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Where People Feast

Cookbook explores the philosophy of indigenous gatherings

By Therese DesCamp

Where People Feast
By Dolly and Annie Watts
(Arsenal Pulp Press) $24.95

When Where People Feast: An Indigenous People’s Cookbook landed on my desk, I was anticipating the arrival of a youth mission group from the United States. Coming to paint our local church and learn about rural life, they were to stay with us at our retreat centre. If ever I needed a book about feasting, I thought, it was now.

Tested for 12 years at Dolly and Annie Watts’ award-winning Vancouver restaurant, Liliget, this compilation of traditional and not-so-traditional Aboriginal recipes is based on the foods native to the Gitk’san and Nuu-chah-nulth territories, such as venison, elk and seafood. A host of recipes use wild berries and plants. Emboldened by the

Watts’ commitment to local and available ingredients, I substituted blueberries from the garden for huckleberries (not yet ripe) when I made the huckleberry duck glaze. The results were delicious as well as sophisticated.

Other kitchen adventures inspired by this book were an outburst of late night jam-making with the youth group, seafood chowder, shrimp fritters and pine needle tea. And you’d better believe that I’m going to try the Gitk’san Slush when the snow falls.

Beyond the recipes, I was taken by the philosophy of feasting that marks indigenous celebratory gatherings and about which Annie and Dolly write. On the last night that the ravenous teenagers graced our tables, we hosted a meal with church members. An enormous turkey, served with the aforementioned glaze, was the centrepiece; side dishes used the fruits and vegetables from our gardens. The teens proudly presented their homemade preserves to the church members who’d worked beside them all week. The exchange helped me remember how joyful it is when meals become feasts.

Rev. Therese DesCamp operates Heart’s Rest Retreats in New Denver, B.C.

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