Jiggs’ dinner is a family favourite during the holidays, and this year, an international student from Colombia got her first taste of the traditional meal.
Droplets of steam roll down the kitchen windows as a large pot of vegetables and salt meat boil on the stove. In the oven, a stuffed turkey is roasting. At the table, 12-year-old Maria Paz Bohorquez waits patiently for her first taste of one of Newfoundland’s most popular meals.
She came to Canada as part of an exchange program with 31 other students, and a number of teachers from Colombia. While she was excited to see new places and try new activities, she was equally as excited to try new foods.
Maria has tried some of the most common ones such as toutons, poutine, and cold plates, but as of Thanksgiving, traditional Jiggs’ dinner has also been added to the list.
A taste of tradition
Maria was joined by her teacher, Paula Nunez Ortiz, for Thanksgiving dinner with Maria’s host family, the Kings, in Pouch Cove. It was her second time trying the meal, but it was Maria’s first.
Ortiz was eager to share in the new experience with one of her students.
“I’m just expecting her reaction all the time,” said Ortiz. “Like, how will she feel with some of the tastes of the dinner? So it was really, really exciting for me.”
The anticipation for the meal continued to grow as the smells wafted through the King’s home. Despite not knowing what to expect, Maria’s hopes were high given that she liked everything she tried up to that point.
“I think it’s going to be like, well, I’m not really sure,” said Maria. “But I think that it’s going to be so, so delicious.”
When dinner was finally ready, Maria got her plate and followed the line down the counter to take up her food in true Newfoundland serve-yourself style.
The fresh garden veggies surround a large plate where the turkey sits. Maria is most excited to try the meat, despite having tried turkey before.
Thanksgiving is not a celebrated holiday in Colombia. Their day for turkey, if they choose to have it, is Christmas Eve, but the preparation and serving of the dish is wildly different from how it is in Newfoundland.
“We have it in a slice, so we don’t cut it ourselves,” said Maria.
“We have the slices in the market, but we don’t cook (the whole) turkey,” said Ortiz.
To see the whole bird, plated, stuffed, and carved, was something Maria and Ortiz had never seen until coming to Newfoundland.
Karen King, Maria’s host and Thanksgiving cook, thought her reactions were charming.
“I just cooked dinner the way I normally cooked dinner,” said King.
“She had never seen a turkey before, but she seemed to enjoy the whole process.”
Maria and Ortiz loaded their plates with veggies, the carved turkey and stuffing, before coating it all in a blanket of rich gravy.
The meal didn’t last long. Maria’s plate was emptied in minutes.
“It was so delicious,” said Maria. “I love it.”
Abby Butler is a student journalist studying at the College of the North Atlantic. A lover of photography from a young age, she aims to tell her stories as much through photos as she does through writing.