The Secret Ingredient: Adjusting to a ‘New Normal’

Erin Halonen is an Educator and the former First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Curriculum Consultant in the Curriculum Implementation and Resources Branch, Alberta Education. Her passion for Education for Reconciliation and Indigenous Ways of Knowing was born through her lived experience with the local Cree First Nations community. Embedded in her work is deep sense of agency to urge the provincial education system to move forward in reconciliatory understanding and action.  

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With the upcoming Easter celebratory weekend upon us, we are all needing to adjust to yet another “new normal”.  Before any family gathering or event it is normal to carefully examine the mouth watering pictures of delicious food creations shared in social media news feeds, and think about what to bake or cook as a contribution.  This year brings a change in, not only how we gather, but possibly in what we can create and share as the grocery shelves are sadly devoid of most baking supplies. As I have reflected on this situation, I have been reminded of a wonderful Indigenous teaching that was shared with me that focuses on the energy and intention  we put into food while we are preparing it.

Where did the flour go?

With the COVID pandemic in full force, we are all aware restaurants are closed for dining in, and let’s face it, ordering take out food is a risk. With limited options available, people are having to cook at home. In fact, some are finding that cooking and baking are great ways to pass the time. Some are using the opportunity to teach measurement skills to their kiddos learning at home. Others are finally getting around to trying out all those saved Pinterest recipes that they’ve been meaning to try. Whatever the reason for the renewed interest in baking and cooking, the results can be seen by looking at the empty shelves at the grocery store. Many are out of baking staples like flour, sugar and yeast. Many folks who regularly bake, cannot find the items they need. One Kohkom told me she finally found a small bag of flour at the Dollar Store, of all places, so that she could make some bannock. Even my small town grocery store was sold out. They have flour in stock now, but that is because they are limiting the quantity that can be purchased.

Sold out sign

My brother and his wife are organic grain producers and have a flour mill. I have also made flour using my fancy Vitamix blender. If worst came to worst I would have access to flour or be able to make my own. Who would have ever believed flour would become such a precious commodity? Yeast can hardly be found at all.

Homemade Food

The Secret Ingredient is Love

There is something about homemade food that is comforting to the soul. Indigenous Elders often teach about the importance of the intention, or energy that we are emanating as food is prepared. The belief is that the energy is ingested with the food. Feasts and ceremony where food is served begin with an Elder blessing the food and beverages to ensure positive intentions surround the sharing time. Maybe this positive energy is the reason why food prepared by certain people seems to taste more delicious then if we make it ourselves. I know anything my grandma made was always extra delicious.

The Sandwich

A sandwich

A couple of my dearest friends shared a wonderful story which highlights this Indigenous teaching. Suffice to say, the use of humour is important in Indigenous culture. My friend was raised by his Cree grandmother and he likes to joke around. His partner is a more serious character, but rolls with his teasing, most of the time. With permission, I am sharing their story.

My friend is a mom and she owns and manages a day home. Like many of us, Sundays are often a busy day as she prepares for the week ahead. On that particular Sunday she was exceptionally overwhelmed with several tasks ongoing at the same time. In between laundry, cleaning, homework and a multitude of other tasks, her husband kept asking her to make him a sandwich. She kept telling him she was way too busy and he was capable of making his own sandwich. So basically, the sentiment was, “make it yourself!” The hounding ensued as he told her that the sandwich tasted so much better when she made it. Out of patience, and having heard enough, she finally threw all the ingredients onto the counter, slapped the sandwich together and said, “HERE’s your sandwich! Now, stop bothering me.”

 After all of that pleading for the sandwich, he looked at the prepared sandwich, very seriously, and then looked at her. He looked back down at the sandwich, and solemnly stated, “I can’t eat this sandwich.” She replied, “What do you mean? Why the h*ll not? What’s wrong with it?”  Again, with a very serious tone, he said, “there’s no love in this sandwich. You forgot the love.” After she rolled her eyes in response, they had a laugh about this.

In all seriousness, Elders teach about the importance of instilling love in the things you are doing, or making for others regardless of the situation, or the need to adjust to a ‘new normal’.  All  of the love and joy we can muster is the very best medicine we can share with our friends and family at this time.

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Be well.

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