means it doesn’t have to be that way but, for occasions such as this, a traditional preparation is the way to go.
For a side dish, a heaping portion of PEI gut pudding, a sausage made of cornmeal and hard suet fat (yep, the same stuff you pack birdseed on in the winter), will do the trick.
And for a treat, follow up with a plate of pet de souer—literally translated, “nun’s farts.” The Acadian dessert, resembling tiny cinnamon rolls in taste and appearance, was named as parishioners’ means of seeking a little humorous revenge against the heavy handedness of the church.
To wash your feast down, serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. The non-drinkers will be sure to enjoy PEI’s stenchel, a drink every bit as foul as the name sounds. Originally made as a drink for farm labourers, stenchel is made of molasses, vinegar, ginger and cold water. The table wine should be squatum, a Newfoundland term for berry wine; the berries are “squat” (crushed), sugared and allowed to ferment before being drained and drunk. A good strong beer never hurts either—in this case, again from Newfoundland, a callibogus—spruce beer fortified with rum and molasses.
As your guests leave, give them a little spruce gum to freshen their breath—before Bubblicious came small pieces of the sap, or gum, that oozes from spruce trees. Interestingly, tests have shown that this gum actually contains chemicals that have antibacterial properties, so they really do work as breath fresheners!
So stog your gob with prog (stuff yourself with food) and bon appetit!
Find Liz Feltham online at www.foodcritic.ca