After taking a much-needed vacation, I went headed North and ended up in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. I was chatting up a Customs Officer and he told me that Customs would let me in, but wouldn’t let me leave the country without becoming “Screeched-In” with Screech. I had no idea what that meant and he wouldn’t tell me, he said it was a surprise, so I vowed to get Screeched-In before I was done with that trip. He obviously was joking, but I was hella curious about what that was. Initially, I didn’t think anything of it, but the first thing I wanted to do was get my hands around a few local drinks. I headed to the only thing I saw that was opened, and saw a shiny electric blue looking bottle, on a neighboring table. I asked the waitress if that was a local drink, because I had never seen it, and she told me it was. I told her to bring me one, and then one turned into 5. lol For starters, it was ridiculously cheap for the drink there, but this beer tasted like there was nothing to it. I mean it tasted like the cleanest beer I had ever polished off. It was called Iceberg beer. I actually couldn’t fully understand what the waitress was saying, she had a local accent of Newfoundland, and it’s a little different from English from USA. So I just said “yes” when she was talking to me, which is what you do when you don’t understand any language someone is speaking to you, and another beer magically appeared. 🙂
OK, but what is SCREECH?
I completely forgot what the customs officer told me, and just about everywhere I went, I had nothing but Iceberg beer because it was heavily advertised and you can’t miss the bottle! Then I overheard some people talking about Screech, I remembered the name and it turned out that to be Screeched-In, you have to drink something called SCREECH RUM. I’m thinking, I have to drink something with THAT name? What was I getting myself into? The locals would laugh and tell me that there was a whole process to it, and I had to get myself a proper intro to it. So every place I went, they had it, but they all insisted that I save it for being Screeched-In, so it would be more memorable. In the meantime, I continued to down my Iceberg beers, but thought it odd that Screech Rum, per Google, was blended and branded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, which was in Newfoundland and Labrador, but AFTER it was IMPORTED from JAMAICA!??? I was like WTF would Jamaica have anything to do with this place? That couldn’t have been right. I know Jamaica inside and out, I’ve never seen or heard of any damn Screech Liquor! However, later in my trip, I actually got the answer that I needed, and the link to Jamaica, which has historic significance. This was on a trip to a famous fishing area. Apparently, since Newfoundland was a place the British Colony would get fish from, to sell on the global market, especially Cod, there were techniques to preserve the fish, which is to SALT the fish, leave it out in the sun to dry. If this process wasn’t done properly, or the fish went bad, the people in Newfoundland were ordered to wrap it up and send it to the colonies in the West Indies, where the colonies fed that bad fish to the African descendant SLAVES! 🙁 On the flip side, Jamaica produced sugar cane products for the colony, which rum is derived from, and Screech is the WORST rum possible they made- and Jamaica knows how to make good rum, mind you. They made this Screech 40% proof, for Newfoundland only, and sent it back to them, is the joke, in retaliation for the bad fish. So, in the spirit of that crazy history and exchange, Newfoundland has kept the production of the rum in Jamaica! That’s pretty cool to make a positive out of a negative. THAT is the Spirit of Newfoundland, mind you, very cool heads!
I was so focused on getting a taste of this rum, which I forgot that people were telling me there was this whole experience too. Well, late in the trip, I finally had my chance to see what this was all about. Let me put you on to why the hell people didn’t want to initially tell me what being Screeched-In meant, and what I’d be going through. It was pretty funny. Here is what you have to go through to be Screeched-In:
FIRST, You need to find someone who is authorized to Screech you in, a Master of Ceremony. I happened to be at a private performance by Singer Sheila Williams (of the group Spirit of Newfoundland), and it turned out that SHE is part of the council that would Screech me in! (Check)
SECOND, get your shot glass out and get the Screech passed around and ready to go- but don’t drink it yet (check)
THIRD, you have to recite the local song “come from away” or “mainlander”, and use the Newfoundland accent while doing that (no easy feat) in “call and response” fashion to the Master of Ceremony when she calls out to you.
FOURTH, Sheila pauses, disappears, and then comes running back with a huge frozen COD FISH in her hands!!! Not a cooked Cod, a HUGE FROZEN ONE… I thought it was fake, but nope, from my lips to your eyes, it was frozen and real, and she said you can’t do anything until you KISSED THE COD! HELL NO!!! UUUUHHH Still did it though YUCK!! I wanted my drink!
FIFTH, Now you take the swig of the Screech Rum after kissing the cod! Everyone drank at the same time and goddddddammnnn that was strong and people were coughing and going “ARRRRGGHHH!” as they cleared their throats. lol It hits you. And like that, I was Screeched-In officially.
Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do but let me tell you, Screech is NOT smooth!