Salt Fish and Molasses: Unsettling the Palate in the Spaces Between Two Continents

Gina Snooks, Sonja Boon
2017 European journal of life writing  
Food stories play an integral role in the ways that we imagine ourselves, both intimately in the context of home and family, and politically, in the context of the nation-state. But while food is intricately woven into the politics of place, it also crosses boundaries, gaining new meanings in the process. In this paper, we consider the transnational food histories that link the geographically distant but colonially-linked regions of Newfoundland and Suriname. Our collaborative autoethnographic
more » ... e autoethnographic inquiry examines the role that salt fish and molasses have played in our respective bodily memories and experiences. Central to our inquiry is a single question: What happens when salt fish-Newfoundland's greatest export product-meets molasses, the sticky treacly by-product of the colonial Caribbean's sugar cane refining process; that is, what happens when our palates meet? Engaging a decolonial lens, our collaborative work suggests the necessity of moving beyond culinary nostalgia towards the complexity of an 'unsettled palate' that acknowledges the legacies of our shared transnational histories and the ongoing effects of colonialism and slavery. In the process, we critically reflect upon the ways in which we are each implicated in these histories, albeit in different ways. PROLOGUE Along the east coast of what is now known as Canada, the land and sea hold the stories of my ancestors -tales about where I come from and, dare I say, to whom I belong. Here my footprints trace the same rugged shorelines and rocky beaches upon which my ancestors have walked for centuries; here my footsteps follow those of my grandmothers and their mothers and their mothers before them. As I trace the footsteps of my ancestors, both theoretically and in a material sense, it occurs to me that my own footsteps perform a kind of embodied testimony; my footprints are a testament to our shared stories. Perhaps my Indigenous ancestors knew this land as K'taqmkuk, a Mi'kmaq word that translates into English as 'the land across the water' (K'Taqmkuk Mi'kmaw). My ancestors who came from Ireland, however, may have known this place as Talamh an Éisc, which translates as land of fish. To the English, though, this island in the North Atlantic Ocean was the New Founde Land. My European ancestors came, I suppose, for the fish, persuaded, I imagine, by sailors' tales of waters so rich with cod fish that baskets could be used to scoop the fish into boats. In truth, I cannot say what drew my ancestors to settle upon this island. What I can say for certain, however, is that for roughly five centuries the island of Newfoundland 1 had been known worldwide for its cod fishing industry and that my own family histories are inextricably entwined within those broader narratives. (Gina)
doi:10.5463/ejlw.6.213 fatcat:zajj4nvjjfcdxeeeltll67f4tq