Nfld. & Labrador

Flipper dinners: St. John's church serving seal instead of sermons

A St. John's institution says it can barely keep up with the demand for seal flipper dinners.

Wesley United Church says it sells out fundraising dinners every spring

A team prepares seal flippers in the Wesley United Church kitchen in St. John's. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

A St. John's institution says it can barely keep up with the demand for seal flipper dinners.

This year, the fall fair committee of Wesley United Church purchased 750 seal flippers. It expects to feed almost 500 people over three nights this spring.

"We sell out each one," says committee treasurer Marvin Barnes.

Marvin Barnes is the committee treasurer that holds annual flipper dinners to raise money for Wesley United Church. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Not everyone loves to eat seal, but the people who do — really do. And for them there aren't many opportunities to get a feed of flipper in St. John's.

Wesley United is capitalizing on that.

"We can't miss. We could have 10 flipper dinners and sell them out. People love them," said Barnes.

"If you come here, you get the best flipper dinner in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Like a precise, military operation

The seal meat is prepared deep in the church basement. 

After three decades of holding annual dinners, it runs smoothly, like a precise, military operation.

We could have 10 flipper dinners and sell them out. People love them.- Marvin Barnes

One chef trims fat. Others add pork fat and onions — but the group won't reveal all their secrets.

"We can't tell you exactly what we do," joked Phoebe Sheppard, chef and fall fair committee president.

"But the last one we had, everyone said it was delicious."

Phoebe Sheppard is a member of the team that prepared seal flipper dinners for hundreds of guests at Wesley United Church in St. John's. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Sheppard knows how to cook seal, but that doesn't mean she'll pull up a chair when the flippers are served.

"I don't like it. No, I don't like it ... although I prepare it and I've been doing it for years," she said.

"Some people like it, but they don't like to cook them home. So this is the place to come."

Gus Dillon is one of the volunteers peeling and cutting carrots, potatoes and turnips. 

"Like all churches in the city, attendance is dropping, so this is one of the ways that we raise money for the church," said Dillon.

"This is a really great meal. This is a really good flipper dinner. The people in the kitchen here do a really fantastic job."

Wesley's last flipper dinner for the year will be held on June 7.

Gus Dillon is one of the Wesley volunteers who helps to prepare food for the flipper dinners. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

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