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Curator Bruno Vinhas talks about the Craft Council Gallery's upcoming exhibit: Crafted Beasts, A Cabinet of Curiosities of Newfoundland Beasts
The conclusion to our three-part exploratory feature on agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Andrea Maunder shares her favourite recipe for Carrot Cake frosted in Cream Cheese Italiian Buttercream Icing
After the cod collapse, is cod jigging still a rite of passage?
By Dale JarvisStories of strange beasts and mythical creatures are popular all over the world, but there seems to be a special place for them in Newfoundland and Labrador. Part of that might have to do with the strong storytelling tradition here, and part of it might have to do with the importance that local folklore still holds for communities.Through the years these stories have beentold leaving the shapes, colours and textures to the imagination of those listening. The Craft Council Gallery is changing all of that, and has invited local artists to take the stories of these strange beasts and bring them into the material world. Bringing these creatures to life through the hands of craftspeople is to celebrate the diversity of the provinceâs cultural heritage.Between October 11, 2019 - November 17, 2019, the Craft Council Gallery Presents: Crafted Beasts, A Cabinet of Curiosities of Newfoundland Beasts. Designed as a creepy Victorian museum show curated by the fictional Duckworth Cryptozoological Society, this is an immersive exhibition where visitors can explore the magical world of folk tales and the Newfoundland and Labrador storytelling tradition. Come meet the Old Hag, sea monsters, and the fairy folk, as well as the tales behind them.The exhibit features the work of craft producers Anita Singh, Charlene Denief, Graham Blair, Janet Peter, Michael Harlick, Renee Holloway, Susan Furneaux, Tucker Ellis, and Vicky Northey, with text by folklorist and storyteller Dale Jarvis. October 11, 2019 - November 17, 2019Crafted Beasts, A Cabinet of Curiosities of Newfoundland Beasts275 Duckworth Street (entrance to Gallery off Solomonâs Lane)St. John's, NLEditor's Note: Check out the video below of Craft Council Gallery Director Bruno Vinhas talking about the upcoming Crafted Beats exhibit. For more on Newfoundland Beasts, check out "Beware These Beasts" by Dale Jarvis in the October 2019 issue of Downhome.
After the cod collapse, is cod jigging still a rite of passage? by Jenn Thornhill VermaAbout a mile-and-a-half off of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, weâre dropping anchor, 26 fathoms deep. The fish finder, an instrument for locating schools of fish, confirms what captains Leo Hearn and Kimberly Orren already know: the cod are plentiful. In their 22-footer, we have everything we need for an afternoon of cod jigging. Weâre suited in head-to-toe rain gear, rubber boots, wool hats, waterproof gloves and life-jackets - clothing signalling late summer in a place accustomed to late, short summers. We also have a bucket of freshly caught capelin weâll use for bait; a few single-hook jiggers with steel weights on 250-pound test lines; and an empty fish tub for todayâs catch.This third Sunday of July 2019 marks the first cod jigging trip for two of the five of us on board. At 20 months, notsurprisingly, my daughter, Navya, has never fished a day in her life. Iâll consider the âfishingâ she does today an activity best placed in air quotes, much like when she plays âsoccerâ or goes âswimming.â And yet, Navya gets whatâs happening, bright-eyed and repeating âfishâ whenever we show her the capelin. My 39-year-old husband, Raman, is the other newbie. Raman is a first-generation Canadian; his parents emigrated to Canada from India. While I spent my childhood in Newfoundland running freely outdoors, Raman tells me he often spent his in New Brunswick running mathematical equations indoors. He thinks summertime math is a rite of passage, but weâll start Navya off with cod jigging today. As the boat bounces on the Atlantic, Raman holds Navya tightly. I smirk, thinking it looks like heâs hugging an ocean buoy; only Navyaâs face is visible, the rest of her body swallowed up in bright red gear, perhaps a size or two too big, her hood and her life jacket.I turn my attention to Leo, who offers a quick lesson on baiting. One can jig a cod without bait. In fact, thatâs why the jigger, designed to look like capelin, was introduced by merchants - so fishers could catch cod no longer taking bait. If fishers could guarantee catch, then merchants could guarantee incomes. But fishing without bait eliminates a natural equilibrium between fishers and fish. Itâs one of the reasons I chose Kimberly and Leoâs non-profit, Fishing for Success, for todayâs family fishing excursion. They teach families like mine our ancestral and traditional fishing knowledge and skills, and they do it in a way that conserves the fish and protects the environment. âThere are no gill nets here for three miles,â Kimberly tells us as we head out to the fishing grounds. Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove has a protected fishing area, having first banned trawls (longlines) in 1961, then gill nets in 1964.I follow Leoâs instruction, holding the capelin in my left hand, then piercing its eye with the jiggerâs hook in my right. I guide the hook along the capelinâs spine until the fish curls around the hook. Then I drop the jigger in the water, allowing the line to pass over my open hands, as the steel weight helps the jigger plummet to the depths below the deep blue rug. Then, I gently hold the line, awaiting that distinctive tug. Within seconds, the line is taut against the gunwale (sometimes called gunnel, the rail of the boat). I pass my one hand over the other pulling in the line, at the same time noticing marks along the gunwale, evidence of many lines pulled many times. Then, a glint emerges to the surface. I haul my cod up and over the gunwale. âFish, fish!â Navya says excitedly, emphasizing the shh the way toddlers do, awkwardly making their way around new word sounds, uncertain where to place the emphasis. Raman tries his hand at jigging and before we know it, we are hauling in cod for cod, in a way thatâs almost comical. Just as one of us catches one, the other has one on their line. Navyaâs âfish, fishâ repetition becomes the perfect narration. The unfolding scene reminds me of an Ernie and Bert sketch from Sesame Street when Ernie calls âHere fishy, fishy, fishyâ and fish come flying into the boat.Should we fish cod at all?Itâs easy to get caught up in the excitement, but I know cod arenât as plentiful in the Northwest Atlantic as they appear to be today. Itâs 27 years after the collapse of northern cod and the July 1992 shutdown of its fishery, better known as the cod moratorium. That moratorium remains in effect today, but the federal government, which manages the fishery, allows a small commercial and recreational cod fishery (what locals call the food fishery). In August, a new union hoping to represent inshore fishers, the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundlandand Labrador (or FISH-NL), called for an end to all cod fishing apart from the commercial fishery. The call comes after a new paper by fisheries scientists George Rose and Carl Walters finds overfishing played a greater role in the collapse of cod and its slow rebuilding than originally thought. A few years ago, other work by Rose and Sherrylynn Rowe found cod making a comeback (in anarea called the Bonavista Corridor on the northeast coast of Newfoundland), but that comeback didnât play out. And yet, Fisheries and Oceans Canada continued to increase the landing limits for cod in the years that followed. More recently, a federal fisheries scientist reported a âhighly probableâ near future extinction of cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.This information might lead one to reasonably ask: Why fish Newfoundland and Labrador cod at all? But I donât think the route to conservation is an outright fishing ban. To protect and preserve the fish, or any species, I believe we need a healthy relationship with them. History tells us that traditional fishing approaches like baited hook and line are sustainable (the fish bite when theyâre hungry) and ecological (this approach leaves no âghost fishing gearâ or microplastics behind). Of course, we must fish within reasonable limits - something we hadnât done a particularly good job at leading up to the moratorium. Two fisheries scientists hypothesized that more cod were commercially fished from the Northwest Atlantic in a 15-year period, between 1960 to 1975, than over the 250 years between 1500 and 1750. Social enterprises like Fishing for Success, a small-scale fishery operation, help maintain links with history while allowing us to enjoy the benefits of fishing for generations to come. The end of the dayBack in the boat, we have our 15 fish - the daily limit for a boat of three or more recreational fishers - so Leo hauls up anchor and Kimberly sets a course for harbour. Iâm sitting at the stern, my arms wrapped around our living ocean buoy. This vantage point allows Navya to see a female fishing captain at the helm. While there are fewer fish and fewer harvesters and processors, the fisheries haul in more profit than ever before in this province. A commercial fishing career remains viable, though there are more hoops to jump through than ever before - and being female in a male-dominatedindustry is only one of them. We pull up next to the red ochre fishing stage. Inside, the Fishing for Success crew have prepared a pot of coffee, ginger cookies, partridgeberry loaf and partridgeberry jam. The coffee helps, but real warmth will have to wait for the salt beef and cod fish stew simmering on the double burner stove in the back corner of the stage. This is yet another reason to enjoy the food fishery: to put fresh, local food on our plates. In a province accustomed to shipping most of its food from elsewhere, this feels like a luxury, but it need not be the case. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have fresh seafood at their oceanfront doorsteps. So long as we pay respect to the fish through sustainable fishing approaches, we can enjoy these simple luxuries for generations. As Leo fillets the cod, I try my hand at a traditional Japanese fish print. Before photography, fishers made prints like this to record their catch. Using acrylic paints that can be washed off so the cod may be used for food, I paint my canvas in bold shades. The resulting prints appear as magic cod - and they ought to be, given it marks Navyaâs first cod jigging trip at a time when one canât help but wonder how many more trips weâll have like this. We hold up the print for a family photo. Before we can pour a bowl of soup, Navya is already fast asleep in Ramanâs arms. Jenn Thornhill Verma is the author of a new book, Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundlandâs Saltwater Cowboys.
The final installment of our three-parts eries on NL agriculture looks at how we make food security a community affair.By Elizabeth Whitten In the last two issues, Downhome has presented a deep look into whatâs happening in our province when it comes to agriculture. Weâve met retired and new farmers, and weâve talked to government officials and leaders in education. All of our conversations have been about our food supply.The reality is, Newfoundland and Labrador is very food insecure. According to Statistics Canada, there are only 407 farms operating in NL today, down from the 4,000 farms of 70 years ago. Many of todayâs farmers are aging out of the industry while we continue to import about 90 per cent of what we eat. While most of us arenât likely to quit our day jobs, buy a plot of land in the country and work the land as farmers, there are things individuals can do to help increase their own food security. In the final installment of our three-part series on agriculture, we chat withpeople who know we can grow more food for our own tables. Putting food firstFood First NL is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing our food security and working to ensure that we have access to healthy food, says Executive Director Kristie Jameson. At their core, they deeply understand the complexity of food security. And itâs not just the fact that the vast majority of our food is imported, she notes, but also how the population is spread out over a vast area.âThe food brought in has to reach everyone, which leads to a very complex food distribution puzzle that we havenât really figured out. So we end up seeing many communities have limited physical availability of good, quality, healthy, affordable food as a result of the fact that many of these communities donât have full-service retailers and donât have regular distribution to the communities,â Kristie notes.A surprising 84 per cent of communities in NL donât have a grocery store. However, there are corner stores, "many of them independent, family-run shops" that are the primary retailer for many communities. So residents rely on these stores for food, or they have to travel to get to the nearest supermarket, which could mean an hourâs drive or a ferry ride and then a drive, Kristie explains. So while food production is a major challenge in NL, access is also a hurdle to overcome.Furthermore, our food transportation system is easy to disrupt. For instance, ferry runs could be cancelled unexpectedly due to bad weather or the ferry might be tied up for repairs. Maybe the weather is too poor for people to drive to the nearest store in another community. Remember when Hurricane Igor washed out roads in 2010? People couldnât travel by road and delivery trucks couldnât get through, Kristie recalls.All of these factors have impact on the quality and cost of food that consumers can access. âItâs important to consider the ability for people to actually afford food, not just from considering the cost of food but also from considering the income that people have,â says Kristie.What we have going in our favour, Kristie advises, is the strength of our traditions and our living knowledge of hunting, fishing, berrypicking and gardening. âAnd whatâs so strong about this is that the knowledge and the skills and the practice of them still do exist here in the province today,â she says. âAnd I think a lot of the work we do at Food First tries to build upon those, and support groups in the province in developing and implementing programs that are really in many ways building on those strengths.âIndividually, Food First encourages people to try getting involved in food production at whatever level they feel confident, even itâs something as simple as growing a few potted herbs on a windowsill. âItâs very addictive. I think as soon as you try doing a little bit, then youâre more and more interested to take on more,â Kristie says.Kristie also recommends cooking, preparing meals and trying to make more from scratch. It all helps people to further understand and appreciate where their food comes from and what theyâre eating.Furthermore, by getting involved in acommunity garden, individuals can help localize some of their food supply while supporting and educating each other. Food First NL has helped establish community gardens across the province. By their count there are now more than 90 community gardens in operation. Through cooperative efforts, community organizations develop plots to farm, often in raised beds. Local residents can access these plots and grow their own food, creating opportunities for greater self-sufficiency and socializing with others as they work together for the common goal of producing food to eat.A community garden âcreates a tangible, hands-on learning mechanism of how important and how valuable farming can be to a community,â says provincial minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, Gerry Byrne, who also happens to have a small-scale farm and, by his own admission, âcanât stop talking about it.âHe says, âGrowing food and growing farms and growing farmers is what Newfoundland and Labrador needs to do more of, not less.â No yard, no problemIt shouldnât surprise anyone who knows her to see Emily Bland as the âSeed-EOâ of SucSeed, a thriving hydroponics company based in St. Johnâs. She comes from a family of farmers, and growing fresh produce has been a normal part of her life since she was a child.SucSeed is a social enterprise that creates hydroponic systems that donât need sunlight or soil to grow food. With a LEDlight on top of the unit acting as a sun, it can used be indoors all year round.âItâs an enclosed ecosystem,â Emily explains. âYou add water and nutrients to the bottom of the container. The water circulates through and provides the plant with the nutrients when they need them.âThe system was developed by Enactus Memorial, a student-run volunteer organization at Memorial University that leads enterprises aimed at improving quality of life. Emily was president of the team in 2016, when they worked with MUN Botanical Garden and engineering students on a hydroponic method to address food insecurity. Their original goal was to have 15 units installed and growing in northern Labrador. In just a few short years, theyâve sold more than 15,000 units across Canada. Considering the challenges Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have in growing fresh food in our climate, Emily says of hydroponics, âItâs something I think we should have been doing and been more aware of long ago. You look back 60, 70, 80 years ago and we were producing almost all of the fresh produce that we consumed on the island,â she explains. Today, we produce around 10 per cent of the food we consume.In addition to making, marketing and selling these hydroponic units, SucSeed is actively involved in food security education. SucSeed is currently in 400 classrooms, working with close to 8,000 students to help them learn about food sustainability. Emily says they want to be educating one million students every year by 2022. âWe want to reach the next generation and empower them to grow,â she says.After the harvest time, Emily says they get a lot of thank-you letters from kids whoâve tried kale for first time or made fresh salad from what they grew. Theyâre genuinely excited to eat vegetables.âItâs great when you see kale putting a smile on a kidâs face. And then they go home and start talking to their parents about these amazing fresh tomatoes that they grew in the classroom, or lettuce and kale. In my opinion, I think it tastes better, too, when you grow it.â Food for the tableBehind Derrick Maddocksâ St. Johnâs home is a lush little oasis. There are trees along the fence, a shed tucked away in the back corner, a greenhouse and carefully plotted out garden beds. Itâs not a large backyard, but heâs made the most of it for the garden heâd been growing for the last 30 years. His small property produces a mouthwatering mix of fresh produce: tomatoes, peppers, onions, green onions, peas, beans, potato, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and apples.Now retired, Derrick spends more and more time out here, typically an hour a day during the growing season. âPlanting, weeding, going to the store to buy fertilizer and seeds and whatnot, pollinating tomato plants, those sorts of things,â he says.When asked why he started growing produce, he says heâs not sure if he can answer that. As a boy, his mom had a garden, âmaybe that influenced me. When we were in Labrador City, I tried to grow a few things. I just liked the real taste of what you grow yourself rather than what you buy at the store. So I guess all those things sort of combined.â He can remember being at a Christmas party years ago, and a man told Derrick he liked to go home after the workday and build things with wood because he could see what heâd accomplished,â and I think itâs the same thing with gardening, you know. You actually grow something that wouldnât otherwise grow there, and youâve got in your hands something: this is what I produced. So this sense of accomplishment is there.âBecause he lives on a small plot of land, thereâs no way he could grow all the food he and his family consume. In fact,it probably doesnât even save them money when you add in the cost of his time and all the tools, including fertilizer and soil. âI mean thereâs no soil here; all the soil in the backyard is basically bought soil,â Derrick says.However, there is almost always something on his table that came from the garden. âWe have a fairly large raspberry patch and we grow a lot more raspberries then you could eat, so we freeze a lot. So over the winter Iâll be eating frozen raspberries,â he says. The menu changes with whatever crop is in season, so in the fall heâll harvest the potatoes and carrots which will last a few months. âSo you have a little something from the garden almost all year round,â Derrick says.As of this interview in August, the strawberries are being picked. âAnd right now Iâm eating strawberries almost to the point where Iâm sick of them. But a month ago and a month from now, Iâm not gonna have anyâ¦ You have a season, you get it, you get overloaded with it and then itâs gone.âWhile itâs not enough to keep him from going to the grocery store, itâs enough that thereâs usually something on hand in the house to eat that he grew.âIt is an enjoyable pastime, it gets a person outdoors,â he says. âItâs not really food security, but if everybody did it thereâd be a lot less food necessary to bring into the province. So thereâs pluses to it.âHow did we get here?Back in our grandparentsâ day, people typically had a little plot of land allocated to growing at least some of the vegetables they needed to eat. Even though they werenât full-time farmers, they still grew something. Come harvest time, they had some produce to eat throughout the year so they didnât have to buy all of it.If we used to have so many farmers and we were such a self-sufficient place, what happened? Food First NLâs Kristie Jameson notes that people never really stopped growing their own food or catching it, but some people did move away from it. It was probably one generation that shifted away from it.Fortunately, enough people have grandparents alive today whoâve practiced these skills their entire lives and can share their knowledge. âAnd whatâs been amazing is the amount of interest that there has been in people getting back involved in this work or picking up the approaches of their grandparents,â Kristie says.Among FoodFirstâs initiatives to meet that interest is a series of videos they developed called âScoff,â which showcased NL seniors demonstrating different traditional food skills, from cleaning cod to bottling beets. And recently, Food First launched an online map that makes it easier for consumers to find the closest available fresh food, including farmersâ markets, community gardens and food banks.For Seed-EO Emily Bland, the issues NL is grappling with are things that can be fixed. Itâs not completely out of our control. There are resources like community gardens, backyard gardens and hydroponics within our reach.âThereâs answers to a lot of the challenges that weâre facing,â she says. âWe just need to take the initiative to do it and not wait another 10, 15, 20 years to fix it.â
The Everyday GourmetBy Andrea MaunderPeople often say to me they could never be baking all the time because theyâd be too tempted to eat too many sweets. And I always reply that the funny thing is that when youâre around baked goods all the time, you feel less tempted to overindulge simply because they become part of the scenery for you. Usually, the occasions I make something new or something I havenât made in a while are when I simply must have a serving for myself. There are a couple of exceptions. I never get tired of my scones (even though I made about 15,000 of them this summer!). My coconut cream pie is another - light and barely sweet with flaky pastry (Iâve been making it since 1995, and I promise that recipe soon). Iâve been perfecting my carrot cake for nearly four decades, and I have to say, I have never tasted one that I like better than my own. It might be the only dessert I make that Iâm unwilling to share my slice. I will unapologetically sit down and slowly savour every morsel, with perhaps only a most fleeting pang of guilt that I didnât offer anyone a forkful. Iâm not gonna lie, or apologizeâ¦ itâs a bit of a process. There are a few steps that I think make my carrot cake exceptional. I toast the walnuts, plump the raisins and grind the spices from whole. If you donât have a spice mill (or coffee mill), use ground spices in the measurements below. My frosting is a little different, too. I begin with Italian buttercream frosting (thatâs the one where you boil a sugar syrup that your pour into whipping egg whites, and then carefully incorporate the butter), and then I add cream cheese. It makes for a gorgeous frosting that delivers that tangy cream cheese flavour, but with a lighter texture, less sweetness and better piping and holding power. You will need a candy thermometer. A stand mixer will make the frosting process a lot easier - but it can be done with a hand mixer if you can recruit a volunteer pair of hands. MAKE IT: Carrot Cake 1 cup walnuts 1 cup golden raisins 3 (3â) cinnamon sticks (or 5 tsp ground cinnamon) 3/4 tsp allspice berries (or 1 tsp ground allspice) 1/3 tsp whole cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground cloves) 1/2 a whole nutmeg, finely grated (1/2 tsp ground nutmeg) 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cardamom 3/4 cup vegetable oil 1 3/4 cups white sugar 4 eggs 1 tsp vanilla 1/4 tsp almond extract 2 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp baking soda Pinch salt 3/4 cup water 1 1/2 cups grated carrot (on largest shredding side of a box grater) Preheat oven to 350Â°F and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans. Spray them with nonstick spray and line each with a round of parchment paper. Spread walnuts on a parchment-lined sheet, toast 5-8 minutes until fragrant and beginning to brown a little. Remove from pan to cool and then chop medium coarse. Soak raisins in hottest tap water to allow to plump. Combine whole spices in a spice mil and grind until fine. (Cinnamon can be a little hard; run it through a sieve to remove any unground bits.) In a large mixing bowl, hand whisk oil, sugar, spices, eggs, vanilla and almond extract until incorporated. In a separate small bowl, dry whisk to combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Switch to a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and add the flour mixture and water to the large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add drained raisins, chopped toasted nuts and shredded carrots. Divide mixture evenly between prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the bake to ensure even doneness. Cakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks. Allow to cool completely. Cream Cheese Italian Buttercream Frosting 2 cups white sugar, divided 1/2 cup water Pinch salt 6 egg whites 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into 2-inch cubes and allowed to come to room temperature 1/2 cup vegetable shortening 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 tsp almond extract 500 grams cream cheese (full fat, room temperature - two (250 g) packages, cut into 2-inch cubes) 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 cup (or so) toasted coconut, if desired, for garnishing the sides Clip a candy thermometer to a medium-sized saucepot. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Boil until it reaches 240Â°F. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, on high speed, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until they become frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip on high speed until light and fluffy. When sugar syrup reaches 240Â°F, remove thermometer and remove pot from heat. Drizzle the hot syrup down the side of the mixing bowl slowly, avoiding the whisk (so it doesnât spatter and burn you), while you continue whipping on high speed until the frosting is fluffy and firm. Keep whipping until the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl are no longer warm.Then, still on high speed, slowly incorporate the cubes of butter, one at a time. To be sure itâs not too cold to mix in properly, squeeze the cube of butter between your fingers and make sure it squishes without too much resistance. If itâs still cold, either wait longer or carefully microwave to soften it, but be sure not to melt it. Butter temperature is important for buttercream. If melted or too cold, your buttercream could separate or curdle. Continue until all the butter, and then the shortening, is incorporated. The meringue will deflate a little; this is normal. It helps to stop the mixer every so often and scrape down the sides. Whip in the extracts. Stop the mixer, lower the bowl and remove 2/3 of the buttercream to another bowl and set aside.Incorporate the cream cheese the way you did the butter into the remaining 1/3 of the buttercream. Add the lemon juice. Then, in three or four additions, add back the buttercream you removed and beat together after each addition until fully incorporated and fluffy. If itâs warm in your kitchen, you might need to refrigerate the frosting before icing the cake. Frost the middle, top and sides of the cake, reserving some of the frosting to place in a piping bag to add some flourish to the top, if you like. I sometimes press toasted coconut into the sides of the cake. This is optional. Refrigerate a couple of hours to set the frosting.Cut into 12 or 16 wedges and enjoy.
Local comedy legend Andy Jones was named to the Order of Canada in June of this year, joining the ranks of national treasures like Sarah McLachlan, Margaret Atwood, Neil Young, Prince Charles, Gord Downie, Alex Trebek, Mike Myers, Catherine OâHara and more. Awarded the second-highest honour for merit in the Canadian system of orders, decorations and medals, Andy was recognized for his contributions to the Canadian arts and entertainment landscape. The actor, writer, comedian and director is well known for his early work with CODCO; for starring in, co-writing and co-directing the feature-length film The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood; and for his role in the movie Rare Birds alongside William Hurt. On a national and local scale, Andy has made innumerable appearances on television and in theatre, as well as a series of one-man shows. âI was happy to get a nod of any kind at this stage of the game,â the bashful Andy says of his recent appointment. This year so far has been one of reflection on Andyâs many accomplishments, especially with the CODCO reunion in Halifax in the spring. âIt was really fun, and you know, again, itâs nice to get a pat on the back,â Andy says of the reunion show, which took place in March at Andyâs alma mater, Saint Maryâs University. He was reunited on stage with his longtime colleagues Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Greg Malone and Cathy Jones (also his sister). Neighbouring Nova Scotia and its capital city, Halifax, have always been supportive of Newfoundland arts, he explains. âTheyâre a great audience for Newfoundland material. They really appreciate it. To go back and to have all that kind of warmth from people â¦ It was good to just go back in a very pleasant way down memory lane.â Though Andy notes that the troupe sometimes clashed in terms of creative differences, the CODCO reunion recalled âthose times when things were cooking and we just had fun together,â he says. âWe each picked a sketch that we liked and no one else knew what the sketch was that weâd picked until they [the other members of CODCO] got thereâ¦ We each got to do some good, good stuff,â he says. Andy was quick to acknowledge the contributions of cast member Tommy Sexton, who died in 1993. âThe truth is that all of our best stuff came from when we were getting along and having fun, having lots of laughs.â In watching anything Andy is present in, from the early days of CODCO onwards through to the 2018 play âMen of Misfortuneâ with Greg Malone, it seems like Andy has fun with whatever heâs working on. Standing Up in Canada He draws heavily on his life experiences as a Newfoundlander when creating content. As part of the first generation of Newfoundlanders to be Canadians, his experience was formative. âIt was a different time in Newfoundland because, I guess, there were those questions about whether they had made a mistake by joining Canada or not,â he recalls. âSome people said there wasnât a great deal of difference from before Confederation, although that may or may not be accurate. Of course, we were the first generation of Newfoundlanders to be Canadians. So we wanted to take advantage of everything in Canada, being Canadians, but we found that we were the âjoke peopleâ - which we didnât like. We wanted to set that record straight,â he explains. âThe general narrative was, you know, you guys are sucking off the tit of Canadaâ¦ we were really, really very angry about that. We had a trenchant wit and we had great music and storytelling and visual arts, all that stuff. We wanted to make sure we got that out to them, so they realized that they got a lot out of the deal,â he says of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada. The sentiment still rings true today, almost 50 years after the beginnings of CODCO, and with 2019 marking 70 years since Confederation. âPeople are still very interesting and still quite different in Newfoundland. You can really tell if you go somewhere and then come back. Economically, we had a little burst of joy there when Danny was in power and we had oil money coming in, but it seems extremely worrisome now again. I feel somehow as if weâre back to square one in some ways, but it does seem that we have a sense of ourselves and a sense of pride in ourselves that we did not necessarily have when we joined Confederation, although there always was a feeling that Newfoundlanders had almost a superiority complex that went along with the inferiority complex. There was that sense that everybody kind of knew we had something special here.â Andy calls the artist uprising of yesteryear âone of the great success stories of Newfoundland.â He adds, âNow, you look at all the summer festivals, all the playwrights, the novelists - canât keep track of it all.â No topic too taboo Newfoundland and Labrador has put in a lot of work to prove that weâre not the butt of a joke - weâre the jokesters. Simply look to the cast and writers of the nationâs political parody powerhouse âThis Hour Has 22 Minutesâ to see a heavy Newfoundland and Labrador presence. While â22 Minutesâ focuses on Canada-wide issues, much of CODCOâs content was centralized on provincial issues, news, politics, traditions and more. CODCO delved into - or exposed, explored or eviscerated, depending on the skit - a list of hot-button topics: religious upbringings, post-Confederation feelings, local political blunders, the Christian education system, basic rights for LBGTQ people and much more. The show absolutely ruffled a few feathers - including the CBC, which refused to air a particular sketch titled âPleasant Irish Priests in Conversation.â âWe did have that problem and thatâs the reason I left CODCO,â Andy says. âBut the truth of the matter is, we were very free. The company that produced us in Halifax was Michael and Paul Donovan of Salter Street Films. We couldnât go far enough for them.â Present-day, Andyâs main artistic concerns arenât about what he can âget away with.â As a man who always seems to be wearing many hats within the local arts scene, itâs more about making time to fulfill all of his ongoing passion projects. âI'm trying to write a piece about my son Louis, who died in 2014. He took his own life after a long struggle with mental illness, and Iâm still trying to write something about him. And Iâve actually gotten all of his medical records. Iâm going through them very slowly, trying to get some help from whoever I can get help from to help me do research, get all that stuff together. And thatâs kind of my main goal right now.â Andy is also compiling an archive of material created by his late brother Michael Jones, and heâs working on a new childrenâs book set to come out in 2020. Much of his summer was spent helping out with the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Hantâs Harbour Heritage Museum and at the Bonavistaâs Church Street Festival. When asked if there was anything on his âcreative bucket list,â Andy remarks that he felt he was always free to create as much as he wanted to create, but âI guess I would like to have done more things,â he adds. âI always wanted to be on stage doing comedy and from the time I was a kid, I got to do that. So, I would have liked to do more. I would love to have done a third feature film,â he muses. âI had wanted to work with my brother on that and he wasnât able to do it for the last few years, but I did have a script but I donât know if itâll ever be done,â he shares. âBut really, generally speaking, I think that - because I live in this country and because Newfoundland has such a rich culture - I have never been stumped by anything in terms of creativity. Funding, yes. Dear God, I wish we had full funding for everything; but ultimately, there was no nefarious force that could stop us from doing anything - maybe just a slightly cheaper version,â he jokes. With the local arts community lobbying for a $3-million increase to ArtsNL over the next three years, thereâs a collective hope that a province seemingly ârichâ in arts and culture can better support artists - like Andy Jones and the legendary CODCO cast and crew, plus all the wonderfully talented people who put Newfoundland and Labrador on the map with their artistic ability and comedic clout.- by Wendy Rose
In the early hours of a July morning, a white 1980s-era VW Vanagon camper van with European licence plates rests in the parking lot of Bowring Park, off Waterford Bridge Road in St. Johnâs, NL. In a few hours this gravel parking lot will be full, but for now that van is alone. Inside, Benny and Tanja and their dog Jago are waking up. Soon, the side door will be open and they will step outside, coffee in hand, to greet the day. For the past two-and-a-half years, Benny and Tanja, origi-nally from Germany, have been travelling around the world in their home-on-wheels, first in a Unimog, and more recently in the VW Syncro Vanagon. Theyâve been to 16 or 17 countries so far, covering Eastern Europe, northern Africa and Canada in the Unimog. It was on that cross-Canada trip - done in the dead of winter - that they realized the Unimog was too big. Returning to Germany, they swapped vehicles, choosing the Vanagon for its size and its off-road capabilities. They named it Smudu, refitted it for adventure travel with a second fuel tank, rooftop solar panels, a rebuilt camper interior and dirt-capable tires. Then they returned to Canada, this time intent on exploring the eastern parts of the country - their previous trip was mostly spent out west - before heading down the eastern side of the United States, then over into Mexico and through Central America. And thatâs about as detailed as their plan gets. Most people embarking on a road trip in a camperized vehicle stick to one continent. But little things, like getting a van across the Atlantic Ocean, donât bother Benny and Tanja. They used a roll on, roll off (RoRo) shipping service to get their van into Canada from Germany via Belgium. The couple refer to themselves as overlanders, and to understand why this actually means something, we need to take a dive into the traveller subculture. Travellers, while sometimes being tourists, separate themselves from the cargo-shorts-and-fanny-pack crowd in a few ways, the most visible being their luggage (backpacks, not suitcases) and choice of lodging (hostels, not hotels and never resorts). Among these travellers, the land-based folks tend to use vans or converted vehicles, as opposed to travel trailers or motorhomes. And this van subculture (look up #vanlife on your preferred social media for a glimpse at the lifestyle) is further divided into people who prefer the overland style of vehicle, typically a vehicle outfitted for off-road travel. And Smudu is most definitely off-road capable. Itâs in the emptiest places, where they are completely alone, that Benny and Tanja are happiest. Theyâd prefer to be surrounded by nature, off the beaten path. Their Instagram is filled with photos of their van in remote places, sometimes doing things most people wouldnât attempt in a Jeep, let alone a 30-year-old camper van. Off the Couch and On the RoadThis entire story can be blamed on television. One night, back when they still lived in a conventional, rooted-to-the-ground home, the couple was watching a documentary about people travelling around the world. It looked like something they wanted to do. But, not wanting to make a rash decision, they slept on it. Next morning they still wanted to do it. The preparation was a bit stressful, Benny admits, since they had to make sure they had all the proper insurance and a plan, and that everything was prepared in advance of their travels. Plus they had to sell nearly everything they owned - the few remaining furniture pieces are stored in Bennyâs parentsâ attic - and they had to prepare their vehicle for being lived in. They figured it all out, though, and on March 17, 2017, they pulled out of the driveway in Freiburg, Germany to start their world tour. A few miles down the road they got a phone call saying Benny forgot his phone. They turned around, drove back for the phone, said goodbye again, left again. Alright. This time they were really on the road to everywhere. âYou realize on the first maybe three or four days that youâre really travelling now,â says Benny. âThat youâre not on vacation now and that you donât go back in two or three weeks,â continues Tanja.In the beginning they were intent on seeing the entire world. Then they visited some places they didnât really like and realized that having enjoyable experiences was more important than crossing countries off a list, so they modified their plan. Now, they only go where they want to go and see what they want to see. Thatâs what brought them to Newfoundland and Labrador - they wanted to see icebergs and whales. They had no preconceived notion of exactly what they would find, since they donât look at travel guides when visiting a place. Itâs all part of their plan to experience each new adventure with no expectations. It helps add to the wonder and âwow factorâ of each new experience, says Benny. Once on the island, they heard there were icebergs in Langdonâs Cove, Green Bay. So they headed there, and they were not disappointed.Had they seen a great big iceberg in a tourism guide, then in real life only seen a small berg, they would have been disappointed, explains Benny. And had they gone to somewhere like Twillingate - the default place tourists are told to go for iceberg sightings - they would have been surrounded by crowdsof people. They prefer to experience things in as natural and authentic a state as possible, which is exactly what happened in Langdonâs Cove, where they met a local who took them capelin fishing and gave them a feed of the little fish. Then, just down the road, they saw a whale. Newfoundland bucket list complete. But they still wanted to see the eastern part of the province, so on they ventured, finding their way to St. Vincentâs on the southern Avalon, where they stood on the beach and watched families of humpback whales just metres from the shore. After completing the Irish Loop, they found themselves in St. Johnâs. On the day that started in Bowring Park, their plan was to fill the vanâs water tanks, pick up some groceries and do some online surfing and blog updating. Maybe they would go see Cape Spearâs lighthouse, but then again, maybe not. After all, thatâs how they roll.Beyond St. Johnâs, they planned to head west to hike the trails and see the fjords in Gros Morne National Park before heading across the strait to Labrador. After driving across Labrador into Quebec, theyâll head south through the Eastern United States and spend the winter in Mexico, then next spring and summer make their way toward Alaska, because they havenât been there yet, says Tanja. But things could change. They never makedefinite plans to be across a border because then they may find themselves rushing to make a deadline for a visa or a permit, which would take all the enjoyment out of their journey. So while they have a big picture idea of where theyâd like to go, the actual plan always remains relatively short-term and open to change. âWeâre not sure yet,â says Benny of their future travel plans. âWe go the Labrador highway to Quebec,â he repeats, as if to drive home the point that anything beyond that doesnât matter yet. For these two, life really is an adventure free of expectation.To follow along on the adventures of Benny and Tanja, visit their blog, www.tour-de-world.com, where youâll also find links to their social media accounts. -by Tobias Romaniuk
Philip Knowling Jr. was born August 10, 1911, in St. Johnâs, NL. He grew up on Monkstown Road, played in Bannerman Park and boxed at the Majestic. He grew up a normal Newfoundland lad, before he became a genuine international spy. During the Second World War, our Philip Knowling was a secret agent in the employ of the British secret service.The year was 1942. With the world hanging in the balance, the British secret service was about to try to tip the scales with Operation Mincemeat. Philip and his colleagues had been hidden for weeks in a submarine off the coast of Spain. The air was tense and stale. The initial excitement of action had given way to the slow scrape of waiting. They needed the perfect moment in the perfect spot to deliver a certain something to a busy stretch of coastline without being seen.Just below the surface, the shipâs clock ground its track. A night of thick velvet black was filling the sky; clouds blotting out the stars and a failing breath of wind set the stage. âGear check!â Commander Foster snapped. It had been routine to make ready every night at sunset. Going through the list of equipment and procedures had become dry and robotic, but tonight Philip felt his heart quicken and his mouth go dry.âKnowling,â the commander said, turning to Philip, âis the package ready?âPhilip looked to the long black bag tightly sealed at his feet. âPackage is ready, Sir.â Let that be the last time I need to say that, please, thought Philip.The black bag at Philipâs feet contained a body. Heâd been told it was a tramp who died on the streets of London (Philip knew better than to question it). The secret service had transformed the tramp into one William Martin, a British Royal Marine courier. Every possible record, ID and detail going back as far as time and ability would allow had been created. If the Nazis had the ability to check the dental records of British citizens they would have found a match. William Martin lived a perfectly full, average British life - except that he never existed. The corpse and mission critical documents had been left in Philipâs care. Every night the body was removed from the salt water tank used to both preserve and condition it and placed into a sealed body bag. The smell wouldnât leave Philipâs nose and the shadow of this body in a fish tank had begun to disquiet his dreams.The MI6 commander continued to tick the boxes. âCoast check?â âClear.â âHorizon check?â âHold, two surface contacts.â âIdentify.â âCivilian fishing boats, Sir.âThe commander looked at the captain. âIf youâd bet your life on that identification, then we hold position.âThe captain looked through the periscope for a long minute. âHold position, lower periscope. All silent,â ordered the captain. The Royal Navy man had had quite enough of these spooks commandeering his boat. Tonight would be the night. Operation Mincemeat was a go!The submarine broke the surface with just enough clearance to open the hatch. Commander Foster scanned the coast, horizon and sky listening for the slightest sounds. They were about to sneak across enemy lines into fascist Spain, a silent ally of Nazi Germany. âMove.âThe seven-person crew had rehearsed every move so often that a small boat was assembled, loaded and launched without a single word. Landing on the beach, all players hit their marks: three to turn the boat, two scouts weapons drawn, and two to deploy âthe package.â Commander Foster and Philip removed the waterlogged corpse from the body bag and laid it out as though it had freshly washed ashore, IDs and personal effects in the proper pockets. An attachÃ© case was chained to the wrist, containing a myriad of documents. Most were benign, except one: a letter to a British officer in Tunisia detailing a secret Allied plan to invade Sardinia and Greece. The body was found the following morning. Authorities in Spain took the bait and turned the body and documents over to their Nazi allies. The Nazis, for their part, took their time to examine every thread exhaustively. In the end, they decided that it was real intelligence and, whatâs more, that the British had no way of knowing about the interception. The Nazis took decisive action, moving tank and infantry divisions from Italy to Greece in order to crush the Allied invasion.The Allies did invade in 1943, just not Greece. They invaded Italy and Sicily instead, catching the Nazis off guard. Italy soon surrendered, even if the Nazi forces did not. Operation Mincemeat may have been the most successful campaign of misinformation carried out by the British secret service. It is not known, for sure, if our Philip Knowling participated in this particular operation, as most records are still classified; however, we are told by author F.G. Adams that âhe had a most exciting and interesting career.â Perhaps one day we will find out just what our secret agent did - a tantalizing thought. This is a reimagining based on real events. Source: St. Johnâs: The Last 100 Years by F.G. Adams, and sources detailing Operation Mincemeat.-by Chad Bennett
For 20 years, Shawn Bath dove for sea urchins, earning a living off the sea the same way he did as a commercial fisherman before the cod moratorium. While searching out the spiny edibles on the sea bottom, he often saw old tires, trash and lost or tossed fishing gear. It bothered him, but he always figured that, sooner or later, the government would initiate a clean-up effort, the same way government employees clean up garbage on dry land. After two decades of waiting, he realized nobody was going to clean up the ocean trash and he couldnât ignore it anymore. In 2018, no longer commercially diving for sea urchins and with some time on his hands, Shawn began diving for something different.âI spent a lifetime making money off the ocean or in the ocean, and my favourite place to be is in the water,â he says. âAfter all these years of seeing the stuff, and seeing nobody doing nothing about it, I guess it just got to me. Somebodyâs got to do it, and thereâs nobody around that got any more motivation or reason to do it than I do. And if I donât do itâ¦ well then, nobodyâs going to do it.âThat initial act turned into a regular thing, and Shawn soon formed the Clean Harbours Initiative, with the goal of removing 100,000 tires and tons of garbage from harbour bottoms around the island. Though heâs originally from Twillingate, Shawn did his first clean-up in his current hometown of Bay Roberts.âWhen I started doing it, I felt ridiculous,â he says. âHere was me from Twillingate over in Bay Roberts cleaning up the mess that came off some local fish plant and some local longliners and stuff. Down here in water, chin in water, cutting all this stuff off, working like a dog, free labour, not gettingâ paid for nothinâ, just trying to clean it up.âThat first clean-up was to remove a mass of plastic and rope that had gathered around the wharf. Not needing his full scuba kit, he went into the water in just his dry suit and with a large steak knife. After hours of hacking away at ropes and plastic, he freed it from the wharf. It weighed, Shawn estimates, about 1,000 pounds, so he enlisted the help of a local fishplant forklift operator to get the pile onto the wharf. A half-ton of garbage on the wharf is a photo-worthy moment, and Shawn used those photos to get people to care about cleaning up the bays. Heâs been posting photos and videos from his various clean-ups on Facebook under his own profile and on the Clean Harbours Initiative page (which has more than 1,300 followers as of press time).People seem to think that because you canât see it, dumping things in the ocean is acceptable, says Shawn, who has found quite a few batteries around wharves that he figures people are throwing overboard when they replace their boat battery. The batteries can be brought to the surface relatively easily in the hands of a diver, but tires require a different approach. One method involves coiling a rope on the wharf, grabbing one end, diving and threading the rope through several tires. At the last tire of the string, he ties a knot. Then, back on land, he attaches the other end of the rope to his truck and slowly hauls the tires out of the water. Itâs a time consuming process with only one person. And thereâs a lot of garbage underwater. He could be doing this full time - thereâs definitely enough work for it to be a full-time job, he figures - but his clean-up efforts arenât generating an income. So Shawn has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money to pay for Clean Harbours Initiative. As of press time, heâs raised $3,394 of his $25,000 goal.Like other social-good projects, the work is worthy and has a benefit to everyone - cleaner oceans mean healthier oceans - but there isnât an obvious way to monetize it. Towns donât want to pay for harbour clean-ups. Theyâre even reluctant to waive dump fees for his trash drop-offs. Some towns, including Twillingate, have contributed with hauling trash or providing money for supplies. This clean-up effort is the sort of thing Shawn figures would make a great government program, and heâs been working with various government branches to raise awareness and funding. Heâs had some success with government help in starting educational programs, but is still working on getting funding for equipment and expenses. With more funds, heâd be able to remove more trash, as well as ghost nets and other abandoned fishing gear, from the water.The problem of ghost nets goes beyond trash. Sitting at the bottom of the ocean, unattached to anything, these nets are still catching groundfish, flatfish, lobsters and even seals. Removing these ghost nets would go a long way to improving the marine ecosystem, and it could be done by dragging the ocean with modified fishing boats, says Shawn.âMy goal is to bring enough attention to this problem so we can get government contracts on the go for the dive teams that are in the province, and for anybody else that wants to get involved,â says Shawn.Check out Shawnâs work on the Clean Harbours Initiative Facebook page. If you want to support his efforts, head to âStop the Forever Fishingâ on GoFundMe.com.