Edmonton Journal

Food for the body and soul

Stories connect us, write Craig and Marc Kielburger.

- 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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