On Food and Friendship: Anthony Bourdain Tribute, Part 2

[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on the role food has played on Classical Pursuits trips as we remember the formidable, exuberant Anthony Bourdain. Enjoy!]

By Ann Kirkland

Unlike so many, I came late to the charms of Anthony Bourdain. It was when I heard he would be visiting Newfoundland that I began to pay attention, starting with the hilarious exchange he had with Anderson Cooper about had to pronounce this most wondrous province. In the end, they both got it wrong — Newfund-LAND. That exchange and the episode that followed brings back a whole series of food experiences in Newfoundland that illustrate what Barack Obama attributed to Bourdain, “He thought us about food—but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together.” So, when Melanie asked me to recall a memorable meal on a Classical Pursuits trip, our 2011 and 2017 trips — In Search of the Newfoundland Soul — came immediately to mind.

We were in the remote outport of Eastport for the Winterset in Summer Literary Festival. It is a huge challenge for this tiny hamlet to feed the hundreds of people who descend on it for four days each summer. With the short season, the very few restaurants there ever were keep closing. But the people who live in and around Eastport are proud of the festival and go out of their way to make sure those “from away” are housed and fed.

Three Newfoundland experiences illustrate how food can be about so much more than food. Lunch was hard to come by, but Barb, the owner of our cluster of cabins phoned around until she found someone who would be glad to make sandwiches for us and someone else who would be glad to deliver them. Gerty showed up with special bagged lunches, which we enjoyed on the picnic tables by our cabins. Naturally, she hung around to chat and made sure we had all that we needed. The festival itself rounds up all sorts of local groups to prepare meals for us. Church women, Legion Hall men, community organizations. One of our most memorable meals was cooked and gallantly served by the aproned-men at the local Legion Hall. Local delicacies like scrunchions, fish ’n’ brewis, Jiggs dinner, and cod tongues were on the menu.

Best of all was a traditional kitchen party at the home of Norma and Walter Pinsent, who live directly across the road from the local arts centre, home of the festival. Walt and a few friends go out fishing in the morning. Back home, Norma and friends cook. We arrive about 5 p.m. for drinks and appetizers. and good conversation with our hosts and their friends. They have set up small tables throughout the downstairs of their home. The meal is fresh and delicious. But the best is yet to come. As we are finishing dessert, folks start arriving carrying instrument cases. We sprawl out in the living room on chairs, sofas, and the floor. Next is an impromptu set of songs and dances and recitations, some of which we know. Someone plays the spoons. Some of us volunteer to sing, tell a story, recite a poem. There is dancing. There is laughter. We cannot remember having a better time. We stumble back to our cabins, thoroughly content.

The next day, we muse on the kindness that seems to be woven into the nature of Newfoundlanders. It seems they don’t know any other way to live. Anthony Bourdain discovered this. The food is lovely, but it is doubtless a means to the more rewarding end of human communion.

Next up in our series is Rosemary Gould, on learning about African-American foodways at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.


One Comment

  1. Ellen Kelly says:

    What a wonderful trip that was — and the kitchen party was all that any “come from away” could have wished for!

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