The Saturday Evening Post


It was a cold winter day when the wind blew the snow off the tall trees on the Manitoulin Island, stretched in the middle of Lake Huron in Ontario. The air was chilly, so Joseph Shawana and a few other kids from the Odawa tribe were playing underneath the low sprawling branches of a spruce tree, sheltering from the wind. They snuggled up together, breathing in the scent of the frozen forest, and ate the crust off the snow. It melted in their mouths like crunchy sugarless ice cream, spiced by the chewy green needles fallen off the tree. That flavor was yet another childhood memory Shawana would forget … until he resurrected it years later, in his mid-30s while designing a menu for his restaurant in Toronto.

“We would eat off the land, picking apples and berries and chewing on the outside of the cedars. There’s a membrane on the cedar tree that tastes really sweet, almost like candy.”

There are many things 38-year-old Shawana still does not remember about growing up in the Manitoulin Island’s Wiikwemkoong Unceded Reserve. But what he does remember are the smells, tastes, and textures of foods his family cooked. He remembers watching his mom and grandmother making food — mixing dough with flour made from ground roots of sunchokes or stirring soup cooked from cabbage and corn over an open fire set behind the house. He remembers smoking meat carved from a moose that his grandfather had hunted and brought home only hours before. As a child, he foraged, fished, and picked baskets of blueberries for his grandmother to make into pies. On a few occasions he went hunting with his grandfather too, but generally he preferred to stay in the kitchen helping the women. “I don’t

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