A recipe for disas­ter


I en­joy Jigg’s Din­ner. Hav­ing said this, I re­al­ize this am­brosial de­light means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

In many places, it typ­i­cally con­sists of salt beef (or ri­blets), boiled pota­toes, car­rots, cab­bage, turnip, turnip greens (in sea­son), bread pud­ding, dress­ing, pease pud­ding, and a cooked tur­key, chicken or beef roast. Condi­ments in­clude mus­tard pick­les ( prefer­ably home­made), bot­tled beets, cran­berry sauce and but­ter.

How­ever, that, to me, is just a cooked Sun­day din­ner.

My Jigg’s Din­ner is made up of salt beef, pota­toes, car­rots, cab­bage, turnip, parsnip, brus­sel sprouts and pease pud­ding. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less. I “mang” — a New­found­land word for mix to­gether — this del­i­cacy from time-to-time.

Which re­minds me of my friends, Mart and Belinda. She’s from Bri­tish Columbia. My wife and I got to know them when we were sta­tioned in north­ern New­found­land.

He was a prime ex­am­ple of the adage, “ You can take the boy out of the bay, but you can’t take the bay out of the boy.”

An ac­com­plished cook, Belinda reg­u­larly re­galed Mart’s taste­buds with a va­ri­ety of dishes. As tasty as her cook­ing was, though, he missed cer­tain dishes he had been raised on.

“ What would you like me to cook?” she asked him re­peat­edly.

The an­swer was al­ways the same: “Fish ‘n brewis and Jigg’s Din­ner.”

“ But I don’t know how to make ei­ther,” she said. “Do you have a pref­er­ence?”

“ Yes. Jigg’s Din­ner! Man, I can taste it now! Easy as 1-2-3! Just boil the salt meat till it’s ten­der, drop in the veg­eta­bles, and cook it.”

So she made covert plans to sur­prise him.

Gather­ing the in­gre­di­ents for the meal, she bought a tub of salt meat. At home, she dropped the meat into a large pot of wa­ter and boiled it for sev­eral hours. When the meat was ten­der, she added peeled veg­eta­bles. She cooked the mix­ture till ev­ery­thing was cooked.

She set the kitchen ta­ble with her china and best cut­lery, then brought out can­dles, in readi­ness for the spe­cial treat for her man.

Mart ar­rived home from work, dirty, tired and fam­ished. Even be­fore he opened the door, he smelled the un­mis­tak­able odour of Jigg’s Din­ner. “Naw, can’t be,” he thought. “I must be day­dream­ing. Belinda couldn’t.” But she had.

Burst­ing into the house, he was met by his wife, a broad smile on her face. The lights had been ex­tin­guished, re­placed by glowing can­dles on the ta­ble. “Guess what?” she said. Play­ing along, he said, “ What?” “I cooked your favourite meal!” “ You did? Which one?” “ Jigg’s Din­ner.” “ God love you, my dar­ling!” He planted a kiss on her lips.

Af­ter a shower, he re­turned to the kitchen.

“ Sit down,” she in­structed. She re­moved the pot lid. Now, the smell was over­pow­er­ing. He watched as she dug into the pot and lifted out their meal. His help­ing was gen­er­ous; hers, mod­est.

En­ter­tain­ing flash­backs to his child­hood, Mart grabbed his fork and stabbed a chunk of salt meat. For­get­ting his ta­ble man­ners, he jammed the morsel into his mouth.

Sud­denly, he stopped, looked at his wife and gasped, “A glass of cold wa­ter! Quick!” “ Too hot, is it?” she in­quired. “No, too salty!” The sig­nif­i­cance of his re­sponse eluded her. “It is salt meat, af­ter all,” she said. “ Isn’t it sup­posed to be salty?”

“ Yes, but this is re­ally salt. Did you soak the meat?” “ Why would I do that?” “ Belinda, you know you gotta soak salt meat to get rid of some of the salt!” “Oh.” Her smile nar­rowed. Then he tasted a car­rot. “ Holy smokes,” he ex­claimed. “Is that ever salt.”

Her smile dis­ap­peared. “ You said you loved Jigg’s Din­ner,” she said. “ You gave me the recipe, which I fol­lowed in slav­ish de­tail.” “I know, honey.” “Mart, I ac­tu­ally went to the store and bought a tub of salt meat. I cooked it all af­ter­noon.”

“ Whad­daya mean … you cooked it all af­ter­noon?” There was an icy si­lence. “I mean what I said: I cooked the meat all af­ter­noon till it was ten­der.”

“Out of cu­rios­ity, Belinda, ex­actly how much meat did you cook?” “ What was in the tub.” “All of it? You’re only sup­posed to cook a piece or two, af­ter it’s soaked.”

“But you didn’t tell me.” With that, her voice broke. “ I did this just for you, Mart, and I blew it. I’m sorry.”

“ Belinda,” he said, “ I ap­pre­ci­ate your ef­fort. I re­ally do. But I should’ve ex­plained the recipe bet­ter. I’m so used to Jigg’s Din­ner, I thought ev­ery­body knew how to cook it. Any­way, it’s the thought that counts.”

See­ing the hu­mour in the sit­u­a­tion, Belinda’s tears slowly turned to smiles, then gales of laugher.

“ I can now see why the in­struc­tions you gave me were a recipe for disas­ter,” she said.

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