Seal Flipper Pie - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Seal Flipper Pie

A Newfoundland tradition that comes with history and controversy.

Canada has no shortage of pies. From the traditional tourtière meat pies of Quebec to the painfully stereotypical maple pie, Canadians know their way around a crimped crust. And while the island of Newfoundland has its own dizzying array of oddly-named berry pies (partridge-, cloud-, or service-berry pies, anyone?), flipper pie stands tall as a source of pride—and problems.

The reason for the trouble is that the flippers in question are seal flippers. There are thriving populations of seals along the east coast of Canada, and their meat tastes simultaneously of rich game and fish, comparable to duck. To make flipper pie, chefs slowly braise the meat, then stew it with thick gravy, carrots, onions, and peas. They pour the melt-in your mouth braise and gravy into a pastry shell and bake until it turns golden brown. Think chicken pot pie, but a million times better. The meat is lean, delicate, and flavorful.

Seal meat and other seal products have long played a crucial role in the indigenous, Maritime, and French cultures of Canada. Throughout history, the whole animal was used: The pelts were incredibly valuable, the oils and fats multipurpose, and the meat rich in iron and vitamin A. The local seals are not endangered, and in many parts of Canada, populations are rising. And while animal-rights campaigns criticize the traditional seal-hunting of indigenous populations, these groups have maintained sustainable and respectful hunts for centuries.

For these reasons, you’ll be hard-pressed to find flipper pie outside Newfoundland. So if you find yourself out on “The Rock” and are looking for a taste of something truly rare and unique, find yourself some flipper pie.

Need to Know

Flipper pie is often available during the Lenten season in early spring (which tends to coincide with seal-hunting season), as seal was deemed a suitable "meat" substitute during days of fasting in the 16th century.

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Contributed by
Gautham Krishnaraj Gautham Krishnaraj
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