A Canadian thing
Another Thanksgiving has slipped by and our Sunday supper, on the eve of Thanksgiving, consisted of riblets boiled with peas pudding and the usual vegetables. Plus, we had roasted turkey, dressing, gravy, and homemade pickled beets. At Easter and Christmas we tend to have a repeat of that meal.
Our Sunday supper had local connections with my own grown savoury and onions, with the turnip and cabbage from Wooddale. Our notably delicious carrots I bought from roadside vendor in Deer Lake. Luckily, I made a connection and had five more bags delivered on Thanksgiving Day. And the cheesecake was drizzled with blueberries we picked across the river.
My mother’s boiled dinner quite often included doughboys. A favourite of ours was the type she made whole and laid flat on top of the boiling dinner. Once cooked, it came out like a super fluffy pizza.
I am now inclined to use the dinner stock to make a hardy, everything in it, soup. My mother made a simpler soup with the stock that she called lobscouse. It would include tiny doughboy, but no tomatoes; lovely. Dictionaries and recipes online will refer to lobscouse as, “sailor’s stew”.
Many are wont to call our Newfoundland boiled dinner a Jiggs dinner. However, a genuine Jiggs dinner (favourite meal of Jiggs in the American comic strip – Bringing Up Father) is made with corned beef; a product rarely seen in our stores. Hell would freeze over before a corned beef special sold out as was the case with the riblets special at Dominion this past weekend.
My first encounter with a Jiggs dinner was at St Francis Xavier University dining hall where at times we would be served corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Having eaten so many boiled dinners in my life, I found that meal a real treat; but for other guys it was a turn your nose up type of supper. And it was never served on Thanksgiving.
Newfoundland was a Canadian province for only 15 years when I was a freshman at St FX in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in1964. Thus, it was there I became accustomed to celebrating Thanksgiving; as in Newfoundland, up to that time, the event was practically ignored as a Canadian thing.
The Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday in October. However, the American Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November; seemingly late in the year compared to ours, but it’s their country, their business. The information on the Canadian Thanksgiving was so sparse that as a school librarian (1974-2000) it was difficult to find materials (books, filmstrips, videos, teaching aids etcetera) that were not American.
The Canadian Thanksgiving is relatively a low-keyed, under the radar holiday, compared to how the Americans celebrate the event with exuberance. Next month President Trump will be in the news pardoning some turkey (not Kim Jung-un) from the chopping block. Plus, there will be football games, the Macy’s parade, and all the hype of being home for Thanksgiving. Being home means it is one of the peak travel times in the USA for air and vehicle traffic.
Americans trace their first Thanksgiving celebration back to Plymouth in 1621. Classic portrayals of the event show the Pilgrims feasting with their invited guests, a group of native American Indians. Sadly, that portrait of peaceful coexistence and kinship did not become the gold standard guide for relationship between all new arrivals and all indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.
A less welcomed aspect of the American Thanksgiving has spilled over into Canada (and other countries) with Christmas shopping sales known as Black Friday. It’s now more like a week than a day and online shopping is ever more popular. In latter years we have seen in the news Americans killed, injured, and assaulted all for the sake of some inconsequential special. Pitiful.
Black Friday, as the time to begin Christmas shopping, would be welcomed by the former mayor of Gander, Claude Elliott, who last year made the news by requesting stores to back off Christmas sales until after Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. Elliott may as well have climbed Mount Peyton and spit into the wind as stores have already geared up or are gearing up for Christmas. Respect be damned!
Thanksgiving is a one day celebration but in reality, every day for most of us, is a time to give thanks for things like housing, water and sewage, food access, a clean environment, medical care, and personal safety many of which are still lacking for billions in the world this very night.
At our supper table the nine of us were asked to express our thankfulness. The answers varied...but the responses included the importance of family, medical care, mental health, the meal, and being alive.
As for our Newfoundland boiled dinner that we were all enjoying, for the most part it’s still ours, not a Canadian thing.