Designated in 2012 as a Distinctive Cultural Tradition and Practice.
Nominator: Diane Curtis, Jackson’s Arm Heritage Society
Fish and Brewis is a meal consisting of soaked and cooked salt cod and hard bread (brewis). It is thought that the dish was first made on long sea voyages, as all the ingredients have a long shelf life. The meal was described in 1766 as a soup made with a small quantity of salt pork cut into small slices with a good deal of fish and biscuit, boiled for about an hour. In many areas “Fish and Brewis” was eaten due to economic necessity.
While it might have been associated with the realities of a subsistence economy, the meal has come to occupy a special place in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a food-ways tradition that is popular in many regions of the island and each region has added their own flair to the ingredients used and the manner in which it is prepared. In Great Harbour Deep the traditional method of preparing the dish sees participants travel to a suitable outdoor location. Once there a fire is lit and the ingredients placed in a cast iron pot. When the meal is cooked, the pot’s contents are emptied onto a flat rock that acts as the dining table and the participants share a communal meal.
Today fish and brewis has become a meal through which to express one’s attachment to Newfoundland and Labrador. Although similar dishes have been noted throughout the Atlantic region, this Newfoundland food-ways tradition has spread across Canada with many expatriate Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. Likewise the traditional ingredients required for the meal have been exported throughout the country.
Though the way of life that spawned this meal is in decline, the meal itself has remained a constant and has taken on the role of a traditional meal.