Rum Ragged

Andrew

‘Rum Ragged’

If you think politics and religion are subjects that should never be discussed in public – you might want to throw “rum in the mix” when you’re visiting Newfoundland.

 

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“… take their rum very seriously…”

Newfoundlanders take their rum very seriously, even forgoing the best kind of a soiree just because the host didn’t offer their favorite brand at the bar. “No Lamb’s? What kind of a high-class joint is this supposed to be? Probably trying to pass Coke off for Pepsi too? Let’s get clear of this as quick as we can!”

Rum has been a dietary staple on this island, from the very moment sugar cane plantations started operations in the Caribbean during the 17th century. Newfoundland’s salted cod fish was an affordable, nutritious, versatile, and tasty source of protein that could be prepared in many varieties, to suit any cultural taste. It was a welcome staple for plantation workers in the south, and a favorite for their owners who could make inexpensive, “fair trades”, in return for their rum and molasses. There’s good reason why Newfoundland celebrates a “Screech In” rum ceremony, and the Jamaican’s national dish is “Ackee and Cod Fish”

 

ackee n fish 1

“… Jamaica’s National Dish…”

Available in such abundance, we used rum for everything. It sweetens desserts. It pairs well with all varieties of wild game. Rum is often prescribed for its many medicinal qualities, mostly pertaining to the mind and soul. Rum can restore warmth, drive ‘the hag‘ to hell, and still makes for a wonderful toast at any celebration.

We have a taste for it and therefore judge our rum on its substance, and a heavy pour. We love the dark sugars, rich hues and gooey textures of a molasses base. We embrace the flavour and take pride in our tolerance for the stuff. There’s not much use trying to sell white rum in Newfoundland; “Bloody brook water!”

 

Screech

“… we love the dark sugars …”

My personal lesson in “Rum Etiquette” came at terrible expense and personal embarrassment. We were hosting a corporate retreat at an inn on Newfoundland’s west coast when the CEO’s wife asked why we didn’t offer Bacardi Rum at our bar? Now you never know who might be courting (dating) a liquor rep, so I tried to answer diplomatically, joking about how easy it was to water down a bottle of white rum. But she pushed the issue until I finally confessed. Looking around to ensure no one overheard us, I whispered conspiratorially to the group; “Boy its nasty stuff. Like something you hauled out from under the kitchen sink! Want to be some desperate for a drink before you resorted to that.”

Well, the crowd near died laughing. Far too heartily for my liking, and even worse for my inquisitor, who’s maiden name happened to be ‘Bacardi’ – yes, of “The” Bacardi family.

I felt terrible and began to apologize profusely. But she was having none of that. With pride and confidence, she dismissed me with a wave, laughed freely and announced for all to hear; “No worries, we’ve done quite all right without you!”

Rum away!

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