Foraging for Some of the Best Foods on Earth in Avondale, Newfoundland
By Max Hartshorne
We were at the end of our weeklong vacation in the southern part of Newfoundland and Labrador, but we had one more special day in store, and we got up early to get ready.
We’d be driving west from the capital St. John’s, to Avondale, and we weren’t really sure of what we’d find there.
Some times when we travel, that makes it all the more fun, like waiting for a movie to start that you don’t know anything about.
Cod Sounds Headquarters in Avondale NL
We had a bit of a hard time finding the remote cabin next to an inlet that Lori McCarthy uses as her company’s base of operations. We found it and were soon strolling a dock toward a beach. A beach full of food!
Cod Sounds offers a unique slate of activities for people interested in foraging food and learning about the bounty that can be found right next to any ocean.
Foraging for Wild Edibles
Since the mid-2010s, Cod Sounds has offered workshops and expeditions devoted to the art of foraging, cooking and curing wild game, and smoking and finding wild edibles.
In this remote corner of the world, we were impressed with how many tasty edible plants Lori showed us that came right out of the tidal flats and rocks beside the ocean.
Our morning visit started with a walk along the slippery rocks by the shore, where my partner Mary promptly slipped and fell on the sand. Be careful out here!
Lori shared her story with us as we walked along the banks of the water in Avondale. She now has a roster of chefs, foragers, wilderness guides, and a woodcarver who shapes wooden spoons for guests in one of many different workshops Cod Sounds presents throughout the year.
First, she is very proud to be a wild chef, forager, hunter, educator, and mostly, a Newfoundlander.
One of her jobs is as a “Taste of Place” guide for Adventure Canada where she takes guests on expeditions to find the foods she cooks with.
Mom and Dad
Her father is a hunter and so is she, and her mother works with her at Cod Sounds, as well as being her inspiration for baking and preserving wild game and berries.
Lori’s freezer is full of rabbit, moose, venison and other animals she and her family have hunted.
Lori told a book reviewer about the kinds of things she finds by the sea in her part of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I went from knowing maybe a handful of plants to knowing well over one hundred wild, local, edible plants,” she said. “It began with seashore stuff, like oyster plant, goose tongue, lamb’s quarters, sea rocket, Scotch lovage.
“From there I moved into the woods and into the meadows and started finding things like corn lily, spruce tips, raspberry leaves, and wild hops. Then I started working on pickling things and grinding tamarack into salts and sugars so you can get that freshness in the winter.” She said that when she heard about Scandinavia’s trend toward using these foraged ingredients, she thought “We have that too!”
Too Many Moose
She said that in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, there are many, many moose and a hunt every year helps keep many local freezers full. “The moose destroy the trees in the park, so it’s important to have the hunt to cull the large herd,” she said as we enjoyed some perfectly cooked moose with local berries.
Lori told us about growing up with her grandfather in this part of Newfoundland. “He told us that he used to eat lobster but he was embarrassed to eat them and he’d have to hide the shells from his friends. Only poor people ate lobster back then,” she said.
Moving Back Home
Lori echoed what many other Newfoundlanders told us during our visit. Many of her friends who moved away for college or for other jobs have recently been returning to live on the island, especially around Bonavista. That bodes well for this wonderful part of eastern Canada.
Lori works with one of the most famous and remote restaurants in the world, the acclaimed Fogo Island Inn, near Gander across the channel on the southern part of the large province.
This “island off an Island” features her foraging expeditions as part of the regular guest’s program. The location is barren, but the accommodations and cuisine are totally top rated. McCarthy spends a lot of time on Fogo Island taking staff and guests on foraging trips.
McCarthy also helps supply foraged foods to the most expensive and fancy restaurant in Newfoundland, and probably all of Canada–Raymond’s Restaurant.
She’s helped the chef source the ultra-precious foodstuffs that grace the meticulous plates at this high-end culinary temple.
When tourists return to Newfoundland again, they’ll be eager to connect with Lori’s uncanny knowledge of the ocean and to her local Newfoundland terroir.
Lori is an unabashed outdoorsman. She is a good shot with a shotgun, and she knows how to clean, gut and butcher large animals like moose and deer, along with any fish you can pull out of the teeming local waters here.
Find out more about foraging expeditions with Cod Sounds in Avondale, NL