Associate professor Dr. Shailesh Shukla was delighted to learn that a cookbook the Department of Indigenous Studies created in collaboration with the Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN) has received international recognition.
“This cookbook is a great example of how our work nurturing an enduring partnership with FRCN is paving the way for innovative community engagement strategy,” he said. “While we’ve seen how vital this work is locally, receiving this recognition affirms the book’s importance on a global scale.”
As a Gourmand 2020 Spring Harvest Award winner, the cookbook will now complete against other university presses worldwide for the “Best in the World” award, which will be announced in early 2021.
The English and Cree cookbook, reprinted from The Forgotten Traditional Foods of Fisher River, shares recipes, teachings, and stories of traditional foods and its importance in improving the health and well-being of the community.
It published in 2019 after many years of collaboration between the Fisher River Cree Nation and UWinnipeg, spearheaded by associate professor Dr. Shailesh Shukla with members of UWinnipeg’s Department of Indigenous Studies.
UWinnipeg alumna Janna Barkman remembers working on the project as part of a field placement project on inter-generational knowledge transmission in 2012. She worked closely with FRCN Diabetes Support Worker Carol Cochrane to understand health, culture, and food among community members.
This experience has stayed with her, and informs her teaching practice as a middle school teacher in the public school system.
“I’m honoured to have played a small part in bringing this project to life,” said Barkman. “I learned so much from Carol and her community, and am inspired by the work they have done to bring this book to where it is today.”
The cookbook pairs storytelling with 69 traditional recipes for soups, side dishes, game animals, game birds, fish, sweets, and preserves. The project’s goal was to encourage younger generations to reconnect to their cultural identity, as well as to address a lack of awareness of healthy eating, traditional foods, and food safety.
“We interviewed community members of all ages, from youth to gardeners, pickers, fishermen, and FRCN elders about what food security meant to them and what traditional foods were harvested to provide for family,” explained Cochrane. “Community members shared favourite recipes that have been in their families for generations, and that is how the Fisher River Cree Cookbook was developed.”
The recipes and stories by Fisher River Cree Nation Elders are transcribed in English and Cree, providing insight into how central Indigenous food is to the life of the community. The reprinted cookbook is dedicated to respected Elder, Harriet Amos from FRCN in appreciation for her contributions to the cookbook and inspiring passion for revitalization of Indigenous foods.
This is not the first time Shukla has been recognized with a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. His book, Indigenous Food Systems, which he co-edited with Priscilla Settee, has been recognized in the Food Heritage category of the 2020 Spring Harvest Awards. Canadian Scholars calls it a “vital exploration into the importance and revitalization of Indigenous food knowledges for the health and well being of Indigenous and Canadian populations.”