Every weekday, Jared Qwustenuxun Williams and his kitchen personnel prepare lunch for over 100 elders at Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island.
Traditionally, the Quw’utsun’ people would harvest clams at the large clam gardens they built and maintained, drying them for alternate or cooking them in briny sea water.
But for today’s seafood banquet, the clams head chef Qwustenuxun cooks are available in bags from a meals distributor.
Locally harvested clams could contravene provincial regulation, as would privately stick fish, because of food processing issues.
“If we can’t use all of our traditional components, then we are no longer truely highlighting Aboriginal delicacies,” Qwustenuxun stated.
He provides that traditional substances, like clean raw herring eggs, lingcod eggs, and salmon head, are not commercially available. Most provinces also restrict eating places from serving hunted recreation meat.
“That on my own talks about how difficult it’s miles to reconnect with our conventional meals and our lifestyle if we’re now not allowed to proportion, we are now not allowed to show off, and we’re no longer allowed to get entry to it.”
Provincial food protection regulation can make it tricky to serve traditional Indigenous cuisine, says Qwustenuxun, who is a part of a growing motion of Indigenous chefs and food activists pushing for food sovereignty — the proper to define their own food systems.
Qwustenuxun and his kitchen personnel are required to have FOODSAFE certification, which prescribes that all meals come from approved sources according to the B.C. Food Premises Regulation.
Although provincial regulation does no longer observe to reserve land, in step with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), a First Nation’s leader and council may additionally prefer to paintings with the FNHA to ensure compliance with food safety law.
The FNHA says it’s Environmental Health Officers use provincial law as a manual for inspections and guidelines to assist communities to control health risks.
“The equal meals protection standards observe to each traditional and commercially available meals,” the employer told CBC Radio in an emailed assertion.
Additionally, as Cowichan Tribes is licensed as a Tribal Health Care facility by using non-earnings Accreditation Canada, Qwustenuxun needs to comply with public regulation.
For off-reserve centers, provincial guidelines have to be upheld at all times.
Lacking vitamins, ‘religious connection’
Teri Morrow, a registered dietitian from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, says nutritional advantages may be compromised whilst get entry to to standard foods is tough.
“When we looked at the market-based foods, they have been commonly excessive in sodium, fats — bad fats — very low nutrient high-quality,” she stated. “They’re inexpensive type ingredients that might final longer.”
As a counselor in Indigenous fitness centers in Ontario, Morrow says she observed weight problems and as a result, numerous persistent health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
She adds that conventional ingredients are linked to cultural expression.
“We’re considering the nonsecular connection that meals has,” she stated. “Hundreds of humans getting collectively, sharing meals together and talking approximately crucial issues in their existence.”
“There’s simply so lots greater nice in honoring something, having a ceremony connected to those foods.”
‘Our lifestyle is in the whole thing’
Qwustenuxun is passionate about preserving his community’s traditions.
“[The elders] would certainly select that you use water this is right from the ocean if we had it,” he said, dumping the clams into a stockpot filled with closely salted water.
Rather than discard the water after the clams have cooked, Qwustenuxun reserves the salty liquid to serve along with the meal as a soup.