July 25th, 2011

brewis

brewis
1. a broth, especially of beef and vegetables, sometimes thickened with bread, meal, etc.
2. bread soaked in such a broth, or in meat drippings, milk, or water and butter.

Etymology:  from Old French broez, meat-broth soup

Fish and brewis is a traditional Newfoundland stew composed of codfish and hardtack (hard crackers with a long shelf life; a.k.a. pilot bread, sea biscuits, ANZAC wafers, etc.).  It's commonly topped with scrunchions (small bits of fried pork fat).  Has anyone eaten fish and brewis?  How is it?  Based on the description, this is not high on my list of things to try.

I ran across the word in Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book, a 1908 gem from an area bookstore (sadly, now closed).  The first half of the book (Household Discoveries) dispenses the wisdom of the day for sanitation, child-rearing, stain removal, pest control, and numerous other chores encountered while trying to maintain a tidy house.  Use with caution, though:  the recommended treatment for bedbugs is benzene (which is now known to be a carcinogen).

The second half of the book is the cookbook.  There are fifteen column inches devoted to the retention and maintenance of stale bread, bread scraps from dinner plates, and toast crusts, and another three pages of related recipes. 

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(In the context of the recipe, a "spider" is a long-handled skillet with short legs, popular in and around the 1800s.)