Eat what you find
Eat what you find.
In Canadian urban cities this is a strange notion. In many parts of Canada, including parts of Newfoundland, this idea is ingrained.
I have spent my life walking into grocery stores and buying whatever I want or need. I never gave it much thought and it was rare that I couldn’t find what I wanted.
Having spent two summers in Stephenville, Newfoundland, I think about food – and the obtaining of food – differently.
My charming landlord Mike has lived in Newfoundland for most of his life. He hunts, fishes, gardens, and forages. Yes, he shops at the grocery store, but ‘eating what you find’ is a large part of how you feed yourself, your family, and your friends and Newfoundland. And it’s not just Newfoundland. Large parts of Canada – rural and northern – still maintain a hunting and gathering lifestyle.
Mike has brought me fresh mackerel, fresh trout, wild berries, rhubarb, wild mushrooms, and even moose.
And it’s not just Mike. So many people I talk to tell me about the salmon that they caught that they ate an hour later, or about the moose that they cooked that tastes like it has been eating pine trees. I asked a few people where to find wild blueberries and I learned that people are reticent to share the location of their secret wild blueberry patches.
Eat what you find is a big part of the culture in Newfoundland and I found it at first strange and then wonderful. I have always gardened and used the fruits (and vegetables) of my labours in my meals, but I have never relied on them. I have always counted on the grocery store. This idea that you catch fish by quotas and time periods and then freeze what is left over for the winter is new to me, and it makes me think about what I take for granted.
Last summer I kept trying to eat how I would eat in Ontario. This summer I focused more on eating what was readily available. This included at the grocery store, what was delivered to my doorstep by Mike, and they guy selling cod off the back of his truck . The food was wonderful and more cost effective.
(I made this cake with rhubarb Mike left in my mailbox!)
The blueberries were late to ripen last summer because the weather had been quite cold. This year, they started in mid-August. I had planned a day of picking with Mike, but then Thom and I had to leave Newfoundland earlier than planned. After asking around for a spot to pick that wasn’t too far away, I wound up finding lots of patches down by the beach where I walked every day with the dog. I started carrying Tupperware with me every time I walked the dog. I don’t know how to put into word the satisfaction gained from crouching in the bushes and picking a quart of blueberries. I didn’t grow them myself. I found them on my way. It felt like I was gathering treasure. After gathering a couple quarts, I canned what I didn’t eat in light syrup. I can’t wait to open up those jars and bake a blueberry upside down cake in the middle of winter with wild blueberries that I picked myself. It will be the best cake I have ever made.
On Mike’s property I found bushes of raspberries and I picked just enough to make some jam as well.
Eating what you find is a necessity in some places, but I think there is more to it than that. Eating what you found, or caught, or foraged brings a sense of pride and changes the way you think about eating. I don’t think I will ever find myself in the forest hunting game, but fishing and foraging have opened up my eyes.
Below are pics of food I found or was given in its raw and cooked form. You’ll also see a pic of my dog, Shelby. She was very helpful with the foraging.