As I walked into Kathy’s kitchen, she was making a huge loaf of Fry Bread in a pan on the stove. Her smile was inviting and I knew I was in for a good time.
I am learning that Dining Out With History stories can be found around any corner. While visiting Roma – a Canadian National Historic site on Prince Edward Island, I came across a festival and met Tamara Sock dressed in her Mi’kmaq dancing regalia. After taking her photo, we chatted about my blog and she said:
“You should meet my mother.”
It turns out that her mother, Kathy Archer, is a well respected elder of the Mi’kmaq peoples and that she has compiled a collection of recipes passed down by her mother and grandmother and that she remembers from her childhood.
“Everything was passed down verbally,” Kathy told me. And there were no exact measurements for ingredients, so it was hard for her to come up with written recipes. But she has a precious, tattered old notebook of her memories and has written them as recipes.
“That needs to be a book,” I told Kathy. She knows, but is a very busy woman. Kathy is an activist and has lots to say about any topic about which she is knowledgeable.
She is a survivor of the Shubenacadie residential school system and was taken from her parents at 10 years of age to live at a school, far from her family, where she was abused, physically, mentally and sexually as a child. As a result of that experience, she has fought for her First Nations rights all her life and has become a strong and influential woman. She travels to Ottawa in her role as an Elder and at a proud seventy years of age, continues to work tirelessly with a program to help survivors of the residential school system.
Kathy is a great cook. She was raised on an island off the coast of PEI, where her family fished, hunted and raised their family. As there was no large game on the island, they would travel by canoe, boat and horse and wagon to hunt in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for larger game to bring home, Kathy remembers from when she was very young. She learned her cooking skills from her mother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother and so on.
Kathy shared a dinner of Fry Bread and a type of meat and potato hash or stew. She shared memories and could remember cooking clams by the fire, and just setting the shells on hot rocks to open.
She also shared the old recipes with me. There were lots of recipes for cooking game, bannock, fish, and other foods interspersed with recipes that my Nova Scotian grandmother used to make. Food idea sharing has always happened between women of all cultures.
It was the Mi’kmaq who saved the first French settlers from starvation by helping them to learn to eat what was around them.
It was an honour to meet Kathy and her family and to share a meal made with lots of love from a woman who has been through so much, but survived to become an inspiration to all. She has so much to share.
Kathy, you need to publish and share your food ideas … when you get a minute.
Luskinikn Baked in Sand – A traditional recipe for a Baked Bread
As recorded by Kathy Archer
- *First, make a nice sized mound of sand, about 15 by 15inches or a little bigger.
- * Make a fire and get it going good.
- * Mix the following:
- 4 cups flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- ½ cup of shortening
- 2-4 cups of water
- *Mix flour, salt, baking powder together, then add shortening and mix until it’s
- * Then make a hollow in middle of flour – than add water.
- * Slowly keep doing this until all the flour is mixed in.
- * Then knead, don’t handle too much.
- * Then put dough in wax paper then wrap in a bag, such as a brown bag.
- * Push fire back, move embers to one side with a kind of wooden spoon on a stick
- * Make a hollow for the bread, put bread in and then cover with sand.
- * Replace embers.
- * Cook until done, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
I’ll try that one Kathy, thanks so much for passing on some Mi’kmaq cooking traditions.