I grew up in a full house that makes us look like we belonged in the “Full House” with Danny Tanner: I’m the oldest of 4 girls and my younger sisters are triplets. Things were chaotic, to say the least! Luckily though, we had awesome parents and grandparents who fostered the Atlantic Canadian hospitality and lifestyle in us and we consider ourselves “Newfies at heart”.
My dad was born in Nova Scotia but his parents are from Point Au Gaul and Lamaline, two very small towns in Newfoundland roughly 4.5 hours from St. John’s. Like most small fishing villages in Newfoundland, the community was tight-knit and everyone looked out for one another. Newfoundland is affectionately known as “The Rock” because it’s just that – a big rock. It’s difficult to grow much of anything besides root and cruciferous vegetables there, so my grandparents grew up eating a lot of traditional Newfoundland foods like salt fish, salt beef, cabbage, potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc. A traditional Newfoundland dish is called a Jiggs Dinner which consists of boiled potatoes, turnips, carrots, peas pudding, cabbage, salt beef, and roast turkey or pork. It’s very tasty but very salty!
Just this July my family and I flew out to Newfoundland for a “Hillier” family reunion to celebrate the children of Effie and Stanley Hillier, my paternal great grandparents. Effie and Stanley had 10 children, all of whom had children of their own, and now there are over 150 of us across Canada. That’s a lot of kids! We were all assigned a different coloured shirt depending on which of Effie and Stanley’s kids you were related to.
Chatting with some family members about what it was like to grow up in rural Newfoundland led me to realize that people there are incredibly resourceful when it comes to food. While lettuce and other more delicate vegetables don’t really grow naturally there and are quite expensive to buy in stores, they made do with what they had. Cod is one of the most consumed fish there, along with some lobster, crab, and other seafood. Their food was all locally sourced and if it wasn’t canned or salted, it was stored in the cellar to keep. Before refrigerators, they had a “mud room” where they kept their snow boots and other winter clothes so it wasn’t tracked through the house, but they also kept things that needed to be cold in there like milk and eggs. While all homes now have electricity and running water, there are some homes that still rely on well water and sump pumps. Some homes didn’t have indoor plumbing until the 70’s or 80’s!
My passion for nutrition and a more natural lifestyle is definitely rooted in my family history. Newfoundland is a beautiful province that is filled with so much history, love, and really good food. I can’t wait to go back.