Last year at the start of August, I was honoured by a close friend to help cook for a dinner party in the New-Wes-Valley area. The day before the event, she tentatively warned me that her family often liked to “debate while they ate” and that I’d be called upon at some point for my opinion. I grinned, until she added that one should also agree with her dad on most topics. When pressed, she said simply that it would avoid a fuss. I frowned. Not much of a debate if it’s one sided, I thought.
The following day I was welcomed inside their gorgeous tucked-away cabin in the nearby woods. I unloaded my burden of gear with the energetic aid of some of the family, all of whom were noticeably outgoing and friendly personalities. Upon regarding my assortment of ingredients, a few family members seemed a bit puzzled and even snide.
The other entrees served at the dinner party were undoubtedly traditional. Cornucopias of electric warmers were already overflowing with jiggs dinner, cod britches (fried egg sacks) cod tongues and a host of other Island delicacies. I wished that I was forewarned that the party was “old school Newfoundland” themed but remembered that for many Islanders, that was the recurring theme of life itself. Shoving my apprehension aside, I scrubbed up and prepared to make:
Canadian Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin
1 package maple bacon
3 cups bread crumbs
2 tbsp savoury
1 small onion, fine diced
½ cup real butter, melted
Season to taste
1 small head red cabbage (slivered)
1 cup of orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ lime (finely grated)
¾ cup red wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
5 large golden potatoes, peeled and chopped
¼ cup minced horseradish
½ cup butter
½ cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and a cast iron pan on high. Microwave butter to melt, combine with the breadcrumbs, onion and savoury in large bowl, mix well. Slice your tenderloin lengthwise but not all the way through. Spoon the dressing into the sliced area and roll forward. Wrap the closed tenderloin in bacon. Sear outside on the iron pan to seal entire surface. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes (145 F internal temp), then increase heat to 475 F for another 10 minutes.
On high, braise cabbage apt ingredients for roughly 12 minutes or until al dente, stirring throughout with tongs.
Boil potatoes for 10 minutes, combine listed potato ingredients and mash with a sturdy whisk. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
When we were finally all seated to eat and a grace was said, the discussion began immediately between passing requests and compliments. As prophesized, none among the host family touched the exotic food I prepared, but I was pleased to see a couple of fellow guests from away load their plates with each.
“What do you do for a living, Terry-b’y?” asked the large-set man at the head of the table, our host.
“I’m a cook and a freelance writer for newspapers.” I replied.
There was an audible wince. It seemed I triggered our host’s favourite debate topic – the erosion of Newfoundland culture by the evil media. I listened rapt as he proceeded to question my status as a “True Newfoundlander” with my lack of accent, my food preferences and vocation choices as well as a small tirade about how Newfoundland’s media shouldn’t publish content which he considered to be anti-Newfoundland (which was just about everything outside of Newfoundland culture). Despite how Orwellian and xenophobic his stance was and how they paralleled the policies of certain historical dictators (cough) I held my tongue until asked for my take.
“How do we define a ‘True Newfoundlander’? Is it ranting and roaring? Does it prefer jiggs dinner to pizza or never question our ways? There’s room on the island for more than one kind of Newfoundlander.”
Oddly enough, that settled the matter.
Thanks for reading.