Screech if you love Newfoundland!

by Sarah on November 14, 2011

newfoundland, gros morne national park

Its human nature, to covet what you do not have. I wanted cold, wet and foggy. Newfoundland became a logical summer destination. The weather stinks. “Out of 70 days of summer, we had only 60 days of sunshine. Will the temperatures rise above 20°C?” lamented the regional radio broadcaster to their ten listeners.  This was the question that followed us throughout the trip (that and how to get rid of those raccoon pests). It might be an unlikely dream vacation, but for me it was escapism at its best.

Perhaps one day I will retire in a remote fishing village but meanwhile I want to be properly screeched in….Let me start from the beginning.


We had just arrived at Cow’s Head campground in Gros Morne National Park on the Western Coast. As the second in command, it was my job to jump out of our cozy home on wheels into the drizzle and guide the driver into the parking space. In reality, I looked more like an aerobics instructor than a NASCAR flagman. Our neighbors, standing around a campfire, unfazed by the weather, witnessed the whole episode with amusement. “What happened to your RV?” they remarked when they noticed the bashed in front, followed by a convivial “You guys want a drink?”

Newfoundland picnic

That’s the other reason to visit Newfoundland. The people are friendly. Not polite, but “here’s a beer” friendly, of a variety I didn’t even know existed outside of clichés. We were also exceptionally lucky, having rolled into deep fry night and a veritable feast. Our welcoming committee, proud Newfies from Corner Brook, possessed a level of hospitality often attributed to Bedouins nomads. Instead of sage tea, they offered crackers with home cured Atlantic salmon and capers, fried dough with molasses and mounds of fried chicken.

Newfoundland skies

As the evening turned from gray to black, our knowledge of Canada’s eastern most Province was no longer limited to a few travel guides. We now knew Newfoundland’s favorite band, Buddy Whatshisname and the other fellas (“Get the serious stuff”, we were told), it’s most famous brew, Quidi Vidi from St. John and how to become an honorable Newfie.

“We need to screech you in!” we were told with enthusiasm “you’re not a real Newfie until you do!” except the vital ingredient, Jamaican Rum, was not on hand.


The following day we changed our itinerary. We headed to Corner Brook to find a liquor store at 9 am in the morning and skipped the visit to James Cook National Historic Site (priorities, after all). It was there I realized that becoming an honorary Newfie is much more complicated than I ever imagined, requiring the following lengthy procedures:

  1. First and foremost, you are required to drink an ample amount of Newfoundland Screech rum (according to the certificate, a bountiful taste of Newfoundland’s finest rum).
  2. You must kiss a cod fish (dead but not cooked, definitely not salted).
  3. You must wear a sou’ wester hat (named after the south westerly winds), similar to Paddington bear’s favorite, rain or shine.
  4. You must eat a piece of baloney.
  5. You must kiss a puffin. Even Newfies realize the difficultly in this endeavor and a picture of a puffin is enough.
  6. After drinking the ample amount of rum, you are required to read a tongue twister while wearing the sou’ wester hat (extra points for standing on one leg).
  7. There must be an official Newfoundland Screecher committee to validate and sign the papers.
iceberg, newfoundland

According to the fellows in the liquor store, the cashier and the two waiting on line, this isn’t a tourist gimmick but a tradition that is done on weddings and anytime the opportunity presents itself.

So how did Screech get its name? According to one story, Newfoundland’s rum was as hardy as the fishermen who drank it. During World War II, one uninitiated American serviceman stationed on the island was invited for an after dinner drink. Without hesitating he downed the liquor in one gulp, turned red in the face and let out a blood curdling howl. As the legend goes, an old American sergeant was the first to run to the poor man’s assistance and demanded to know “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”

A taciturn Newfie responded, “The screech? Tis the rum, me son”

Others believe the name is derived from the shriek of the wind in the schooner’s riggings as it heads home to Newfoundland or the cry of the Arctic terns flying overhead. Through generations of trade, Jamaican rum has become Newfoundland national drink, while salt water cod, so abundant off the rocky banks has become a staple on the Caribbean island.

I never did get screeched in. I managed to buy a bottle of Screech Rum, a “Made in China” sou’ wester hat that looks more like a bonnet and a handful of unsigned certificates. I boarded the ferry back to the mainland, wondering when I’d ever be back.

Meanwhile, sitting on a shelf in the suburbs of Tel Aviv I have a bottle of Screech Rum waiting to be opened.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael November 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Wow Sarah!
What a beautiful post. It really brought tears to my eyes. I miss Canada so much.
Anyway, would love to screech with you guys any day but with a bottle of proper good quality rum.
Have a fantastic day.


Rosa November 15, 2011 at 12:04 am

A gorgeous place! So wild and beautiful. Thanks for sharing.




Blanche November 15, 2011 at 2:03 am

Hi Sarah! That was a pleasure to read. You’re right – it IS human nature to covet what you do not have. I miss the foggy mornings in NY like you photographed here. But it’s nice to know we can have a bit of that and a bit of Israel and a bit of every piece of life on this planet that we admire. It’s only a plane ride away, after all!

Once the rain gets things growing around here, you’ll have to come foraging for wild plants on the meshek!


Sarah November 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

Thanks Blanche! I knew you would understand about the fog :-).


Silvia November 15, 2011 at 9:29 am

Enjoyed reading this very much!


Victoria Challalncin November 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Wild and beautiful–you make me want to visit Newfoundland. Thanks for a lovely post.


usha November 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Beautiful Newfoundland. My very first introduction to this magical land was at school….in my geography book.
Lovely post.


Kendall Wigoda November 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

Sarah, a friend of yours in Ra’anana sent me this post. I grew up on the east coast of Canada and I must say I am impressed with how well you described the Newfies. I have been many places in my life and I have never met anyone quite like a Newf…. even in Israel. Beautiful post.


Sarah November 17, 2011 at 10:51 am

Kendall, Newfies have a small town personality without the competition that is sometimes found in more populated places. They leave their cars unlocked when they go shopping! I would love to go back!


Katherine Martinelli November 17, 2011 at 2:17 am

Such gorgeous photos Sarah! I have never been to Newfoundland, but this definitely makes me want to go!


Zahavah November 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

You didn’t drink the Screech rum???? Amazing pictures!


Zora December 8, 2011 at 8:28 am

I got screeched in by a Newfie friend in NYC, though now I see I got the sissy version (though he did give us all proper certificates, and the rum was real enough!). I’ve always wanted to go up there–thanks for the added evidence it’s a good idea!

My Newfie friend, btw, swears by Annie Proulx. Have you read The Shipping News? I still haven’t. But I did read the historical novel The Colony of Broken Dreams, which was really fascinating.


Sarah December 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

Lucky you! Of course its a good idea! I did read The Shipping News, excellent book, all of her books are (That Old Ace in the Hole is also a must for food lovers). Have not read The Colony of Broken Dreams, will look that up.


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