Friday 24 December 2010

A Steamed Christmas Pudding - My Christmas tradition, in Three Acts

"Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner's at the same time, with a laundry next door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!"   - Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol'

This Christmas, I bought myself an early present: a new Christmas Pudding mould. Every year for the past decade or so, I've been making a traditional English Christmas Pudding, in the same mould every year. Last year, for the first time, I made the pudding out in Clarke's Beach, and this year, when I went pulling supplies together for the pudding making, I found that I'd left the mould out around the Bay. So off to Living Rooms I went on Christmas Eve Day, and got myself a new mould (above).

A steamed pudding was not something I grew up with at Christmas time, but I love it, and have made the annual making of the pudding my contribution to Christmas dinner. It is thick, sweet, heavy, and probably terrible for you, but that is what the best traditions are all about anyway.

My pudding recipe varies slightly from year to year, depending on what I have in the kitchen, and on my mood. The rough recipe is as follow:

Act One - The Fruit of Spain

Flour of England, fruit of Spain, 
Met together in a shower of rain; 
Put in a bag tied round with a string; 
If you'll tell me this riddle, I'll give you a ring.

The answer, of course, is a pudding, which was often steamed in a bag. 

Dark raisins - 2 cup
Currants - 1 cup
Glazed Cherries - 1/2 cup
Cut mixed peel - 1/2 cup
Chopped Pineapple  - 1/2 cup
Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
Ground almonds - 1/2 cup
White flour - 1/2 cup

Mix it all together in a large bowl, stirring well to cover the fruit with the flour. The exact mix of fruit can vary. This year, for example, I didn't have currants or coconut, or almonds for that matter. So I used more cherries, some ground walnuts, and a handful of trail mix. As long as you have about 4 1/2 cups of fruit and a 1/2 cup of flour you are fine. It should look something like this when it is done:

The mixing bowl I'm using is one I borrowed from "Aunty" Paula MacDonald. Last year, I interviewed Aunty Paula as part of the Here[Say] narrative cartography project for Water Street. She told about her memories of S.O. Steele's, which was THE place to buy china years ago. You can listen to her story here.   Remembering her tale of the bowl, I asked to borrow it for the mixing this year and it worked wonderfully!

Act Two - Suet and More Mixing

The key ingredient for a good pudding is suet. Suet is fat. That's it, plain and simple, just fat, usually beef, but sometimes mutton. I suspect there is some kind of vegetarian alternative for suet, but I can't imagine using anything else in a Christmas pudding. I've used coarse chopped and fine grated suet in my puddings, and I have to say I like the coarse ground suet better. I like the final texture it gives the pudding, more airy and with more nooks and crannies to soak up custard.

Chopped Beef Suet - 1 cup
Dry bread crumbs - 1 1/2 cups
Baking powder - 2 teaspoons
Baking soda - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - 1 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
Ground nutmeg - 1 teaspoon
Ground ginger - 1/2 teaspoon
Flour - 3/4 cups

Mix it all together with the fruit. I sort of play this stage by ear as well, and I'm generous with the suet and the spices. A little bit extra suet doesn't matter, and I like a strong tasting pudding. Sometimes I'll use a bit more flour in the first stage, to cover the fruit, and then a bit less in the second half.

Then, beat together 3 eggs and 3/4 cup of milk. Add that to the mix and stir it up.

Grease your pudding mould. I've got two this year, my new one, and a smaller ramekin with a little individual pudding for Aunty Paula.  Here are the puddings, in their basins, ready to be covered and steamed:

Act Three - The Steaming

If your pudding pan or mould doesn't have a snap on lid like mine does, you can use a cloth or double thickness greased foil, and tie it down with string. Put it in a pot with boiling water 2/3 up the way of the pudding and boil for 3 hours, adding water as needed.

For the past couple years, I've used a Westinghouse two-tier vegetable steamer, which has a removable middle tray to accommodate the height of my pudding mould. It is a lot easier than watching a boiling pot. It has a 60 minute timer, so I just top it up with water and let it steam for an hour and then repeat for 3 hours.

As I write, my Christmas pudding is steaming merrily away. It will be served tomorrow as the grande finale of Christmas dinner. I've got half a flask of St. Remy Napoleon Brandy saved for the flaming, which looks great. Heat the brandy in a pan still it starts to steam a little, pop the pudding out of its mould, onto a plate with a bit of a lip. Pour the hot brandy over it, light it on fire, turn off the lights and carry it to the table amidst oohs and ahhhs.  A fine bit of drama to end your dinner!  I always serve it with custard, but you can serve it however you like.

If you are hungry to know about the history of puddings, you can read the Wikipedia article on Christmas Pudding or check out The Tradition of Christmas Pudding.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Here Be Monsters!

Here is a sneak peek at my new one man show, now in the works! I'll post more information as it comes available.

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 - The Rooms, Fort Townshend.
Here Be Monsters! In the ocean's depths lurk rarely seen horrors! From giant squid and turtles the size of a house, to mind-reading mermaids and the most angry sea-horse you'd ever want to meet, the seas off the shore of Newfoundland and Labrador have seen it all! Join storyteller Dale Jarvis of St. John's Haunted Hike fame for tales of creatures of the deeps. You may never want to dip your toe in the water again!

Contact The Rooms for information on times and tickets

And to keep you entertained in the meantime, check out Professor Hans Rollman's article on Labrador sea monsters.

Monday 27 September 2010

Hurricane Igor Storytelling Benefit Concert in the works for Friday, Oct 8th

The St. John's Storytelling Festival is pleased to announce that noted international storyteller La'Ron Williams will be coming to St. John's to tell in local schools and be our headline performer at a storytelling benefit concert to assist with Hurricane Igor rebuilding efforts!

The storytelling concert will take place at Gower Street United Church, in the lower auditorium, at 8pm on Friday, October 8th. Stay tuned for more details.

La'Ron Williams is a nationally acclaimed, award-winning storyteller who has toured extensively presenting programs and workshops. His music-spiced, highly participatory performances present a dynamic blend of original and traditional tales crafted to help improve literacy, encourage community, foster cooperation, promote peaceful conflict resolution, build self-esteem, and deepen the historical understanding of the American ideal of democratic inclusion.

For more information, join the St. John's Storytelling facebook page at:

Listen to La’Ron Williams on supporting peace and social justice through storytelling:

Friday 24 September 2010

Chris Brookes & Margaret Hitchens to perform in Petty Harbour CultureDays

This Sunday, September 26, well-known local storytellers Chris Brookes and Margaret Hitchens will be sharing tall tales and old-fashioned recitations at the historic Chafe's Landing in Petty Harbour.

Chris Brookes is an award-winning independent radio producer whose documentary features are heard in the U.S.A, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, England, Sweden, Finland, Canada and The Netherlands. He has also produced documentaries for network television, and is a published author and playwright. He seems to be obsessed with narrative, which makes him keep telling stories in hopes of one day getting them right.

A crowd favourite at the St. John’s Storytelling Circle, and star of the annual Recitation Night, Margaret Hitchens delights audiences with her renditions of classic English monologues and recitations, including the ongoing adventures of Albert Ramsbottom and Samuel Small. Margaret has been involved for many years with the Kittiwake Dance Theatre, and is the company’s annual choice to play the role of the Grandmother in their Christmas production of The Nutcracker.

Chafe's Landing is the oldest home in Petty Harbour and was built in the 19th century. It is located just over the bridge in the heart of Petty Harbour.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Thursday 26 August 2010

Storytelling and Historical Interpretation Workshop in New Bedford, MA

On Saturday, September 18, 2010, I will be giving a Storytelling and Historical Interpretation Workshop in New Bedford, Massachusetts!

Full details on the workshop, including cost and location information, is on the lovely Karen Chace's blog at:

Spread the word!

TIME: 11:00 P.M. - 3:00 P.M.
LOCATION: ArtWorks 384 Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford, MA

Thursday 19 August 2010

Dale Jarvis and Norma Cameron on the CBC Podcast

WAM July 24-25 18th Annual Storytellers of Canada Conference

Spinning a yarn, making a nuisance of yourself, and Mom Liked You Best... these are some of the topics covered this coming week at the 18th Annual storytellers of Canada Conference. The national storytelling meeting is here in Newfoundland for the first time ever. Haunted Hike founder, author and Intangible Culture Officer Dale Jarvis is one of the organizers, and Norma Cameron is a Scottish Canadian storyteller visiting for the conference.

Download and listen to the podcast at:

Sunday 11 July 2010

Newfoundland's Storytelling Events for July, 2010

There are a lot of storytelling events coming up this month, with visitors from South Carolina, Italy, the UK and Denmark, plus some performances by local favourites. We've got stories for adults, stories for families, stories by kids, stories by candlelight, and stories with tea!

You can check out the full listing of this month's events at:

Wheelchair accessible events are noted!

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Dale Jarvis book launch to kick off international storytelling conference

St. John's will soon be host to an international conference of storytellers, with lovers of stories coming from across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Local storyteller and author Dale Jarvis will start things off on Monday, July 26th with a pre-conference book launch.

From an encounter with a shrieking horror on Signal Hill, St. John’s, to the legend of the headless pirate of Red Bay, Labrador,  Jarvis has captured stories of white horses, men in black, haunted punts, vanishing boats, and things that go bump in the basement.

Blending local history, folklore, eyewitness interviews, and archival research, Haunted Waters is the latest collection of ghostly tales from one of Canada’s finest, and creepiest, storytellers.

The book launch will take place on Monday, July 16th at the Martini Bar (upstairs) on George Street at 8:00pm. The author will read from his book, and will be signing copies for sale.

Watch the book trailer at:

Thursday 17 June 2010

Book Trailer: Haunted Waters by Dale Jarvis

From an encounter with a shrieking horror on Signal Hill, St. John's, to the legend of the headless pirate of Red Bay, Labrador, folklorist Dale Jarvis conjures up stories of white horses, men in black, haunted punts, vanishing boats, and things that go bump in the basement.

With its tales of premonitions of death, eerie phantoms, and strange creatures, Newfoundland and Labrador is truly a haunted place. Beware, gentle reader! The unquiet spirits of dogs, wolves, little girls, ships, and soldiers drift through these pages. You may even run into the Old Hag herself, Newfoundland and Labrador's most infamous nighttime visitor. Blending local history, folklore, eyewitness interviews, and archival research, Haunted Waters is the latest collection of ghostly tales from one of Canada's finest, and creepiest, storytellers.

Haunted Waters: More True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador
by Dale Gilbert Jarvis
Format: Paperback, 170 pages, b&w photos
Pub Date: July 2010
Price: $16.95
ISBN-10: 1-897317-79-4
ISBN-13: 978-1-897317-79-2

Link to YouTube book trailer:

Sunday 6 June 2010

Canadian Youth Storytelling Scholarship – Call for applications

The St. John’s Storytelling Festival and Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada (SC-CC) is pleased to announce the launch of the Canadian Youth Storytelling Scholarship. Each year, SC-CC holds its annual conference in a different location across Canada. The Canadian Youth Storytelling Scholarship will send a young storytelling enthusiast from the conference’s home province or territory to that year’s conference.

In 2010, the conference is being held in St. John’s from July 28th to August 1st, and the first recipient of the Canadian Youth Storytelling Scholarship will be from Newfoundland and Labrador. One scholarship winner from Newfoundland and Labrador will be invited to the conference to meet and interact with storytellers from across the nation and around the world, take part in exciting workshops, and be invited to concert performances by some of Canada’s and the United Kingdom’s finest storytellers. The winner receives:

• Free admission to the SC-CC conference, July 28-August 1, 2010
• Entrance to all concerts and workshops
• A one-year membership to Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada
• A $250 grant to help offset the cost of travel and accommodation
• Partnership with an established storyteller, who will act as a mentor, guide and resource.

Youth aged 18-30 interested in using storytelling in their respective fields (i.e., education, psychology, museum work, environmental education, healing arts, law, religion, business, theatre, or freelance storytelling!)

Please provide the following information via email:
• Name, Address, City, Province
• Telephone Numbers (home and cell)
• Email Address
• Date of Birth
• Storytelling experience (either telling or listening)
• Answer the following three questions:

1. Why are you interested in attending the Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada Annual Conference?

2. What do you hope to gain from the conference?

3. How can storytelling be used in your present or desired line of work?

Completed applications for the Canadian Youth Storytelling Scholarship must be submitted, by email, to by Wednesday, June 30th, 2010.

Information about the annual conference may be found at

Friday 21 May 2010

Wicked Wednesday with Dale Jarvis, Storyteller

Celebrating 13 years of telling terrible tales!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Newman Wine Vaults, 436 Water Street.

$13 at the door

Join storyteller Dale Jarvis as he launches the 13th season of the award winning St. John’s Haunted Hike with a special evening of his favourite ghoulish and ghastly tales by candlelight in the haunted Newman Wine Vaults.

Since 1997, the Haunted Hike has thrilled locals and tourists alike with stories of public hangings, duels, and horrific murders, forgotten cemeteries and unmarked graves, vengeful lovers, murdered soldiers, and mysterious fires. He also tells stories of the faerie folk, tales from the collections of the Brothers Grimm, local legends and traditional tales from Newfoundland, Ireland, the United Kingdom and beyond. He is the founder of the St. John's Storytelling Circle, and president of the St. John's Storytelling Festival, Inc.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Last chance to register for storytelling conference

The response to the July 2010 Storytellers of Canada conference in St. John's has been fantastic! We have only twenty slots left before we're completely sold out, so we have decided on extending the registration deadline! If you haven't registered yet, it isn't too late, and we will take the first 20 people who send in their registration forms and payment.

If you have already registered and haven't make your room bookings, you can get the information on accommodations at:

Don't forget the 5-Minute Story Slam, happening Wednesday July 28th, at 7:30pm. We want the slam's theme to fit the local environment, and for St. John's, that means fog, and lots of it! The foggiest place in the world is the Grand Banks off the island of Newfoundland, the meeting place of the cold Labrador Current from the north and the much warmer Gulf Stream from the south. With storytellers from all over the world congregating in St. John's this July, all that hot air is bound to see an increase in the misty stuff. We welcome stories related in any way to fog: foggy days, the mists of time, fog horns, fog banks, lost in the fog, living in a fog, condensation nuclei, various visibility hazards or drizzle, fo' shizzle! Have your foggy tale ready.

Friday 14 May 2010

Vikings take over the Ship Pub

This from the Folk Arts Society:

On Wednesday night, May 19th, join Bjorn the Beautiful, L'Anse aux Meadows' Viking Chief, (shown above) and his merry band of Vikings at the Ship Pub, where they'll be hosting the Folk Arts Society's Folk Night. Featured guests Jeff Dyer, Bill Brennan and Glen Collins will dazzle us with a mixture of Newfoundland and international folk songs, with a few blues and jazz standards mixed in, while Bjorn will regale audiences during the Open Mic portion of the evening with snippets from the Norse Sagas that relate to the Viking's journeys to L'Anse aux Meadows over 1000 years ago, and tales of the gods and goddesses they brought with them. So come raise a glass, share a story and celebrate 1000 years of the music and culture of this place.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Do you know the ghost horse of Bannerman Street, St. John's?

Help! I am trying to track down some information about a little-documented ghost story from Bannerman Street in downtown St. John's.

Here is what I know, taken from Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy's book "Olde St. John's: Stories from a Seaport City" (Flanker Press, 2001, page 111):
"A house on Bannerman Street was said to be troubled by the spirit of a white horse that galloped up a stairway and then vanished through a second-storey window."
Dramatic stuff! But that, sadly, is all that I know of the legend. I would love to know more! Does anyone know which house was said to be haunted by this rather extraordinary ghost? Have you heard the story before, and if so, from whom?

You can reach me by email at

Other stories of ghost horses also welcome!

Friday 30 April 2010

Brimstone and Gall! A Stratford Postcard

Earlier this week, I went went my parents and a few family friends to see the Stratford Festival's production of Peter Pan. It was great fun, well staged, beautifully costumed and acted, with Tom McCamus as an elegant Captain James Hook, who must be one of the most entertaining stage villians to play.

It was nice to be there with my parents. I have strong memories of going to see pantomimes as a family when I was young, and I'm sure that it was one of the things that influenced my love of the arts and performance.  We are all getting a lot greyer, but it was good to still sit and laugh and enjoy the spectacle of Peter Pan as a family.

I like the mythology of Peter Pan, and I do believe that J.M Barrie captured some of the otherness of the fairy realm quite well. There is magic and wonder and adventure, but always that hint of sadness, death and loneliness.

In the program notes for the Stratford production, Bob Hetherington writes, "Peter Pan is arguably the last man-created myth of near-universal appeal, in the sense that subsequent fantasy narratives have tended to be regarded as pastiches of general to which Barrie's belong unambiguously." In a sense, Barrie's word is a pastiche, a blending together of fairy lore, Rackham-esque buccaneers and classical mythology. But it does have a remarkable wholeness that does, as Hetherington argues, move it beyond a pasting together of motifs towards its status of modern myth.

As a storyteller, I loved the framing of the Stratford production around the on-stage presence of J.M Barrie as narrator. And I had nearly forgotten as an adult that it was storytelling that enticed Peter to the Darling household, and that it was Wendy's professed talents as a storyteller that ultimately took her to Neverland. All in all, a great production, for all those who believe in fairies, or those who never really wanted to grow up.

Monday 26 April 2010

Storyteller on the road: A Wisconsin Postcard

I've just finished the Northlands Storytelling Network conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, and barely know where to begin. The conference was great, and packed full of stories and wonderful conversations with storytellers. It is a very busy conference, with lots of great workshops and storytelling concerts. Some highlights for me:

  • Jeff Gere from Hawai'i and his great Pele and chicken skin stories;
  • Greg Weiss's workshop, and great ideas for using story cards with kids to create stories;
  • Sue Black's fantastic story (with a rather grisly stew recipe);
  • Cathryn Fairlee's illustrated talk on traditional Chinese teahouse storytelling;
  • Debra Morningstar's great workshop on who should tell aboriginal stories;
  • Having another Canadian there this year, Renee Englot of Alberta;
  • Hanging out with the American tellers who are coming to the 2010 St. John's Storytelling Conference this July; and,
  • "Goldilocks and the Three Beers"...
Thanks to the very large, very enthusiastic group who braved my early Sunday morning workshop on working with historical material!


Jeff Gere

Sue Black

Debra Morningstar

Cathryn Fairlee

Renee Englot

July 2010 Conference

Thursday 22 April 2010

Storyteller on the road: A Toronto postcard

Another note from the storytelling odyssey that is my month of April.  I had a VERY long day on Tuesday. I woke up early in the morning, and storyteller Ruthanne Edward kindly picked me up and took me to the airport, for which she earns lots of celestial karma, I am sure.

I flew Porter into Toronto Island, the first time I've flown them. I loved it. I loved skipping Pierson altogether, and ending up right downtown. Emily Pohl-Weary was there to meet me, waving from beyond the sea of men in suits.

I met Emily in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at the Labrador Creative Arts Festival a few years ago. She is an author, poet, comic book writer, youth organizer and the type of community arts activist I love doing stuff with. I'd done a workshop for her Parkdale Writers group before, and had said I'd do it again. She asked me to do a workshop for a native men's writing group at a place called Sagatay (a new beginning), a transitional shelter developed and operated by Native Men’s Residence (Na-Me-Res). So after breakfast at the Tequila Bookworm, we went off to Sagatay.

I told a few supernatural stories, and the guys started in with stories of the Wendigo, little people, ghosts and hauntings. I had them map out the community they grew up in, and tell each other stories about that place, and then everyone did a writing exercise about one of the stories they had told.

After than, Emily and I booted it to Parkdale Library, where Emily runs the Parkdale Writers group, or as their website describes it, a "free writing group in Toronto's west-end led by kick-ass local authors, comics artists, filmmakers, hip hop poets, and street artists."

I started them all in on a fairytale workshop, telling the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, complete with toes getting cut off and eyeballs getting plucked out. Then I taught them how I teach storytelling to younger kids, teaching them all the tools to be able to do that themselves in the future. All of them worked with a short traditional pourquoi tale or Aesop's fable, and ALL of them told their story in front of the group. I was impressed at how supportive they were of each other, and even the shyest of them felt comfortable enough in the group to share their story, a testament to the kind of work that Emily is doing.

Afterwards, most of the group stuck around for another hour, and we talked about art and working as an artist, storytelling, and how to get started doing what you love and making money at it.

A late subway and bus to the Cousin Cindy Slaney-Miller Bed and Breakfast, where she fed me, as always (mmm, homemade macaroni and cheese...) and put me to bed.

Then, the next morning, less than 24 hours from when I arrived, I was back at the lovely Porter lounge, waiting for my flight to the US. If you ever need to fly from Toronto to Chicago, trust me, there are about a thousand less headaches flying Porter than flying anything that goes through Pierson. Just a little plug for Porter there (anytime you want to thank me by sponsoring the St. John's Storytelling Festival, just let me know, Porter Management!).



Emily Pohl-Weary

Parkdale Writers

Tequila Bookworm

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Storyteller on the Road: An Ottawa Postcard

I'm travelling for a few weeks, doing a series of storytelling events, and am just finishing up in Ottawa. It has been a great week! My storytelling show (part of the Speaking Out/Speaking In series at the NAC's 4th Stage) sold out a week ago (woot!) and I had a lot of fun with those of the Ottawa storytelling community who turned out to my day long workshop on historical storytelling at Library and Archives Canada.

I spent two days on the lake out near Almonte, Ontario with Jan Andrews, Jennifer Cayley and Ellis-Lynn Duschenes. It is always fabulous to see them, and I had great long walks, and chats with Jan and Jennifer about the state and future of performance storytelling in Canada and abroad.

Then I hung out today with Ruthanne Edward, who is our SeƱorita del Slam for the first Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada story slam in July. The poetry slam stuff happening here in Ottawa seems to be exciting, and it would be great to see some of that energy in contemporary storytelling.

Tomorrow I head off to Toronto, where I'm doing two workshops for the fabulous Emily Pohl-Weary. Stay tuned! Props to Jason Brophy for lending me his house while he is ash-bound in Italy, poor unfortunate that he is, and to the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, who are making my trip to Toronto and beyond possible.


Ottawa Storytellers

St. John's Story Slam

Monday 22 March 2010

Sharing Stories in a Digital World

Spark is CBC's weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching. As its website states, "it’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us."

ICH Development Officer Dale Jarvis spoke with Spark host Nora Young about the digital shift in cultural fieldwork, and how we are using digital technology in Newfoundland and Labrador as a tool to better record, share, safeguard and transmit our province's stories.

You can find the Spark blog entry at:

Or you can download the podcast as a MP3 directly from:

Sunday 17 January 2010

The Ghostly Ballerinas of Gower Street

Stories of true encounters with the paranormal continue to be told to this very day in St. John's, Newfoundland. In this podcast, storyteller and author Dale Jarvis shares a story of ghostly ballerinas that dates back to the years of the Second World War. In the tale, a young girl receives nightly visitations from phantom dancers, as well as a black-haired lady in a black dress. When the girl's mother finds an old photograph at the bottom of a drawer, the mystery deepens.

The story is taken from the author's book "Wonderful Strange: Ghosts, Fairies and Fabulous Beasties of Newfoundland and Labrador" published by Flanker Press.

Download the story as an MP3 at:

Or listen to a streaming audio version of the tale at: