Pretty much every culture has a way of maximizing their foods and recycling heretofore inedible scraps of food detritus. And if it’s a fancy restaurant, they’ll give it a posh name and charge dearly for it. How else could one explain veal cheeks? Please do not confuse this with cod cheeks; the concept is the same, the cost is not.
This leads me to the ubiquitous Newfoundland delicacy know as the scrunchion. These are small pieces of pork fatback, that might normally be tossed away, but are fried until rendered and crispy. They’re often used as a flavoring or even a condiment over other foods such as fish or potatoes or the local favorite fish and brewis. For those out there with a theological or Quebecois bent, they are often called orielles de Christ or Christ ears. I’m not certain I want to know why.
And this, at my first lunch in Newfoundland, was when I was introduced to scrunchions. I was meeting for the first time the photographer who I had befriended by phone the year before when doing my research. I visited his studio and what I thought would be a cordial introduction turned into a 3.5 hour lunch and discussion. We photographers can talk! What a genuinely nice guy and a really good photographer. We went across the street to a local pub to have lunch. And there was my first encounter with scrunchions. They were sprinkled over my fish and chips. The F&C: good. Scrunchions: like fine scotch – an acquired taste. They were different. And that’s all I’m going to say on that at this time.
My new acquaintance was soon to become my new friend. His help and guidance was invaluable. I might still be up there now driving around, dodging moose, looking for who knows what (and I’m not saying that’s really a bad thing up there) if not for his direction. His wife was just plain charming. We got on so well, we met for drinks later that evening. I was experiencing the unbelievable but natural hospitality of Newfoundlanders. This was going to be great.