To celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, Stephanie and her food and nutrition staff at Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities in Regina served up delicious traditional dishes to both staff and patients. We interviewed Stephanie to learn about how she and her team planned this menu and what inspired her.
What got you thinking about Indigenous food in care?
Nourish! It was the collective knowledge and the passion of my Nourish colleagues that inspired me to start thinking about how I could incorporate more traditional foods into the menus where I work. I had a moment around the Colton Boushie trial where I thought to myself, ‘If everyone did one small thing to move this forward, we could change things.’ And then I realized, ‘Well, what am I doing?’ So I decided to dedicate a large portion of our new Wellness Garden to Truth and Reconciliation, where we will grow traditional medicinal plants in partnership with local First Nations communities and Elders. Doing this menu was another step we could take to put our learning into practice.
Why does it matter to you?
It matters because many of the people in our care have Indigenous roots and sadly this has been largely overlooked in our menu planning. I believe that every person has the capacity to contribute in a positive way to truth and reconciliation.
What's on the menu and how did you develop it? Where did you source the food?
At our Nourish retreat in April, my group had the good fortune to visit the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler as a part of our learning journeys, and have lunch from their café. I had the most amazing salmon sandwich on bannock and wondered if it was something we could do in our cafeterias here in Regina. I described it to one of my Food Services Managers (Garnet Roberts), who is also an amazing chef, who said “no problem.” Garnet used Traditional Foods and Recipes from the Wild Side, a publication by the Native Women’s Association of Canada as a resource for recipes.
With National Indigenous Peoples Day on the horizon, we selected this day for its debut and learned to create a recipe for salmon on bannock sandwich with arugula and a juniper dill aioli. Using bison sourced locally from Saskatchewan, Garnet also prepared a dish of bison stew, served with corn and bannock to honour the day while also celebrating local ingredients. The stew was perfect as it could work with nearly all diet types (although we did have to relax our restrictions for sodium and fat). We served this meal across our four Regina sites to nearly all patients and residents and featured this item in the cafeteria as well. We lost count after 1000 servings! It was a big hit.
What reactions did the residents give? What about staff?
There was a real buzz in our kitchens. Staff was excited about serving something new and different and we had never really done anything in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day before. Many of the staff tried the stew before we served it and they felt proud – proud of our department for making the day special for the people in our care and proud of themselves for being a part of it.
Will you do it again? Same or different?
We will absolutely do it again, but we will have to find a different recipe for next year. The bison stew and bannock was such a hit we are planning to add it into our regular menu rotation. As for the salmon sandwich, I’m pretty sure we will see it in our cafeterias again soon – it sold out too!
What advice do you have for others who are thinking of bringing traditional foods into their own menu?
My advice to others is, especially if this is for a special occasion like National Indigenous Peoples Day, would be set aside your dietitian hat (or work with your dietitians) and relax your nutrient goals for the day. We decided we wanted something special for everyone, including our patients on more restrictive diets (like cardiac and renal), so they too could experience the meal as close to the ‘real thing’ as possible. We made a version with ground bison and veggies so even our folks on soft and minced diets could enjoy the same meal. We were so pleased to hear we got it right, with colleagues from Native Health Services sharing… “that was some top quality bannock today”.
Thank you Stephanie!