I did something today that I haven’t done for a very, very long time.
I ate a slice of lassie bread.
Now, lest you think a slice of ‘lassie bread’ is a baked comestible formed from the unwilling flesh of a friendly Scottish girl, it’s not. Lest you think it is a comely Scottish lass lying on a slice of bread, and that arouses you, well that’s between you and your God. No, lassie bread is that finest of all island delicacies, a slice of bread with molasses on it. Best served with a cup of piping hot tea, it’s a foodstuff that can be enjoyed at any time of day or night, all the year round. (Ask me about lassie bread as a hangover remedy! On the other hand, don’t. I think I may have had a blackout that night and woke up on the floor of some poor old bugger’s fish store in the Battery, wearing nothing except tartar sauce and a shopping bag from the Arcade. Remember the Arcade?)
Sure we were all raised on it around here. In the old prehistoric days (before, say, 1998) people used molasses for all sorts. They took it in their tea, as medicine, used it to make sweeties with, put it in cakes, pies, bread, or paired with raw fatback pork (yuck) in delightful little buns for fishermen to take to sea. My late father-in-law swore by a concoction of molasses and kerosene as a sore throat cure. If you weren’t cured by it you were probably killed, so in the end it was no odds anyway.
Lassie bread was what your mam or your nan gave you when bad Billy Single pushed your off the wharf into ankle-deep water swarming with masses of killer jellyfish. Or that time you went arse-over-teakettle off your bike and scrope (past tense of ‘scrape’ in Newfoundland parlance) the skin from your hands, forehead, chin, and knees in an effort to impress some goggle-eyed, mouth-breathing comrade from one of the lower grades in school. Fall down and brain yourself on a rock? Lassie bread. Break off a pencil in your hand and spend the rest of your life convinced you’re going to die of slow poisoning? Lassie bread. Get your arse belted by a cranky old man in a flat tweed cap, for throwing some fisherman’s killick over the government wharf? Lassie bread.
(For special occasions like Speech Night at the end of the school year, there were potted meat – actual cow brains – sandwiches, but that’s for another blog post.)
Molasses isn’t something you are going to eat every single day of your life. It’s much too sweet. Anything more than a tablespoon full at a time is cloying, genuinely sick-making. But once in a while, on a rainy autumn day, you want to sit down with your cuppa and have something besides your usual Peek Freans digestive biscuit.
That thing, dear friends and gentle people, is lassie bread. It brings us back to the gentle country of childhood winters, when the snow was up to your neck and the snot froze in your nostrils to the consistency of candle wax, and Mam told you to go outside and play in the Antarctic blizzard because you had her ‘drove’. As far as comfort food goes, lassie bread is just the ticket.
I ate a slice of lassie bread today. I regret nothing.