How salt cod from the waters of N.L. created a holiday connection in Mexico City

·2 min read
Fisherman Kevin Toope salts a catch of cod. He puts together a 10-pound package of salt cod for the the Trinity Historical Society auction every year. (Submitted by Kevin Toope - image credit)
Fisherman Kevin Toope salts a catch of cod. He puts together a 10-pound package of salt cod for the the Trinity Historical Society auction every year. (Submitted by Kevin Toope - image credit)
Submitted by Kevin Toope
Submitted by Kevin Toope

The 10-pound package of salt cod is always the most popular item at the Trinity Historical Society Auction, usually hand delivered by fisherman Kevin Toope.

But this year is different, with the cod travelling farther than it ever has before.

Toope and a group of fishermen catch the cod off Trinity Bay during the recreational fishery, with 10 pounds put aside every year to feature in the auction that helps preserve and promote the town's historic sites.

"It normally goes to local people or somewhere around St. John's where there's bidding on it, and it usually goes for a fair price," Toope told CBC Radio's Weekend AM in a recent interview.

"So when they had the online auction ... we expected it to go locally, but of course it was bought out of province."

Fernand Saurette of Winnipeg heard about the auction from a Weekend AM interview weeks earlier. Once things got underway, Saurette put down a $160 bid and watched the auction intently.

"I waited two days, and nobody bid any higher. And I was happy to be the recipient," Saurette said.

After figuring out the logistics of shipping salted cod by mail, Saurette brought it to its final destination — Mexico City.

Submitted by Fernand Saurette
Submitted by Fernand Saurette

Saurette, whose wife is originally from Mexico City, used the cod to create Bacalao, a fish stew his family makes every Christmas. With tomato sauce, capers, olives and chiles largos, he says the Newfoundland salt cod takes the dish to the next level.

"Usually we make bacalao in Mexico as well, and the salt cod they sell here is from Norway," he said.

"It's OK, but you have to be careful cause there's a lot of bones in it. Whereas yours is terrific … I'm sure it will go very well."

Submitted by Fernand Saurette
Submitted by Fernand Saurette

For Toope, who also includes salt cod in his yearly Christmas meal, the fish ending up in Mexico feels like a different kind of tradition, stretching back to times in which fish from Newfoundland's waters would end up on tables all over the world.

"The traditional salt cod was caught here, but a lot of it was exported, went to Portugal and Spain and down south as well. So I guess this is like a continuation of that process," he said.

Saurette said he hopes to visit the province with his wife in the near future to pick up some salt cod recipes for next year's auction.

"We're going to celebrate Christmas with the family and with good food," he said.

"I'll have to bid for next year's cod as well."

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