Credit: Video taken by the author. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
This might sound peculiar to anyone who isn't from Newfoundland and Labrador, but having a kettle on the stove in one's kitchen is something almost everyone from Newfoundland can recognize and relate to. I'm not talking about an electric kettle- but a classic, stove top iron kettle. It whistles, as well. Although stove top kettles are available in many other places around the world, this type of kettle is synonymous with a Newfie Kitchen. Growing up in Newfoundland, it was always a cultural event in itself to hear a kettle whistle. As the whistling gets louder, the room fills with steam. That's painting a portrait of Newfoundland.
Drinking tea and story telling:
Something to keep in mind, I am not saying other places in the world lack stove top kettles (that would be a strange joke). However, a stove top kettle (much like what is shown in the video above) is something Newfoundlanders potentially recognize from their childhood, possibly at their grandparent's house out around the bay. Personally, whenever I see a stove top kettle like this, I am instantly transported to out-port Newfoundland.
Aside from the issue of drinking tea (Newfoundlanders usually prefer the Tetley brand) the stove top kettle is often associated with story-telling in Newfoundland. If you're a Newfoundlander, ask some of your relatives why "throwing on the kettle" (Newfoundland vernacular) is important with story-telling. For instance, conversations could go something like this:
Martin: George ol' man, have I got a story for you!
George: Go on by. Drop in, I throws the kettle on.
So, why is using the kettle so important? Well, Newfoundland culture relies heavily on hospitality. Although I can't say this for sure, but Newfoundland is likely the only place in the world where you can walk through someone's front door unannounced- without there being consequences. In terms of Newfoundland hospitality, whenever a family or just an individual has friends over, it's an unofficial ritual to provide them with tea and something to eat. Back in the summer of 2020, I met Roy Payne (Newfoundland music icon) while I was working. Interestingly, I didn't realize it was Payne himself until later that day. In 1969 Roy Payne released one of his signature songs, "No Price Tags on the Doors of Newfoundland". You might find yourself asking, what exactly does Payne mean by this? The lyrics to the chorus are as follows:
Raise your glass and drink with me to that Island in the sea
Where friendship is a word they understand
You will never feel alone when you're in a Newfies home
There's no price tags on the doors in Newfoundland (Payne, 1969)
With respect to Payne's work, he's talking about the natural hospitality among Newfoundlanders. Although it has diminished because of COVID-19 restrictions, the concept of Newfoundlanders looking out for each other still exists. Not surprisingly, you do not have to be a Newfoundlander to receive this treatment. In 2018, I witnessed an American family being screeched-in. This ritual has been around for centuries, and it involves those who are not native to Newfoundland becoming honorary Newfoundlanders. Although I will not provide an image of this event in order to protect the family's identity, the following describes the process:
The "screech-in" is an optional ceremony performed on non-Newfoundlanders (known to Newfoundlanders as a "come from away" or "mainlander") involving a shot of screech, a short recitation and the kissing of a cod. It is often performed either in homes or more commonly in town pubs, such as George Street, St. John's. (statement taken from wikipedia.org)
This tradition is more often performed with celebrities whom visit the province, however, the concept of being "screeched in" proves the importance of Newfoundland hospitality. Newfoundlanders are a community within themselves. For the most part, everyone is kind to one another, and everyone is willing to help others. There will always be exceptions, but what makes Newfoundland different from any other place in that regard?
In terms of the "reciting" during a screech-in, this proves to be one of the most interesting parts.
Aside from kissing a plastic cod, honorary Newfoundlanders should make a declaration such as: Yes, I be a Newfoundlander. Thus, that person becomes an honorary Newfoundlander for life. Interestingly, Canadian progressive rock band Protest the Hero produced a song called "The Mist" in 2013. The lyrics tackle the issue of becoming an honorary Newfoundlander, as well as the band's love for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Not surprisingly, drinking tea, talking, and telling stories brings people together in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundlanders possess natural connections, more or less with everyone they meet. This is something we Newfies pride ourselves upon, and I have no doubt this will continue for many centuries to come. Thank you so much for reading, and if you enjoyed this article do not forget to like and share this post.
(c) The Modernist Son, 2020