Whylah Falls Clam Chowder

This afternoon, she thawed a pound of cod filets, white flesh raw but succulent on the plate, and diced it into one-inch squares. Then she sautéed a half cup of sliced onions in rich, yellow butter and poured the sizzling aroma into a broth made from celery soup, a cup of water, and a cup of milk. Next, she stirred the mix and added the fish, Jarvis scallops, and Church Point clams, nursing the chowder to a boil. Cora simmered it for seven minutes, then sprinkled the smiling sea with chopped parsley. Voilà! Perfection under gravity …

Whylah Falls, George Elliott Clarke

Recipe Notes (By Alexia Moyer)

This morning, Alexia went to her local fishmonger and paid 15 Euros for scallops. Yikes.

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Halifax or “Spooney”

Welcome to Halifax, Nova Scotia, otherwise known as “Spooney,” according to the nineteenth-century travelling American salesman Samuel Slick.

Satirist Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865) is famous for his serialized sketches of Nova Scotians in The Clockmaker (1836). The titular character is the ambitious, manipulative clock-salesman known as Samuel Slick, a character who is linked to the phrase “Uncle Sam,” which many Canadians will recognize as a reference to the United States.

In the sketch “The Clockmaker’s Opinion on Halifax,” Sam Slick compares the province to a bowl of Mock Turtle Soup that he once tasted at Boston’s Tremont House  (Sam mispronounces it Tree-mount). This travelling salesman does not usually dine at such illustrious places. His typical fare is tavern grub. But one day, he is invited to join a business man for lunch at the Tremont House, where he revels in the Mock Turtle Soup (111). Sam’s memories appear accurate, as one historical menu from Tremont House lists this dish as the restaurant’s opening course. Sam mentions that he has to “drag from the bottom” of the bowl, as hidden below the thick broth are “fat pieces of turtle” and “little forced meat balls of the size of sheep’s dung” (113). According to Sam, the province of Nova Scotia “is jist like that are soup, good enough at top, but dip down and you have the riches, the coal, the iron ore, the gypsum and what not” (113).

As for the city of Halifax, Sam Slick urges its residents to start building their own economy and infrastructure. He compares Halifax to a Russian officer in Warsaw, Poland who had lost both arms in the Polish uprising in 1831. The armless veteran “was fed with spoons by his neighbours, but after a while they grew tired of it, and I guess he near about starved to death…. Now Halifax is like that are Spooney, as I used to call him; it is fed by the outports, and they begin to have enough to do to feed themselves—it must larn to live without ’em. They have no river, and no country about them; let them make a rail road to Minas Basin, and they will have arms of their own to feed themselves” (115).

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Painted in Waterlogue

Diners on the Wharf at Halifax Harbour
Photo Credit: Shelley Boyd


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Charlottetown’s Hungry Hearts

Welcome to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and the birthplace of Confederation!

A tour of Charlottetown’s literary fare would not be complete without a mention of the island’s most famous author L.M. Montgomery and the iconic 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables.

Although this young orphan grows up in the country near the town of Avonlea, Anne makes memorable trips to the capital. In the chapter “An Epoch in Anne’s Life,” a young Anne is invited to travel with her friend Diana Barry to visit wealthy Aunt Josephine Barry. Miss Barry takes the girls to the Exhibition grounds where many Avonlea residents are in attendance, winning competitions for their prized agricultural products and home-made edible goods.

The next evening, the girls attend a concert at the Academy and afterwards go to a restaurant for ice cream at 11:00 p.m. Oh the decadence of city life—Anne isn’t sure at first how she will “ever return to common life again” (270). But upon reflection, she realizes what she truly values:

It’s nice to be eating ice-cream at brilliant restaurants . . . once in awhile; but as a regular thing I’d rather be in the east gable at eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars were shining outside and that the wind was blowing in the firs across the brook” (270).

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Photo Credit: Shelley Boyd


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Cowcumber Boats

Recipes Notes (by Alexia Moyer)

Next week you will read all about Charlottetown’s literary fare on our sister blog. To pique your appetite, behold . . . a recipe featuring a certain slate-breaking, mouse-saucing, kindred spirit-searching redhead.

Cucumber . . . concummer . . . cowcummer . . . cowcumber. All are variants of cucumber. Or so says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). What the OED does not discuss are cucumbers in relation to boats. Is this vegetable sufficiently seaworthy? I – who have read at least four of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey/Steven Maturin series and can therefore tell a luff from a lubber’s hole – would not venture to sail in one. The cucumber is, however, an excellent vessel for tuna salad. Or so says The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook from which this recipe is drawn.

Montgomery’s Anne books are chock-full of fare. At least two people have noticed this. The person who borrowed the Anne of Green Gables omnibus before me – from the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec – had discreetly (in pencil) underlined any and all mentions of food. I couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship with this unknown reader, vandal though s/he may be.

The second person is Kate McDonald, granddaughter of Montgomery and author of this literary cookbook. Within, you will find recipes for raspberry cordial (sans alcohol), plum pudding (sans mouse) and the cowcumber boats tested below.

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