Cooking in the kitchen with Ches Crosbie and his wife Lois
Ches Crosbie and his wife Lois moved expertly around their equipped and ready-to-go kitchen as they did their evening meal-time tango. With touches of Christmas hinting at the festive season that matched the time we visited, the couple joked good-naturedly.
So, who is the chef in the home, we asked. “I kind of enjoy it, but she doesn’t let me do it that often. She’s very ‘jurisdictional’,” joked the Leader of the Official Opposition.
“He loves it in the kitchen,” Lois clarified with a smile. Back in his law-firm days, Crosbie always enjoyed adding a recipe to his otherwise (admittedly) dry newsletters. Crosbie, while stirring the filling for the pie, reflected on those days.
“People don’t want blah. They want engaging, interesting and something that relates to their lives. Food, everyone can relate to food. The worst thing you can do is be dry and boring,” he said with a wee smirk.
‘I am a moose hunter’
As the MHA for Windsor Lake prepared the vegetable for that evening’s meal – Brussels sprouts (though he offered “any typical Newfoundland root crop would work well with a moose dish”) – Lois moved on to pastry prep. The two talk the ‘holistic’ properties of enjoying a dish made with food you yourself brought to the table.
“I am a moose hunter,” Ches said proudly. His wife offered the memory of how proud her husband was to brag he scored 100 on his Firearm/Hunter’s Education course.
“I used to go with my friends just for the camaraderie – for a good time – but they got after me to get to be able to put my name in the draw, so I took the training and enjoyed it.”
His ‘first time’ is a memory he will never forget – a 200-yard shot.
“My first successful hunt was an earned harvest. It is the mix of effort, skill and luck that causes hunters to keep coming back.”
Being a Newfoundlander, ‘rough grub’ is a favourite at meal time. Ches actually took a course on different ways to cook moose, mentioning an interesting sounding Mediterranean moose dish he grew fond of. There’s also a more intensive course he took on the many delights of salt cod (bacalao).
“The men would do a variety of salt cod dishes – all were called bacalao – and the women would get invited to the dinner. The men would prepare all day. Ches and I got quite fond of a few dishes, one in particular had salt cod, potatoes, boiled eggs, olives and olive oil,” said Lois.
Back to the moose pie at hand.
“We don’t put a bottom crust on a moose pie, but place pastry on top,” Lois shared as she ‘just sos’ the pastry stars.
Responsible & Holistic
Ches wandered through his collection of recipe books – and moose hunting memories – particularly the one(s) that got away.
“This last trip, he looked us over and decided he wasn’t interested and silently disappeared. We couldn’t hear a thing, and a moose is a big animal, too. The other party could see the moose but they couldn’t take a shot so regrettably, I did not get one this year,” he said.
While he’d like to go back, judging by the constant dinging of his phone, he may not get an opportunity. Ches says meals like this one are special, because he’s personally had a hand in every aspect.
“You find it, kill it, paunch it, skin it. You hang the meat. It’s a responsible, holistic way to feed a family.”
“It’s quite beautiful,” his wife adds. “He’s not out there wildly shooting to maim an animal. It’s done in a responsible and thoughtful way. There’s tradition to hunting, and the meat doesn’t come from a grocery store.”
A Crosbie tradition
As for family traditions, the couple, with three grown girls who have moved away and are living their own lives, say they try to keep things mostly simple.
“My mother-in-law (the one and only Jane Crosbie) did Christmas dinner for years, and you can’t top that. Things are more quiet now, though it’s still tradition to make moose tourtiere for Christmas Eve. It’s a two crust pie recipe and I love it. It has the cloves and cinnamon in it, ground moose and pork; and spices and onions. It’s easy and not a lot of work because I like to go to church on Christmas Eve,” says Lois.
Resting as the moose pie bakes, the two gather in the living room where memories of gatherings past flourish.
There’s childhood mementos photos of the girl’s from when they were little, an ugly stick that was a gift from a friend, and the family’s treasured collection of mummer figurines.
Ches reflects on growing up with a dad like former Tory heavyweight the late John Crosbie.
‘I feel blessed’
“I’ve always valued his opinion. I asked his opinion before I ran. (He was) 87 and most male Crosbies died in their 50s and 60s, so I feel blessed to have (had) him around. My mother too. As Lois has said; my mother is the main reason Dad (was) the man he (was).”
The timer goes off. Supper is served. Rising, the two admit this evening’s meal may seem labour intensive, but is well worth it.
As Ches presents his finished product he smiled and said proudly, “Here we go. The one that didn’t get away.”