St. John’s whirlwind tour

Posted on September 25, 2011

This past week business interests found me whisked away to St. John’s Newfoundland.  The trip was primarily unremarkable (no scandals, no treasures recovered, no feral children discovered), however there are a few things worth sharing, that I will dutifully share.

My pals Paul & Steve – native Newfoundlanders both – have long extolled the merits of real Newfoundland fish and chips.  And they have just as long heaped scorn on our pale imitation.  After enduring years of this abuse I was keen to see for myself whether or not reality lived up to the hype.  I can hereby report that they were right.  I trekked out to Ches’s Fish & Chips, on Steve’s advice, and found a tired looking place in a particularly tired looking part of town.  You wouldn’t want to be strolling around there at 2am, for sure.  I liked the looks of the joint immediately.  I got myself a table, looked at a menu (I don’t know why, since the choice was obvious) and ordered up the main event.  The waitress then asked me if I wanted dressing and gravy with my meal.  Hmm?  Is that how it’s done here?  Yes?  Then I’m in.  Here are the results:

The meal of choice for people watching their figures. Watching them get large. Real large.

So that stuff amongst the gravy, the stuff that’s neither fish nor chips?  It’s dressing!  As in, the stuff that can by found inside of turkeys, not ranch.  This is a curious answer to poutine, and it is interesting to note that Canada has two distinct and totally unique dishes involving putting gravy and something else on french fries.  And?  It’s good!  Nay, great!  In my view this dish blows poutine out of the water.  All of my franco-friends are organizing a party with pitchforks and torches to come get me, but it’s true.  Also, the batter (and who knows if this is just unique to Ches’s) is lighter than back home.  Less filling and gross feeling.  After my meal I was offered a free miniature cupcake, which was quite good.  To conclude: I was a happy man.

I made a couple other observations while there.  First, some well educated hoodlum has taken to cleaning up graffiti, in a manner of speaking:

Warning: club sandwich's are not good 4 soul

Ruffians, take note.

I had a good chuckle.  Near this sign there was berthed a gigantic cruise ship.  It was maybe ten stories high.  There were some passengers standing on the deck, way up high, and some passengers standing on the street.  Those on the ship were yelling obscenities at their friends and laughing impossibly loudly.  It was very charming.

Here is a representative picture of a street:

Staggering home, full of dressing and gravy

And here is a very nice slowly dying building, of which there are quite a few:

Scenic St. John's

And now to the question on everyone’s mind?  Did I get myself screeched in?  Well…

For those not in the know, Newfoundland maintains a tradition of welcoming others by degrading them and plying them with liquor.  Getting screeched in means reciting some call and response phrase in Newfoundland slang, kissing a cod (or puffin’s ass in some variants), and taking a slug of some purportedly vicious rum called screech.  My colleagues and I trundled off to a screeching ceremony which took place not in a pub, but in the basement of a liquor store.  Yeah.  That’s right.  Now it was a “nice” liquor store basement, but still…  We said the thing we were supposed to say, and then the cod was passed around.  Some people faked it, and those people are weak.  I did my job.  My upper lip got cod juice on it, and I couldn’t stop smelling cod with every breath.  Yum!  Fortunately they had a Temperance League approved alternative to screech available, which I think was just straight grenadine, and I downed it to complete my obligations.  I got a crappy certificate, and then we milled around.  The liquor store employees expected us to buy some junk to compensate them for their time, so I picked up some screech BBQ sauce.  Mission accomplished.

Pucker up!

The rest of my trip, more or less, was spent in hotel boardrooms or in my room watching UFC fights compulsively until one in the morning.  I mention this lest you start getting the very wrong idea that I lead some sort of glamorous lifestyle.  Far from.

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