Slavery in Newfoundland and Labrador Episode 3: Salt Cod and Lassie Buns


Unearthed: Slavery in Newfoundland and Labrador is a multi-part radio documentary and digital series that examines the bonds of enslaved blacks Im Province. It stars Xaiver Michael Campbell and is produced by CBC’s Heather Barrett, host and producer of Weekend morning. The new episodes will air Fridays on CrossTalk on CBC Radio 1 and will be available as podcasts.


Salt cod and molasses are no stranger to the plates and pallets of many people in Newfoundland and Labrador. But they’re also traditional foods on much warmer Caribbean islands.

The last episode of Earthen explores the complex culinary connections between foods and regions and the collision of classes.

Sonja Boon, Jamaican professor of gender studies at Memorial University, said Newfoundland had a type of dried cod called “Jamaican cod,” which “was not the highest grade.”

“The best marks, the best cups were sent to Europe and the Mediterranean. The worst kind of cod ever arrived on the islands, but somehow we thought it was awesome. It has become a part of the national dish. So from an early age Newfoundland was in my consciousness when it came to our cuisine, ”she said.

“I heard the term ‘refuse the fish’ so the fish which is inferior fish. You wouldn’t be able to sell in the markets in Portugal. That’s the stuff you then threw in the Caribbean. because… slave owners want cheap food so they can feed the slaves. “

Bushra Junaid, left, offers recommended reading selections for each episode of Unearthed, and Memorial University professor Sonja Boon talks about culinary connections to class and identities. (Submitted by The Rooms)

Molasses, sugar and other sweet confectionery

Xaiver Campbell, the series’ contributor and narrator, is in his kitchen baking ginger molasses cookies.

Listen to the full documentary below

15:31Unearthed: Salt cod and Lassie buns

Some favorite Newfoundland and Labrador specialties: salt cod, molasses, rum – have deep connections to the work of black slaves. Xaiver bakes molasses cookies and thinks about the ingredients. 15:31

And he questions the potential dark side of sugary treats.

“Think of all the hands – white and black, Newfoundland and West Indian – joined by fish, rum and molasses. Poor hands, bonded hands, hands that work in dangerous environments. The hands that hoisted cod fillets and salted them without ever touching each other the hands that cut the cane and stirred the vats of molasses, ”Campbell said.

Afua Cooper, a Halifax-based black historian, writer and artist, said it was about being more aware of something that can seem as innocuous as baking.

Campbell talks about the age-old connection of molasses between colonies. (Heather Barrett / CBC)

“So when you use this molasses to bake your cookies, do we think about where it comes from?” What does the situation for sugarcane production in the Caribbean look like now? Who are the people who still grow sugar cane in the Caribbean? How are they paid? ” she said. “We have to think about how this is produced. And there is a terrible story behind the production of this and we should engage in that story.”

We appreciate your feedback on this segment and future segments of Earthen. You can send an email to [email protected]


Every week, Earthen will include Recommended Readings on Blacks in Newfoundland and Labrador and the North Atlantic, by Bushra Junaid.

Born in Montreal, she grew up in St. John’s. With a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, the Junaids were one of the few black families living in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1960s. This experience greatly influenced her work as a visual artist and curator, which included exhibitions at the Eastern Edge Gallery and The Rooms, titled What transports us: Newfoundland and Labrador in the Black Atlantic.

This week’s recommendations are:

  • Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spices, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Mark Aronson and Marina Budhos
  • In the wake: on darkness and being by Christina Sharpe
  • The Black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness by Paul Gilroy

Being black in Canada

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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