5 Things You Didn’t Know about Traditional Newfoundland Cuisine

Newfoundland cuisine
Fried Cod Tongues (Credit: A Canadian Foodie)
What we call cod tongues are actually a gelatinous bit of flesh from the fish's throat

One:
Cod Tongues Aren’t Actually Tongues

It’s true, what we call cod tongues are actually a gelatinous bit of flesh from the fish’s throat. So if you thought eating “tongues” was a bit gross, imagine if they were marketed as “Gelatinous Throat Flaps.”

Two:
Figgy Duff Was a Communication Fail and Contains No Figs

The iconic Newfoundland desert may well be Figgy Duff. What’s interesting about that, is the fact there are no figs in the “figgy” recipe. Because of a communication fail, and because of our isolation as an island people, we thought raisins were figs. In fairness, they share similarities in that they’re both dried and sweet fruits. Really, it should be renamed Raisins Duff, but good luck getting Nan onboard with that

Three:
Our Preference for Molasses on Toutons is Literally Historical

Fried bread is so delicious that different parts of the world concurrently and independently started doing it. As a few examples, the Mexicans have sopadillas to sop up sauces, and the Scots are credited with creating Bannock, whereas the Italians invented zeppole. Here in NL, we stumbled on the tradition of toutons. The reason we traditionally douse them in molasses though, is based in history and trade. Back when we still bartered goods, our ancestors traded cod from Newfoundland for molasses from abroad (often, the West Indies), and so molasses became a common sweetener in our province, particularly for toutons.

FOUR:
Why We Eat Seal Flipper Pie

“Seal flipper pie” is the one polarizing local dish that raises both tourists’ eyebrows and the eyebrows of plenty of locals as well. Why we eat seal isn’t the question – it’s a nutritious wild food, plus, hundreds of years ago, the religious powers that be, cleared it to eat during lent, so it was a march- April guilt-free feast. But why the flippers? Well, seals have always been here in abundance, and therefore, hunted, harvested, and sold. But because there wasn’t a big market for the flippers of a seal, they never sold. So families who harvested seal found a use for them: Seal flipper pie.

Five:
We Eat Cod Sounds (and Tongues) Because No One Wanted Them

Top Chef

Quick science lesson: “Cod Sounds” are the cod’s swim bladder – it’s what allows the fish to be buoyant in water. Centuries ago, Newfoundland was being populated by Europeans looking to catch and sell its abundance of fish, mainly in the form of cod fillets. This meant parts of the cod fish like its tongues and sounds were cut off and chucked out; they were just sitting in a discarded pile for hungry residents of the island to survive off. Naturally, we found ways to make these items delicious. Today, as is on trend worldwide, humble offal, like cod sounds and cod tongues, have been elevated to haute cuisine. Earlier this year, Chef Ross Larkin of Raymonds Restaurant won Top Chef Canada by serving cod sounds in the season finale.

BONUS!
There’s a Plant That Tastes Like the Sea

Oyster Leaf is an herb that grows in the wild here. If you want to limit your foraging adventures to land, and pass on sea diving for your lunch, you can toss a briny-fresh bivalve taste into a meal by substituting oysters for oyster leaf. It’s good enough that places like Raymonds and Fogo Island Inn use

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