Tasteless. Humour.


I have lost my sense of taste. I realized it while eating my dinner the other night. Subtle notes of fresh halibut floated away off the plate. Forget the delicate florals of the herbes de Provence in the ratatouille. Even the intense punch of the sun-dried tomato was reduced to an acrid afterthought, the lemony zing of the capers faded, the heat of fresh ground black pepper nothing more than grit.
I’ve gone from eating in colour to black-and-white.

It’s not a permanent loss, it’s a side effect of a medication I’m on (temporarily, I hope) but it’s disconcerting nonetheless. I’ve always veered more to the side of “live to eat” not “eat to live”, a love-hate relationship with food that I’ve accepted over the years and turned into a career. A loss, even temporary, of something so dear is something that has to be dealt with.

Mining the rich humour vein of my homeland is my usual coping mechanism. Instilled by generations of hardscrabble livelihoods, geographic isolation and the need to entertain ourselves, Newfoundlanders generally are a funny lot and never more so than at funerals. (Listen, the old sketch show CODCO didn’t have a “Wake of the Week” segment for nothing).

When my mother passed away after battling cancer, we had a visitation at the funeral home, as families do. My father, siblings and I sat with her for a while first, and then two of her sisters arrived. They rushed up to the casket, crying and wailing, quelling their anguished sobs long enough to say, as people are wont to do at funerals, “Oh, she looks wonderful, they did some job on her!”
My father, a quiet man internalizing his grief, instantly muttered wryly “She looked better yesterday when she was alive”.

When the funeral director came to let me know it was time to take her for cremation, he stopped and stared at her name on the reception room door, as if noticing it for the first time. “That’s not Betty from up the shore is it?” he asked me, in hushed tones. “The one who reads the cards?” Yes, that’s the one (Mom had made a name for herself as a card reader, just ordinary playing cards, with quite a cult following). On he went . “She read my cards, my dear, she was some good!”
“She wasn’t that good” I blurted, “she didn’t see this coming!”

And so it went. Humour is a great coping mechanism, both shield and sword.
I’m hoping my taste buds will blossom again soon, because it seems cruel that someone who loves comfort food can be denied the pleasure of eating it when comfort is most needed.

In the meantime, I can think of a few friends that should use this time of diminished taste to invite me to supper…

NaPoWriMo: Night Lunch

I wanted to end NaPoWriMo on a big finish but then someone had to go and leave a lovely comment under last night’s entry, and that put all kinds of pressure on, under which I have crumbled like a stale date square.
This is the first poem I dashed off for the first time I participated in NaPoWriMo, back in 2013, the last entry of National Poetry Writing Month 2016-thank you for reading!


For some, cookies and milk is a traditional bedtime snack. Not in Newfoundland though. In Newfoundland, the ritual of a “night lunch” can be elevated to a late-evening meal.

Night Lunch

What’s in there to eat b’ys, before we goes to bed?
Let’s have a little night lunch before we lays our head
There’s homemade bread for toasting, and a bit of berry jam
Root around the fridge shelf for a bit of last night’s ham

Put on the kettle, pass the cups, bring ‘er to the b’ile
The tin milk’s on the table, won’t be but a while
A bit of mustard pickle, a tomato slice or two
Tea biscuits and some butter, sure that’s enough for you?

My that tea was lovely, let’s have a second cup
Then we’ll head on up to bed now that we’re all full up
And as we drifts off into sleep, our bellies full and right
We’re wond’ring if there’s sticky buns left to have tomorrow night.

NaPoWriMo: Off the Menu

“Welcome to Extinction”
Said our server, flourishing menus
Our specials tonight include items
Unlike any other venues

Perhaps to start I can interest you
In a Monarch Butterfly Drink?
Or frisee salad & balsamic dressing
With salt cured prairie skink?

The soup du jour, house specialty
A leatherback turtle broth
Fragranced lightly with the wings
Of delicate Dusky Dune Moth

Grilled upon the fire breath
Of the devil himself incarnate
Is a tenderloin medallion
Of Vancouver Island marmot

If you’re feeling more like seafood
You can always try a fork of
Our delightfully well seasoned
Lemon poached fillet of orca

For something more substantial
To enjoy as a main course,
I recommend our roast of giant panda
Served with bamboo, of course.

“I think the breast of Dodo,
Steamed with mermaid tears”
I’m sorry madam, our server said
That’s been off the menu for years.

NaPoWriMo: Moose, Meet, Threepeat

Winding down National Poetry Writing Month on the blog, and in reviewing the stats see that this particular piece is far and away the most viewed. So, I present it again, as I tried to make the midnight deadline with an original piece that just isn’t working. Maybe tomorrow.



Autumn morning, rising sun
burnishing barrens gold
Father and son wait patiently
For glimpse of brown through brush
Moose steps into field of sight
Son shoulders .308 with steady aim
He finds his mark

Bull turns its massive antlered head
With regal grace and pride of place
And for a moment gazes lock
Soft brown eyes look into blue
Fingers tremble slightly
On trigger, squeezing tightly

Father exhales softly “now, son”
The shot is clean, right through the brain
Majestic animal collapses, down
On legs surprisingly spindly
Dead before it hits the ground

The meat is quartered, packed and hauled
Nothing left but blood stained leaves
This animal did not die in vain
No wastage here, no trophy kill

And though he loves his mother’s stew
The moose meat braised to tender turn
The boy, he will not hunt again

NaPoWriMo: Where’s the Beef?

This one is going to have to be quick; I just took a Tylenol 3 with codeine before I remembered I hadn’t written an entry yet, and in fact, hadn’t even thought about it.
In this TMI age I’ll try and not overshare, but hey, it’s a quirky story that leads to both the painkillers and the poem so I’m just throwing it all out there.
I went for a muscle biopsy today, which at first set up doesn’t sound like a big deal–15-20 minute procedure, local anaesthetic, needle takes a tissue sample, poof you’re done and off you go.
But, there’s something they don’t tell you (at least, not if they want you to show up, I’m assuming) and that is if you’re getting this biopsy to identify an inflammation, then the skin will be frozen for the incision (incision? thought it was a needle? yeah me too!) but no freezing of the muscle tissue itself cause that skews the results. Bastards. By the time the doctor delivered that tasty tidbit I was committed.
Both the doctor and nurse who oversaw this evil bit of medieval torture procedure were delightful, and despite the news of impending pain I was relaxed. The doctor had spent time on the east coast and we chatted about the Newfoundland budget (bring back Danny Williams!), Chinatown in Halifax (the ceiling is still brass!). He learned I was a food writer and we chatted about flavour balance in meals, the current gluten-free trends (his daughter, apparently, insisted he does not understand celiac disease despite, as he told her, he’s “in the business”).
He lets me know he’s getting to the tissue sample part and it may sting.



It wasn’t all that bad, fine, but as he’s doing that part he says something along the lines of “so, will this end up in one of your cookbooks?”
And that led to a conversation about how best to prepare muscle from a leg (braised).
Really, it was very organic and not as strange and Silence of the Lambsy as it sounds. Really.
See? Big slice!

See? Big slice!

Oddly enough, we ended up with beef stew for dinner, to which I contributed exactly zero.

Braising beef with onions and red wine
Simmering slowly, fragrance fills home
Roast vegetables, add to broth
Thickened and seasoned well
With heart and soul and
p’raps a special
piece of the
cook, or

NaPoWriMo: Fabulous Fishcakes

Hard for me to believe that it was lucky 13 years ago that Fabulous Fishcakes was released. It was my first cookbook, and opened the door for five more. I was the food critic for the Coast (www.thecoast.ca) at the time, and I had the opportunity handed to me—very lucky break indeed.

It was my first collaboration with the amazing Scott Munn (photomunn.com), my first crack at food styling, my first time kitchen testing recipes on a large scale, and converting chefs’ recipes to recipes for the home cook.
We ate a lot of fishcakes in the making of this book. And one thing was quite clear: tart them up, dress them down, fishcakes are versatile, tasty, and easy.
All you need is three components—well, here, let’s rhyme about it.

The Humble Fishcake

If you wish for cakes of fish
Of any shape or kind
I’ve got a dish for cakes of fish
For whatever you’ve in mind

Pick your fish whichever you wish
Halibut haddock or hake
Or pick a shellfish if you wish
If that’s what you want to make

Now season your fish however you wish
With herbs or spices or more
Enhance your fish, it’s your special dish
Don’t be afraid to explore

A binder is swish for cakes of fish
To keep a very neat cake
Whatever you do it must work like glue
To hold the shape you make

Heat up the pan as quick as you can
And fry your fishcakes through
Then gobble your wish, your cakes of fish
Created uniquely by you.