Reg Taylor has spent a lifetime serving customers throughout the province, providing the best of the best locally-grown and produced grub for family mug-ups
Reg Taylor is a name known throughout this province of ours. If you’ve eaten a field-grown NL vegetable, chowed down on a locally made sausage, or had a feed of fish or two on any given Friday, there’s a good chance you’ve met the man, the myth, the legend: Mr. Reginald Taylor from Foxtrap.
Of course, moss don’t grow on a rolling stone, and Taylor and family load up trucks filled with yummies to buy and sell goods throughout the province. The Taylor’s are as well known outside the Avalon as they are within.
At 66 years of age, the man responsible for Taylor’s Fish, Fruit & Vegetable Market in Foxtrap, is spry and has no plans on slowing down in the near future. His passion is fine people and fresh product and making sure the two unite.
Taylor officially got into business in 1984, but he’s been in the food industry since he was a child.
“As far as selling seal and flippers and selling meat, I’ve been at that since I was 10 years old,” he began.
Hard working bunch
The Taylor’s were a hard working bunch, and food was a family business, he continued.
“We were always a busy family. We were farmers and everything else. It was a way to make money back in back in the day when there was nothing on the go in the winter and fadder had eight sons before they had a girl, so he worked us. We used to go to the Waterfront and meet the boats and buy as much flippers and we could and then the old man would send us going door to door.”
In the winter, times in Newfoundland were hard, for many reasons.
“We’d have no money. We were farmers, so you had to make a dollar.”
And when the Taylor boys showed up at doors around the province, people were happy to see them.
“Folks would be starving for a bit of meat and no such things as supermarkets or anything like that back then. Fresh meat was mostly seal meat in the winter, and people loved it and they needed it,” he continued.
Dollar per flipper
The Taylor lads “ran between doors as fast as anyone,” he added.
“We’d knock and if anyone wanted any we’d ask for their bread pan then run back to the truck and fill it up and run back again and we’d do that over and over,” he recalled.
A dollar per flipper, two or so bucks for a carcass. The boys earned their keep by keeping up a swift pace.
Seal meat, Taylor shared, “is the best meat in the world.”
“Seals have the best diet – fish – and so when you’re eating seal meat, you’re getting the best of the best protein.”
Taylor says it’s hard with no hunt these days.
“You’re not allowed to touch a seal, which is too bad for a whole bunch of reasons. One thing that’s too bad is that younger people don’t know what they’re missing. Back a few years, families would come in all excited to cook a feed of flippers and they’d get their vegetables and everything to go with it,” he said.
Now? Not so much. But Taylor is nothing if not creative.
At his store in Foxtrap, they’ll occasionally put on a scatter feed and the aroma will tingle the senses.
“People come into the shop and they’ll smell and they say, ‘oh my God, what smells so good.’ We’ll tell them seal, and they’ll say they didn’t think seal smelled any good and we’ll say, ‘it smells so good because it’s being cooked properly.’ When my mom cooked it, it smelled from a half mile away. I wouldn’t go near it because in actual fact it was something like boiled blubber. That’s when you got that smell and there’s a poor smell if you don’t do it right. But doing it right is easier than people think, and it smells and tastes some good.”
A feed of seal
Taylor has fed many a store-goer a feed of his seal. “I tell you right now, there’s a sense you get when people come in and taste what you’re cooking. We give folks a plate and you don’t realize what you’re even eating. They come back shaking their heads and say it’s very tender and no fat and it actually helps your cholesterol and your heart.”
The best part about seal, according to the frugal farmer, is that it’s all used.
“The pelts make beautiful coats and purses and all kinds of things you see around. Just beautiful. Everyone loves that. The meat is the best; the flippers and the carcass. And all the organs are used. And there’s millions out there to be caught and used. To me, more than Newfoundlanders need to start looking at that animal as food,” he said.
All the “murdering baby seals” stuff is nonsense, he added.
“No such thing. Only one who has a baby is humans. That’s the way it is. But someone with an agenda puts the baby thing up, and there ya go. A protest.”
The circle of life
We eat food, Taylor says, and if you eat meat, death is a fact in the circle of life, though he knows it’s hard to take sometimes.
“I grew up with my father a butcher. He loved animals, but he also killed pigs, cattle and goats and I seen animals killed. I went to the seal hunt my first time as a teenager, 17 years old, and I saw my first seal and I went to run towards him with my baseball bat and he started to come towards me. There was 30 men around me, a killing field on the ice, blood going everywhere. The seal started to rub up against me like a kitten. I couldn’t kill it. I rubbed ‘em down, and picked buddy up like you would a pet.”
Taylor had had a change of heart.
“I took that seal, found a hole and made sure he went down in it and I covered that hole up with a piece of ice. When I did that the second time and a third time a friend of mine was there and said, ‘buddy, you’re gonna have to kill at least one or they’ll send ya in.’”
Taylor learned to do what he had to do and says he quickly realized the hunt was humane. “Killing something because there’s a lot of it helps the balance of nature. Yeah, it’s hard to see, but it keeps things right. How much fish do a seal eat in a run of a day?”
Taylor, being in the business that he’s in, also likes to see “the little man” get ahead by treating customers like family while providing the best local grub possible.
“You have to stay clear of supermarkets if you want to keep Newfoundland strong. Support the farmers. Support local. It helps them, and it will keep everyone healthy.”