Our Newfoundland Kitchen

In every Newfoundland kitchen in our community, high on a shelf stood a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Ours was a community of Irish Catholic ancestry. Underneath the glass on our picture, my father recorded, in his own handwriting, the name and birth date as each child was born. It still stands there in that ancestral home today. Hanging on the wall on a series of hooks, were the rosary beads. The rosary was said in every home shortly after the supper was eaten and dishes washed. We, as a family, knelt down on the kitchen floor, and our mother led us in praying the rosary. If a visitor walked in or if we visited some other home during this ritual, the visitor knelt and joined it. The rosary lasted less than half an hour except during Lent when, as we kids dreaded, we had to include the 40 Days Prayer and during school exams, the Prayer to Our Lady of Good Success. I remember one warm summer evening when we knelt to pray, one of my younger sisters was absent. Now, missing the rosary in our house was almost equivalent to a cardinal sin. About halfway through the rosary, we hear my sister coming up the lane to the back door which was open. With every step she was swearing. Left (Jesus), right (Christ), in a rhythmic tone that we all heard loud and clear as she approached the door. For some reason or other, I, to this day do not remember her punishment, but I somehow think she does.

Another mainstay of the Newfoundland kitchen was the daybed. If my father was home, he always had a short nap here after dinner (known as ‘lunch’ today), and in the evenings, he read there. It was also close to the radio on which we listened to CBC. This radio’s battery was kept charged by a ground wire that ran from a wooden windmill that my father had built on the hilltop in the meadow overlooking the house. In the evenings, we listened to the hospital report from the General Hospital in St. John’s and heard the reporter give updates on the patients who lived in all the little isolated places in Newfoundland. When my mother was in the hospital, that was the only way we knew how she was doing, as there were no telephones in our community. I was fascinated when the reporter said that a person was “Hoppin’ around and feeling fine”. Years later, I discovered that the words were “Up and around and feeling fine”. When the reporter spoke about a person that was being discharged to an island off the coast, he would say that a boat should be on the mainland to pick them up at a certain time. He also reported if someone had a baby and if it was a boy or girl, if someone had an operation or about to have one, and if someone had died. We children loved to listen to this report with our parents.

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Shirley Daly Robichaud is a retired nurse living by the sea in Bayport, Nova Scotia. She grew up in St. Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland and still calls it “home”. Her love of the sea is evident by the dory moored in front of her house and the lovely yellow kayak by the shore. An avid reader, she likes to run, snowboard, cycle, kayak, and row.
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    Libby Noseworthy-Boss10 months ago

    I absolutely loved reading this, Shirley, and was sorry when I had finished it. You’ve really captured the essence of Newfoundland here. Growing up “around the bay”…. what wonderful memories. You write beautifully. Hope you are well.
    Libby

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