Snacking my way to Citizenship
It’s snack time. With every nibble, not only am I becoming more Newfie, but I am also acknowledging my roots and gaining appreciation for where I have been. Although I am South African and my wife is more Taiwanese than Canadian, we have our kitchen stocked with many food items available only in Newfoundland. Learning about a culture is like going to a buffet; there is no shortage of things to try. I intend to keep on studying the way of the Newfoundlander, one bite at a time.
Jam Jams are a great Newfie snack with tea or coffee. Only slightly similar to Jolly Jammers from South Africa, Jam Jams are moist, jam-filled cookies. Jolly Jammers are hard cookies, filled with jam and cream, sporting a variety of wacky faces.
In South Africa, Marie Biscuits are an old favourite. The Newfoundland equivalent is Milk Lunch. The difference is that Milk Lunch can be served with or without a topping, while Marie Biscuits are only served … er … topless. Surprisingly, this light and crispy biscuit tastes great with butter and cheese.
Creamy Dill Pickle-flavoured chips are really popular here, and not without good reason. No need to bring out the chip dip for these – their sharp taste is powerful enough to beat your taste buds senseless, in a good way. Another local favourite is All-dressed, which tastes like a combination of ketchup, pepper, vinegar and several other ingredients that are as safeguarded as the Colonel’s secret recipe.
With cuisine being a big part of many cultures and taste being a powerful memory trigger, food is a great way to overcome homesickness. A few months ago when I was missing South Africa, I got pretty excited when I found foods that resembled uniquely South African grub. At the supermarket, I noticed a “Hard Tack” display. The missus suggested that Hard Tack is like rusks. Rusks, comparable to biscotti, are hard, dry biscuits which soften when dunked.
After discovering Rooi Bos tea (a herbal tea from South Africa) in the drinks isle, I thought that Hard Tack would complement my afternoon snack. Dipping Hard Tack should soften it up like a rusk. At least that’s what I thought. It did become slightly softer, but to chomp through a chunk of un-soaked* hard tack, you need titanium teeth, which are apparently sold separately. None the less, on that particular day, the tea brought me back to a time when I was enjoying a tea break on the roof of a building on a South African beach front. I could even hear the waves of the Indian Ocean gently moving towards the golden shore.
* Traditionally, Hard Tack or Hard Bread is soaked before being eaten.
For my wife, who considers herself part Asian, we bought Perogies. Perogies look exactly like Taiwanese dumplings, but they are filled with cheese –a western twist on an eastern delicacy. They taste great baked, fried or boiled. For us, Perogies serve both as a great meal and a reminder of the fried dumplings we often enjoyed in Taiwan.
Sometimes, when you need a pick-me-up, a little snack can work wonders. Wherever you find yourself, befriend the locals, learn about the culture and, if you have the opportunity, share a meal with them. You may be surprised by what you learn, what tastes you discover or even what memories might be triggered.