Lori McCarthy describes herself as an educator, a storyteller, and a cultural food ambassador. A fiercely proud resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and of Irish and English heritage, she has been dedicated to the culinary arts for as long as she can remember.
“I have spent years in the food world,” she shares with Celtic Life International via email. “I went to work in the kitchen of a private country club when I was 15. After that, I worked in the tourism sector in the summers, and in kitchens each fall and winter. I left the restaurants 12 years ago to open a personal chef business and, later, my Culinary Excursion company, Cod Sounds.”
Cod Sounds isn’t just a tour, notes McCarthy. Instead, she and her small but dedicated team provide a unique culinary education through workshops, online blog posts, and bespoke food experiences.
“Intimate experiences create the environment to have real conversations with people. Guests will open-up more and ask questions about life here and the culture here that they may not have the opportunity to discuss in larger groups and tours. I get to cook whatever I want and share the stories of this place – the food and culture that is so deeply rooted in who we are. When people leave, they have a better understanding of why our foods are so important, how they came to be, and how we need to take care of the land, resources, and stories so that they are here for future generations.”
McCarthy recently released her first book, Food, Culture, Place: Stories, Traditions and Recipes of Newfoundland. The work was inspired by her time growing up on The Rock.
“It is a lifetime of collected historical photographs. We really wanted to showcase how important harvesting wild food and eating together to eat are to our culture. Our food tells the story of who we are, and we wanted to explore the foods of this place a little deeper – creating the recipes came naturally.”
In addition to recipes, Food, Culture, Place also showcases storytelling.
“It was important to give context to the photographs and the recipes to deepen the cultural understanding of food and this place. We also thought it would be neat to capture the three elements – food, culture, and place. I have never seen a book really do this in the way that we have.”
The new tome has already received great response; Timothy Charles, lead Chef at the province’s renowned Fogo Island Inn said “The simple joy and honestly of this book lends a clear and practiced voice to a much-needed conversation – one regarding the global importance of ruralness and the cultures that exist and evolve there.”
McCarthy is currently organizing an upcoming book tour.
“We are planning a series of dinners to promote the book – a cross-island book tour collaborating with establishments such as local breweries, restaurants and inns.”
She says that the conversation around sustainable food is important, but notes it is also incredibly complex.
“Sustainable eating is a loaded topic. I have difficulty with the word sustainable and living on an island where more than 80 per cent of our food is imported and we have a four-month growing season. We try to preserve foods that are on the island as much as we can, passing it on in the book through our recipes, and we try to engage people in harvesting and preservation skills that can be passed on to generations of new mindsets that are growing and evolving. These things take time, but I am very hopeful.”
More pertinently, perhaps, both the book, and her vocation, aim to share the culture of her homeland with the rest of the world.
“As we are still living so closely as communities, like the generations of our families before us, it means that we can continue to pass on culture, skills, and old stories and traditions every chance we get. We are always eager to share what we have, be it food, stories, last year’s bottled moose, or a package of salt fish. So much of what we do – all the foods we harvest and preserve – is simply so that we can give it away to anyone that comes by to visit, even a perfect stranger.”
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