One of the great things about living in Toronto is the food. With so many cultures, flavours and fusions, the opportunities to explore the world through your taste buds are endless. Indigenous food has been vastly underrepresented in mainstream culture and has been gaining traction in the foodie scene over the last five years. As a child. I had little access to traditional Indigenous foods other than “Indian” tacos which consisted of all the delights of a taco but on frybread. Writing this is honestly making me hungry, so I’m gonna try to make this speedy.
Photo Courtesy of Pow Wow Cafe
In certain First Nations cultures, the feast marks much more than simply mowing down on delicious snacks with friends. Feasts represent ritual and the marking of important milestone events such as marriages, births, deaths. They also occur as gift-giving ceremonies between tribes and members. Many West Coast Indigenous nations celebrate with potlach ceremonies, which were banned from 1885 to 1951, and some feel that the effects of these bans are still felt by Indigenous communities today.
(Read more about the potlach ban via CBC by clicking here)
As more Indigenous food expands in Toronto and beyond, it is not without controversy. Ku-kum is an Indigenous restaurant run by chef Joseph Shawana, who grew up in Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island. Ku-kum (pronounced KO-kum) translates to “grandmother” in Cree. Chef Shawana’s menu showcases a diversity of Indigenous dishes, and his recent decision to serve seal tartare has been met with division. A petition to remove seal meat from the menu and a counter-petition to educate people about Indigenous food practices has almost equal support, nearly 5,000 people for each. If you are interested in more information about this, I highly recommend the documentary Angry Inuk directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, which I caught at Hot Docs last year and is available full-length from Media Commons at Robarts or for purchase via the National Film Board.
(Click here for the Angry Inuk trailer)
Update: Angry Inuk will be shown in full on October 25th at Hart House from 6:00 to 9:00pm in the East Common Room. (Click here for event registration and details)
In the meantime, here’s a list of some Indigenous restaurants in Toronto if you’re looking to try something new!
690 Bloor St West
416-835-7484 or visit www.nishdish.com
Tea N Bannock
1294 Gerrard Street East
Pow Wow Cafe (my personal favourite!)
213 Augusta Ave (Kensington Market)
581 Mt Pleasant Rd
Peanut Butter and Banana Frybread
Photo Courtesy of Pow Wow Cafe
And, of course, if you’re a broke student like me, you can always come to Community Kitchen! This $5 event takes place on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 from 6:00pm-9:00pm at the Hart House Catering Kitchen. You can learn how to make traditional Indigenous dishes such as Three Sisters Stew and try fresh-baked bannock and sweetgrass tea. This event will be lead by Carolyn Crawley from FoodShare and Chef Johl from NishDish. Closed-toed shoes and hair tied back is necessary, as well as an empty container for leftovers.
(Register for this free event by clicking here) Update: Spaces are full, but you can check the calendar for upcoming events.
First Nations House also offers weekly Lunch and Learn, a series of events geared at focusing on Indigenous issues with scholars and delicious traditional food is served! Follow First Nations House @UofTFNH and The Centre for Indigenous Studies @IndigenousUofT on Facebook and Twitter.
Hope you all have an amazing week. Stay fed, healthy and focused. Good luck on midterms!