SCOFF Video 1/8: Leo Hearn, Cod

We want to get every kid we can out on the water, not to be a fish harvester, but just to have the connection of being on the water that we grew up with, that’s going to be lost if we don’t give them the opportunity to see what it’s about.
— Leo Hearn

Leo’s family has been fishing for a living for 200 years. “I think my grandfather was 87 when he stopped,” he says, “Everybody chipped in together, everybody worked together, the kids would cut out the cod tongues, so it was a family [passing food skills] along.”

Leo’s video focuses on preparing fish.  He goes beyond removing the fillets, to showing us all the other goods available from fresh cod that, for too long, were being discarded as waste. These items include sounds (which is the cod’s swim bladder, that allows it to be buoyant in the water), tongues, cheeks, otoliths for use in jewellery, and more, including one of Leo’s favourites – the nape – which is the meat along the collar bones. “Napes are really good, like, really tasty,” he says.

“Everybody’s starting to see all this waste on fish that’s perfectly good to eat. We even use the skin to make dog treats.”

In the video, Leo also explains the work he and Kimberly Orren are doing through a wonderful operation in Petty Harbour, called Fishing For Success.

“We’re very proud of what we’re doing … we wanna get every kid that we can out on the water, not to be a fish harvestor, but just to ... have that connection that we grew up with, that’s going to be lost if we don’t show people and give our kids the opportunity to see what it’s about.”

He makes the good point that kids don’t have enough hands-on exposure to where their food comes from anymore. “They should have access to getting out on the water,” he says, “otherwise, how do you learn? It gives them a connection, like, Oh, my grandfather use to do that, or my aunt used to do that … it gives them the opportunity to know about their culture.”

Food First NL’s 8-part SCOFF video series celebrates, preserves, and shares a wealth of traditional food skills from seniors in Newfoundland & Labrador.