Food for the body and soul

Sto­ries con­nect us, write Craig and Marc Kiel­burger.

Edmonton Journal - - YOU - Craig and Marc Kiel­burger are the co-founders of the WE move­ment, which in­cludes WE Char­ity, ME to WE So­cial En­ter­prise and WE Day.

Chef David Wolf­man re­mem­bers sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble as a boy, gath­er­ing with his fam­ily over plates of wind-dried sal­mon and ban­nock.

A mem­ber of the Xaxli’p First Na­tion in Bri­tish Columbia, Wolf­man’s mother left the re­serve for Toronto. Indigenous food in the city was scarce, but she fed him sto­ries about wild berries that grew out­side her cabin, and about feasts of can­died and smoked sal­mon that marked cel­e­bra­tions. It wasn’t un­til he was in his 20s, vis­it­ing his mother’s re­serve, that he un­der­stood. “The sto­ries and the food are in­sep­a­ra­ble,” he says.

Wolf­man started a path of per­sonal, cul­tural and culi­nary dis­cov­ery. He spoke with indigenous peo­ple on re­serves and in cities across the coun­try, learn­ing from Mo­hawk, Cree and Inuit el­ders. He took in the tra­di­tions and food, dis­cov­er­ing new ways to re-cre­ate old recipes and re­con­nect­ing with his her­itage.

Sal­mon is not just a stub­born fish that swims against the cur­rent — it’s a re­minder of the cricket song that marks the sal­mon run, the gen­er­a­tions-old tech­niques for dry­ing the catch, and the way fish­er­men share their bounty as a sign of their con­nec­tion to the land, leav­ing the en­trails in the woods for other an­i­mals to eat. For his peo­ple, food is more than nour­ish­ment: it’s spir­i­tual.

There’s a new cadre of indigenous chefs who are part his­to­rian, part cul­tural am­bas­sador. Piec­ing to­gether recipes long passed down orally, Wolf­man helps peo­ple find a sense of his­tory and iden­tity through food.

For many ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the resid­ual e ects of res­i­den­tial schools, food pro­vides a link to a cul­ture they didn’t even know they were miss­ing.

Three branches of Jesse This­tle’s Métis-Cree fam­ily en­dured the vi­o­lence of land grabs and col­o­niza­tion, pass­ing down the trauma through gen­er­a­tions. In the af­ter­math, This­tle was raised by his grand­par­ents, but alien­ated from his cul­ture. Now a Trudeau scholar and lead­ing voice on in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trauma, part of his jour­ney to re­con­nect with his her­itage has been through food.

“Redis­cov­er­ing our food is a re­turn to fun­da­men­tals, to our re­la­tion­ship with the land and our his­tory,” he says.

As indigenous fare finds a place, it’s lead­ing to new con­ver­sa­tions and cul­tural un­der­stand­ings.

Break­ing bread to­gether might seem like a small thing, but it’s some­thing.

The next time you’re out for a meal, look for an indigenous restau­rant. We prom­ise you more than good eats. Ex­plor­ing indigenous cui­sine, the sto­ries and cul­ture, o ers non-indigenous Cana­di­ans a way in.

There are some hon­est and di cult con­ver­sa­tions ahead. Maybe those con­ver­sa­tions are best served with food.

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