Lori McCarthy has a knack for great storytelling. The Newfoundlander has been greatly influenced by watching her mother bake bread, pick berries and prepare wild foods, and by her father’s skills as a hunter, fisherman and teacher. The purpose of these stories, she says, is to preserve the island’s hunting and foraging practices for future generations.
“Growing up, our food from the garden, the ground and the sea was always so fresh and delicious,” says McCarthy. “I realized later in life why it’s such a privilege to be able to live and eat the way we do.”
Over the years, McCarthy worked in a number of kitchens, including Murray’s Pond Fishing & Country Club, Blue on Water Hotel, Restaurant & Bar and The Reluctant Chef, where she worked alongside owner/chef Tony Butt. She went on to start a personal-chef business, which she closed when she had children. McCarthy also became an important supplier of foraged foods to Raymonds Restaurant in St. John’s. She recalls the day she approached head chef Jeremy Charles with a handful of cattails, who bought the cattails and was eager to see what else she could provide. It was ultimately this shared mission to showcase locally sourced meals that led to McCarthy’s entrepreneurial ventures: Cod Sounds, which has since closed its operations, and Food, Culture, Place.
From 2010 until the onset of the pandemic, Cod Sounds offered guided workshops and tours of Newfoundland’s woods and beaches to teach people about foraging, cooking and curing wild game, and investigating wild edibles. McCarthy provided thin slices of warmed scallops, grilled strips of moose, pickled beets, wild berries and more for her attendees to try.
“The purpose of Cod Sounds was to take people out to explore the land and explain why these foods are so important to us through stories,” says McCarthy. “We’d go to the beach, pick a bunch of food and I’d cook five or six small plates over a fire. It wasn’t about the fanciness of the meal; it was about creating a shared understanding of the landscape.”
Inspired to dive deeper, McCarthy and Marsha Tulk published Food, Culture, Place: Stories, traditions and recipes of Newfoundland. Shortly after, McCarthy launched a company under the same name.
Now, McCarthy runs a thoughtfully curated cultural food residency, where individuals, couples or families can spend quality one-on-one time with McCarthy for either three or six days. An application must be submitted to clarify interest in specific skills and techniques, such as harvesting, pickling, brining, bottling or butchering. Only 12 applicants are accepted into the residency each year and typically spend six hours a day with the chef, hunter and forager. Additionally, accepted applicants can either stay on the company’s property, equipped with camping facilities and bunkies, or find their own accommodation.
“I want to go deeper into the food and spend more time with people,” says McCarthy. “We’ll forage, light fires, pickle, preserve and eat along the way. I like to bring in other people too. We can spend one day baking bread with my mom and another day with a fisherman, who can teach guests how to salt a fish. We’re diving deeper into the people, the place, the food and the culture. I want my guests to get exactly what they came for, so it’s important for me to understand what they’re searching for in the application process.”
McCarthy is excited about the future and her plans to expand the cultural food residency property. “My personal and professional lives are intertwined,” she says. “My work is so rewarding and it has filled my life bucket. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. What matters is that I’m spending time with people who are doing things that are important to them and me.”
By Nicole Di Tomasso