How an Indigenous Chef Is Decolonizing Canadian Cuisine
August 7, 2018 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Rich Francis is reclaiming and reinventing an erased food culture.

Francis is working to help change the narrative around Indigenous cuisine not exactly by recreating it, but by bringing some of its ingredients and techniques to modern tables and palates. Over the past few years, Francis has hosted dinners around the theme of reconciliation, to explore what modern Indigenous cuisine is, and could be. To do so, he’s looking within himself, to nature, and to elders across the country—but there are few who can fully recall the flavors of a pre-colonial palate.
posted by poffin boffin (20 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't know that about bannock – thanks for posting.
posted by Beardman at 8:41 AM on August 7, 2018

Relatedly, a recent episode of the Media Indigena podcast covered food politics.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:45 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Apparently the question of pre- or post- contact bannock is A Controversy, with complicated feelings on both sides.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:51 AM on August 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's really sad or interesting how the main food most people can recall from the culture is merely one of the tools of oppression used against those people, yet remains one of the only identifiable items of their cuisine.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:58 AM on August 7, 2018

didn't know that about bannock – thanks for posting.
Bannock is the most amazing thing. Like raisin bread, but with way more fat, and fire roasted like Naan. They used to teach how to make it (with little discussion of the heritage probably) in Canadian cub scouts. Now I'm craving it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:14 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

The issue with colonization or oppression food is a tricky one particularly bannock/frybread because its been a part of their culture for so long & in many ways is considered a comfort food. As an example, I was at Six Nations for their Pow Wow a couple weekends ago and there were very few vendors (these were First Nations vendors BTW) who weren't selling some variation of "Indian" or Navajo tacos. (A previously on First Nations food).
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:15 AM on August 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

Variations on the same theme: The Chefs Redefining Polynesian Cuisine [SLNYT]
posted by shaqlvaney at 9:22 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this, poffin boffin! Y'all might also be interested in this recent Gastropod episode, "What is Native American Cuisine?" (transcript). It comes at the question from many different directions, including interviews with a chef, a policy analyst, an endocrinologist, and the director of a seed bank containing plant varieties that were saved on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. It's really worth a listen.
posted by ourobouros at 9:36 AM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

a TRANSCRIPT my garbage ears thank u
posted by poffin boffin at 9:39 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

thanku poffin for goodpost. i have appreciated your fpps greatly of late
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Excellent post, thank you! I've just spent the last couple of weeks travelling through various First Nations communities here in British Columbia and reading up on local foods. There's an effort here in northern/northwestern BC to revive or continue some of the traditional foods being lost. I work in a college where indigenous students and staff have their own space to hang out--they hold monthly potluck a and invite everyone, so I have been privileged to eat a lot of traditional foods that, as the chef in the article says, can't legally be served in restaurants: moose meat stew, or dried moose meat, for example. The students and staff from the coast will bring canned salmon and seaweed and rice dishes.There's usually also soapberry "ice cream," which is nothing like ice cream, but I actually have grown to like it (the sweetened kind, anyway--it's pretty bitter). You can't just buy soapberries in a store: they have to be gathered by hand in the bush. So anytime I have an opportunity to eat these foods it's a real privilege because someone worked hard to gather and prepare those ingredients. And yes, there is always, always bannock, which is much beloved by indigenous and non-indigenous people where I live.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:27 AM on August 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Montréal cuisine has been co-opting indigenous "concepts" I guess for awhile but it really was just another way to say "local" ingredients. I hope this more authentic approach starts taking off here.

Regarding the legality of certain ingredients, I had the pleasure of having seal tartare at a restaurant here (regular little French bistro type place). I have no idea how they got the meat considering the rules. It was very very good BTW. I can't quite describe or compare it to another meat. They only had two servings left when I ordered mine and they did say it was a rare (hah) special of the day.
posted by mephisjo at 10:43 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ooh, an opportunity to recommend one of my favorite podcasts: the Toasted Sister Podcast, dedicated to covering contemporary Native American food culture. My understanding is that First Nations peoples deal with many of the same issues of erasure and colonization of their diets, though obviously the particulars of the food itself is sometimes very different depending on climate. Anyway the podcast is wonderful and usually mouth-watering.
posted by DSime at 10:44 AM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

That article about Café Ohlone is marvelous, primalux. It moved me to tears! Beautifully written and hopeful. I love the way it links decolonizing food to reclaiming other aspects of pre-colonial ancestral culture - including language, art, music, religion, and values. There are few things that inspire me as much as people reclaiming their ancestral cultures and traditions at such deep levels. Thank you for sharing that piece.
posted by velvet winter at 11:21 AM on August 7, 2018

Regarding the legality of certain ingredients, I had the pleasure of having seal tartare at a restaurant here (regular little French bistro type place). I have no idea how they got the meat considering the rules.

What rules? Assuming you’re in Canada, there are no special rules for serving seal meat in restaurants.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:36 PM on August 7, 2018

(see also)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on August 7, 2018

Seal meat, at current consumption/ harvesting levels is actually sustainable.

I've had the pleasure of having it twice (in Canada) - the seared tenderloin is amazing (a little tiny bit fishy, but generally pretty neutral flavours while maintaining meatiness), and ground in a pappardelle was pretty much perfect as a ground meat.

But yeah, I think its illegal to import into the US?

Hunter Tootoo, as Fisheries Minister, wore a sealskin bow tie to a state dinner at the Whitehouse and certain people freaked the f out.
posted by porpoise at 3:18 PM on August 7, 2018

Thanks for the correction, Sys Rq. That CBC article was very good. I will start looking for indigenous owned and operated restaurants here.
posted by mephisjo at 6:46 AM on August 8, 2018

Top 5 Indigenous Restaurants in Toronto
(although the last one is more of a 'inspired by')
posted by Kabanos at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2018

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