Everyone look at the image to the right and take a guess as to what it is. Medical instrument? Medieval torture device? Map of the first few metres of the yellow brick road?
No? Well maybe seeing it in context would help: click here.
Still not sure? By now, some New Brunswickers may have figured it out, but for the rest of you, I’ll end the suspense: it’s a fiddlehead.
Fiddleheads are very young ferns that are just starting to unroll. They are considered a culinary delicacy here in New Brunswick*, and people gleefully tromp out into boggy forests every spring to pick them. They are steamed or fried or sometimes (shudder) boiled, and served with butter and lemon. You can read more about them, and see pictures of what they ACTUALLY look like, here.
They are being used as part of a NB Tourism plan to designate certain scenic drives around the province. To me, this makes about as much sense as writing our highway exit signs in Farsi. I can hear the conversation now:
Texan tourist to tourism employee: “Where would ah go to git a look at that there Bay o Fundy ah hear so much about?
Tourism employee, brightly: “Just follow the fiddlehead signs, sir!”
TT: “The WHAT?”
TE: “The fiddlehead signs. The signs with the fiddleheads on them!”
TT: “What the goldarn heck is a fiddlehead?”
TE: “It’s a young fern, sir. We eat them. They look like the ends of violins, (sheepishly) …kind of.”
TT: “Now yer jist pullin mah leg.”
TE: “No, honest!”
TT: “OK, Ah’ll jist look for the sign with the plant that looks like the end of a violin, then.”
TE: “Well, actually, sir, the signs don’t really look like that. They look like a medieval torture device.”
Even people who live here are confused. I don’t know how we expect tourists to figure it out.
* Of course, we also eat seaweed, so…