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.