Canadian cuisine a mix of culinary traditions, but one is missing – Saskatoon


Canadian cuisine may include a mix of culinary traditions, but food from one of the country’s founding groups is largely absent. An emerging group of indigenous chefs and restaurateurs hopes to change that.

Rich Francis, chef-owner of the Seventh Fire Hospitality Group in Saskatoon, says he “cooks for reconciliation” specializing in his interpretation of modern Indigenous cuisine.

“Everything that was taught in school is through a colonial lens. It’s not our story. They’re colonial books, so now I’m entering a time where we tell our own stories through our own lens and our own vision.

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Francis, a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in and Tuscarora Nation and originally from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, was a season 4 finalist of “Top Chef Canada” and is looking forward to opening a restaurant this summer.

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Meanwhile, he caters and runs events like a recent Cooking for Reconciliation dinner series in Vancouver, where he focused on local Indigenous foods such as halibut, razor clams, stone fruits and sage for aromatize. He took buffalo meat with him to do a play on land and sea.

“I traveled to raise awareness just to go beyond what people know us, like Indian taco and bannock and all that. It’s not really us, who we are,” Francis said.

“It was given to us in our cultural genocide and the residential school system and everything that happened to us. We are now beginning to find our culinary identity in the industry beyond bannock and all the colonial stuff that was designed to destroy us.

Lenore Newman, a British Columbia professor and Canada Research Chair in Food Security and the Environment, says the country is seeing a resurgence in indigenous food “and a very timely resurgence that needs to happen.” .

“I think there are still serious repairs to be made,” she adds.

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While doing fieldwork for her recent book, “Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey,” Newman discovered that Indigenous groups played a huge role in helping early settlers learn to survive.

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“Then you enter this horrific period where native cuisine was actively destroyed and used as a weapon. The biggest example is the clearing of bison and how that was basically genocide,” says Newman, who teaches at the University from the Fraser Valley to Abbotsford, British Columbia.

“Here on the west coast, the potlatch has been banned. In residential schools, people were deprived of their native foods. They were prevented from using them or talking about them.

“We have a lot of accountability and part of that is culinary. And so, that meant that for a very long time, you hadn’t heard of indigenous cuisine, except in a very peripheral way as a kind of exoticism.

Newman ate at Indigenous restaurants in Vancouver, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, at a Songhees First Nations food truck in Victoria, and at Tea-N-Bannock in Toronto.

Tina Ottereyes, who runs Tea-N-Bannock, agrees that First Nations food is “very underrepresented” in the restaurant sphere in Canada and is happy that more restaurants are opening.

“We’re starting to share more of our culture and more of our food,” says Ottereyes, from the Wemindji Cree First Nation on James Bay in Quebec.

“When I grew up, we hunted, we trapped and we fished. It was my culture, it was the food I ate… Each tribe has a different diet depending on its region.

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The Tea-N-Bannock menu reflects the traditional dishes of different tribes. Hominy corn grown by a local farmer is the base of their Ojibwa corn soup, prepared in a labor-intensive process. The corn is dried after picking and the kernels removed. They’re boiled for several hours in wood ash to remove the tough outer shell, allowing the inner core to be “nice and cooked and plumped up,” Ottereyes said.

Wild rice comes from the First Nations peoples of northwestern Ontario. The teas feature a blend of fruity herbs prepared by the grandmother of a staff member from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ontario.

Although meat such as elk and bison is traditionally prepared, it is farmed and not wild, as the product must be certified and inspected.

Francis thinks there should be some leniency when it comes to wild food.

“The regulations put in place by the government do not allow us to express ourselves fully.”

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Elsewhere in Toronto, NishDish, a cafe focused on Anishinaabe recipes, was due to open this month in Toronto. Pow Wow Cafe, which launched last fall, offers Objibwa tacos using fried bannock instead of tortillas.

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A handful of colleges also offer native cooking classes.

Francis, who was trained as a chef at the Stratford Chefs School, first learned traditional recipes in Moose Factory on James Bay and in Iqaluit, Nunavut from people who still live off the land.

“You won’t find any of this in history books or cookbooks for that matter.”

© 2017 The Canadian Press


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