A Naramata food writer is getting international attention for her part in co-authoring a cookbook on progressive Indigenous cuisine.
The book, titled “tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine” is a joint effort by Naramata resident and long-time food writer Jennifer Cockrall-King and Edmonton based Indigenous-Canadian chef, Shane Chartrand. It recently ranked third in the world at the World Gourmand Awards, an international cookbook competition, after winning at the national competition.
The part-cookbook, part-memoir combines Chartrand’s stories about reconnecting with his Indigenous roots after being adopted outside of his community at an early age, with recipes that push the boundaries of Indigenous cooking from communities across the country.
Cockrall-King was brought into the project to help record Chartrand’s stories. As a veteran food writer and acquaintance of Chartrand, Cockrall-King had experience writing about food, but had never planned on doing a cookbook.
“I didn’t want to write a cookbook until Shane came to me with this idea,” she said. “And I thought that I could pretty much just help him put the words down and get the recipes down and create the book.”
Over the course of five years, Cockrall-King had Chartrand recite his stories over and over again, so she could get them just right. She recorded them and wrote them in Chartrand’s voice for the book.
“Basically, I’d be interviewing him,” said Cockrall-King. “Once we finally got those stories, then it was up to Shane to create 100 recipes.”
Those recipes focus on modernized Indigenous cuisine, using traditional ingredients like wild rice to make tasty, exciting new dishes like Cockrall-King’s favourite, puffed fried wild rice.
But Cockrall-King says her favourite part of the book, and being recognized by the prestigious World Gourmand competition, is the exposure it will bring to the growing Indigenous culinary scene in Canada.
“The more people that can get turned onto Canadian cuisine internationally and certainly Indigenous cuisine, that’s so beautiful. The way Shane presents it and creates it, to me, that’s what the award does for the book,” she said.
Indigenous cuisine is gaining ground in the Canadian food scene, with more and more Indigenous Canadians choosing to go into the culinary and hospitality sectors. Cockrall-King believes that Canadians have become more welcoming to Indigenous cuisine.
“We’re starting to realize this is something that everybody in Canada should be celebrating because it’s the true, authentic voice of the food and the land that we live on,” said Cockrall King. “To me, (what’s) really great is when people who aren’t from the Indigenous communities in Canada can also celebrate Indigenous food.”
Cockrall-King is excited about what international recognition could mean for the Indigenous food scene here in Canada, but she also hopes the book helps Canadians explore their own surroundings a little more.
She hopes that reading Chartrand’s stories and making his recipes will spark a little curiosity in non-Indigenous Canadians to explore not just Indigenous food, but also Indigenous cultures.
“The (book) title itself means welcome, come in, there’s room, and coming from the non-Indigenous communities in Canada, I was just blown away by how welcome I was.”
— Distributed by The Canadian Press