Ever been Screeched In?

SCREECH IN

Well, I have. I went last night to my first kitchen party since my arrival in Newfoundland 6 weeks ago. I didn’t do to much research on the event, might just as well let it play out. Here is a little information on the ceremonies history, and my experience.

THE EVENT

Newfoundland Screech is used in a non-obligatory ceremony known as the “screech-in”. The “screech-in” is an optional ceremony performed on non-Newfoundlanders (known to Newfoundlanders as a “come from away” or “mainlander”) involving a shot of screech, a short recitation and the kissing of a cod. It is often performed either in homes or more commonly in town pubs, such as George Street, St. John’s. Notable for their screech-in traditions would be Trapper John’s and Christian’s Bar. Screech-ins also take place aboard tourist boat excursions such as the Scademia, which adds to the ceremony a sail through The Narrows into St. John’s harbor.

The general process of a screech-in varies from pub to pub and community to community, though it often begins with the leader of the ceremony introducing themselves and asking those present if they’d like to become a Newfoundlander. The proper response would be a hearty “Yes b’y!” Each participant is asked to introduce themselves and where they come from, often interrupted by commentary by the ceremony leader, jokingly poking fun at their accent or hometown. Each holding their shot of Screech, they are then asked “Are ye a screecher?” or “Is you a Newfoundlander?,” and are taught the proper response: “Indeed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”

A cod fish – or any other fish unsightly enough to suitably replace the cod – is then held up to lip-level of each participant, who then bestows the fish with a kiss. Frozen fish are used most commonly in the screech-ins which take place on George St., though occasionally a fresher specimen, if available, will be used. Some pubs will also award certificates to those who have become an honorary Newfie once the screech-in is complete.

Some screech-in traditions vary in both the order of events as well as the requirements. Some ceremonies require that the screech-ee eat a piece of “Newfie steak” (a slice of baloney) or kiss a rubber puffin’s rear end. Some are also asked to stand in a bucket of salt water throughout the ceremony or that they wear the Sou’wester during the recitation and the drinking of the shot. For group screech-ins, the shots and recitations are generally all done at once. In all cases, only a native Newfoundlander can officiate a “proper” screech-in.

THE BEVERAGE

Newfoundland Screech is a rum sold in Newfoundland with 40% alcohol by volume. The term screech is a colloquial term that has been used to describe almost any cheap, high alcohol spirit, including moonshine. The term is used in the brand name for this mid-priced rum to associate the brand with this tradition.

It is available in liquor stores both in and outside of Newfoundland and is blended and bottled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, after being imported from Jamaica. Unlike its counterparts in other provinces, NLC has retained its bottling business. The spirit is widely available in Canada and is also distributed in New England.

KISS THE COD

Kissing the cod is a tradition that began in and continues to occur in Newfoundland and Labrador. The tradition involves a codfish as well as a type of rum known as Screech. It is traditionally used to welcome newcomers to the island or give them the experience of being a Newfoundlander, some also consider foreigners who’ve been “Screeched In” to be unofficial Newfoundlanders. This can be also referred to as a “Screech-in”. The ceremony may be performed at pubs such as Trapper John’s and Christian’s on George Street, St. John’s,  or a travel guide or local family may perform the ceremony.

Kim Mitchell, going for a soda.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned above, I experienced this last night, Saturday July 10th, 2021. I’m now officially a “NEWFIE”, or Newfoundlander if you prefer. A little info about the area here. http://www.professionalchefsfoodnetwork.org/2021/06/10/newfoundland-cuisine/

I did however, not, indulge in screech…went for a soda instead. I did kiss the fish, not a cod….covid 19 issues…lol. And I did a gig with my sous chef Todd, we both received our honorary certificate of stratification. Cheers, and have a fun Sunday!