Feasting First Nations-style

Posted on August 14, 2012

Food is a big part of any vacation, holiday or trip. Whenever you travel anywhere, it should always be high on your list to sample some local cuisine, so you’re really getting the full picture of the culture you’re visiting. Why travel unless you want to try exciting and new things?

Those visiting Canada may have tried a poutine or a beaver tail in an attempt to experience some sort of national food – and although those can be tasty snacks; for a truly Canadian feast, you have to try authentic First Nations cooking. Even many Canadians haven’t had the pleasure of dining on Aboriginal fare – and they’re missing out!

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Luckily, British Columbia – home to 203 First Nations communities (about one-third of Canada’s First Nations groups) – offers ample opportunities to sample both traditional and modern takes on Aboriginal cuisine during various celebrations, tours, events and at First Nations-owned restaurants and hotels.

Bannock is a staple at most First Nations feasts. It’s a traditional food similar to baking soda bread, and it goes great with another B.C. First Nations staple – salmon!

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Living by the ocean on the West Coast, salmon was once the primary source of protein for B.C’s Aboriginal peoples, so it became so significant it features prominently in local First Nations legends, myths, art and folklore. Many traditional feasts, celebrations and rituals coincided with the return of the salmon each year. During the summer months, salmon were used and prepared fresh by being steamed, smoked or barbecued, but most of the catch would be preserved for food during the harsh winter months and dried or smoked.

Today, you can have fresh wild salmon prepared in a variety of ways at establishments like the Salmon ‘n’ Bannock Bistro in Vancouver where you can have it candied or smoked, in a seafood chowder, or in a special Salmon ‘n’ Bannock burger. The venue also features bison, venison, Saskatoon berries from Saskatchewan, Ojibway wild rice from Ontario and more. You get to eat it under a huge Haida canoe dangling from the ceiling, too.

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Kekuli Café in Westbank also offers both an in-house menu of Aboriginal dishes, as well as a full catering service for parties and events.

If you’re the type that wants to sample one of the traditional ways of preparing salmon – in a clay pot, for instance, buried in hot ash, or cooked on a cedar plank over a hot fire – then you’ll have to leave the confines of the city and venture on an Aboriginal tour – like those offered by Takaya Tours, or Culture Shock Interactive Gallery, or maybe visitHaida House at Tllaal on Haida Gwaii for a unique Aboriginal lodging experience, or hit up an annual pow wow or celebration.

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But, if you’re looking for a real taste of Canada that isn’t the empty calories (or culture) of cheese curds and gravy… it’s well worth the trip.

Click here to learn more about adding a First Nations culinary experience to your visit to British Columbia.


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