Oh, my Dear Reader, looking at these photographs evokes such feelings of comfort and nostalgia for me. Cold Plates were served in our home every single Sunday night without fail. In fact, they were also served at Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years!
It was very common in our home to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner consisting of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage, turnip, carrot, etc. All of those vegetables were cooked in the same pot along with cured salt beet and a pudding or two.
That meal was usually referred to as “cooked dinner,” “hot dinner,” or sometimes, just “cook.” It’s most commonly known as Jiggs Dinner outside of Newfoundland, but in our home, it meant a simplified variation of the meal.
If someone said Jiggs Dinner, it meant that the meal would not have any roasted turkey, chicken, or beef – just the cured salt beef – and there would also be no gravy. It’s confusing, but we all knew what mom meant when she said one or the other.
But this post is not about that meal, it’s about Cold Plates! What I’m trying to say is that we would eat large on special occasions. We would have “cooked dinner” for lunch and then Cold Plates for dinner. Or, in the case of Christmas, we’d have “cooked dinner” for a late lunch on Christmas Day, and then we’d have Cold Plates for supper on Boxing Day.
Oh, I should mention that you might need to first understand that you can eat dinner for lunch in Newfoundland because that’s exactly what it is! In Newfoundland, there are four meals each day – breakfast, dinner, supper, and lunch. (As opposed to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
Breakfast is self-explanatory. Lunch (around noon) was called dinner. If your friend at school asked if you were going home at dinner time, you knew full well that they meant lunchtime. Then there was supper – not dinner. And lastly, there was lunch.
Lunch was a little strange now that I think back on it. Anything consumed between 8pm and bedtime was considered a lunch. And it’s quite common to have company for lunch – friends or neighbours could join you for a cup of tea, maybe some buttered bread, canned ham, a slice of fruitcake, a tea biscuit, etc.
So, all of that just to let you know that Cold Plates are a meal served for suppers (not dinners!) every Sunday night, or on every special occasion. It’s complicated – I know – but, this meal is the complete opposite – it’s uncomplicated, rustic, not fancy at all, but so damn delicious!
Traditional Newfoundland Cold plates consist of three types of potato salads – there’s the Vegetable Potato Salad, (sometimes called White Salad) Pickled Beet Potato Salad, and the Mustard Potato Salad. There’s also a macaroni or pasta salad, and always a coleslaw too. Depending on who’s preparing the plate, there may or may not be a jello salad – I left that out, because it wasn’t common for us and I actually do not like it!
Then you have your main, which in most cases is a turkey. We only had turkey on special occasions. When mom prepared Cold Plates for a regular Sunday night dinner, she would most likely include roasted chicken, sometimes roast beef, or rarely, glazed ham.
If there was turkey, you could count on there being dressing (stuffing) as well. And lastly, there were the little add-ins, like the slice of black forest ham that had been tightly rolled and pierced with a toothpick; the slice of tomato sitting atop some iceberg lettuce; the cranberry sauce; and, of course, the dinner roll.
All of this created the most popular and most recognized meal on the island. It probably still is! And, more importantly, it created my all-time favourite meal. I could seriously eat this every day and never grow tired of it.
It’s a lot of work to prepare this meal, but it’s not something I do that often anymore. That’s why it was completely worth the effort this time. And, I have been promising to write up this recipe for a long time!
Below, you will find a series of recipe cards. There are no steadfast rules to making your version of a Traditional Newfoundland Cold Plate. Pick and choose the items you want to include and make only those. To be honest, almost every family in Newfoundland had/has their own version, so you can too!
I do hope you enjoy this meal, Dear Reader. It is one that is dear to me and makes me think of my mom and family dinners around the table every Sunday night.
Compiling a Cold Plate:
If you read through the text above, you’ll already be aware of the fact that a Cold Plate is whatever you make it. I have listed the items and any of the items that require a recipe, you can find them below. I’ll walk you through how I assemble my version.
The first thing you’ll need is a turkey. The following is recipe for a simple roasted turkey that anyone can make! If you want to substitute the turkey with roasted chicken, glazed ham, or roast beef, it would be completely acceptable. (Some Cold Plates have two meats!) Either way, the turkey is the first thing I place on the plate.