My Cod Piece from the Waterfront

So does the fisher look Icelandic? How about the cod?


I stop at the meat and fish counter, seeing Icelandic Cod for sale. I  wonder what makes this cod Icelandic? Maybe somebody behind the counter can tell me what makes this Cod Icelandic. Now this is a large chain grocery store it’s true, but it’s in Gimli, once known as New Iceland….Partly I wanted to know how fresh the fresh cod really were…did Icelanders catch them near Iceland?  Where they caught in international waters, taken back to Iceland then flown directly to Gimli? …Maybe only the company that sold them was Icelandic, or maybe the fish or the hooks were designed in Iceland but really came from China?

The first person I encountered behind the fish display, was a youngster just starting out …That is another thing I grant small towns, it seems you can still start working after high school or college without work being hamburger flipping…though there is always now the chance to become a sandwich artist…but they seem always to have a “help wanted” sign in the window.Many young people leave, but I am not surprised about how many people say “I have lived here all my life.'”

I wouldn’t send them a happiness survey but they make their way without measuring out their lives according to international cosmopolitan standards, and seem the better for it. I’ll come back to this if I remember. So I asked the young man lurking behind the fish if he knew what made these cod fillets Icelandic. He didn’t know. I mostly forgave him but perplexed him further by asking him to re-wrap a fine but small and inexpensive pork roast as I hold to the notion butcher paper is better for freezing red meat…There was no lamb. …

Today I went back to ask the butcher… the older regular butcher, and I stress butcher, if he knew what made the cod Icelandic…I have been eating this cod as often as once a week. …I feel slightly traitorous because the grocery’s pickerel is caught in Lake Winnipeg and processed in Manitoba…I’ll rant about the dismal first year of privatization of the commercial fishery another time…but pickerel usually more expensive than the cod…If the butcher could tell me that Icelandic cod was Icelandic enough not to worry about feeling bad for not eating pickerel in Gimli…after all…I like to do my part for the local economy…

…No he said. Could you look into it for me? I asked, finding it hard to believe there’s no-one in-the chain store’s meat section, did I mention staffed by butchers, who know their fish. Maybe someone starting out could become a fishmonger…mongering as their goal and life’s work… who knew fish… I suspect if the butcher was Icelandic he would know, but maybe all this heritage stuff is just for the tourists, the seasonal as opposed to seasoned, many with Brennevin’s …(now that’s the real Icelandic stuff) …schnapps, harder to get even than the number 1 whiskey, Northern Harvest Crown Royal brewed here often stinking to high heaven, which would be fine but then the distillate is sent to away to be educated into bottles before we get a chance to see it often wearing its fancy robes…

Truth be known I’ve given up drinking, except for water (even if we know what fish do in it) with my cod of increasingly suspect origins…lots of green beans…I have developed a taste for them, especially with fish, even if I know not its provenance. Now there’s a $25 word for you! …One most of us have learned from the Antiques Road Show.

I did ask around town about the cod and why it was cheaper than pickerel. Well you don’t buy pickerel from the grocery store, you buy direct from the fishers! …Ok another local fact I need to learn and follow up. The only Gimli Fish outlet I’ve seen is in Winnipeg. Think a little harder man…ok Smith’s on Highway Nine…and I think I’ve seen another sign, and they do sell them frozen at Kris’s Fish n Chips. Thing is I’m getting really comfortable here in Waterfront Centre, on the fifth floor, the tallest building in town. Delivery is easy.

I ran into Pascoe at the foot of the elevator, he was waiting for a ride, sitting in his wheelchair looking sharp in a crisp Ralph Lauren shirt. I envy his head of hair. I told him I had asked about the cod at my book club but no-one really had an answer. He suggested some local retailers found that the tag “Icelandic” on products increased sales, especially to tourists in the summer…that was what I was thinking, I said.

…But I talked to my sister yesterday living on the Sunshine Coast, about where she had gone for her birthday dinner… she said to a really nice new swish restaurant in Sechelt. Oh, what did you order? Well I was tempted by the “Icelandic Cod” that led the entrees at the top of the menu, but that seemed like a long way for a piece of fish especially when we can eat as much local seafood as we like. I had lamb since we don’t eat it much at home… Not spectacular. But the sides were nicely presented and the dessert was good.

So Wray, what I did finally is what I imagined the butchers would do; I looked it up on the Internet…

I entered “Icelandic Cod” in the search engine. I found some relatively good news and learned something. The store here sells fresh cod fillets usually wild hook and line caught in the “deep, cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean” surrounding Iceland. Iceland also markets to America’s East Coast and is served at most Cape Cod restaurants. Wray was trying to get a word on edh

I just kept on going as I do…What’s more there were three unheralded Cod wars between Iceland and Britain in the 70s. Britain conceded the 200-mile protected by Icelandic gunboats in 1976. The latter day Vikings didn’t fire a shot, but did cut some British fisher nets, which couldn’t be retrieved, a significant financial loss because of the lost fish, and the expense of replacing the nets, and turned back…I could have told you that, said Wray, but interesting about it being sold as far away as the West Coast and at Cape Cod for heaven’s sake! …Oh, here’s my ride, he said wheeling away. And mine I said as the elevator opened and I walked in. Walking is a good thing. More about that another time.

It’s Victor Enns coming to you from the Waterfront.



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