SPINE FISH SOUP

I just felt like a visit to the UBC Farm, a yearning to feel a little nature. Actually, my mother was in town visiting from Victoria and I though that it would be an enjoyable way to spend a Sat evening since she had never seen the Farm before.

So you drive down Westbrook Mall in UBC towards the farm and alongside the new million dollar condos that have replaced the forest. Large billboards advertising the new condos show pictures of a very attractive elderly couple in their late 60’s riding, actually doubling each other, on their bicycles. I sure as hell hope that I look like that when I am that age….Anyways, a little further down the road you turn right onto the old gravel road that takes you into the farm.

Before I go on, it appears more certain that the UBC Farm will be saved, though final decisions have not been made. So yeahh for that!!!

For any of you who have not been to the Farm, it is really a beautiful place, an urban oasis that feels very rural. Visiting the farm evoked in me a powerful urge to immerse myself in nature, to soak up the greenness, the soil, the sounds of the birds…God I miss this….

I wanted to check out the new aboriginal smoke house that was recently built at the Farm. Smoke was coming from the smokehouse so I was excited to see that it was in use. The smokehouse is located in a beautiful little clearing surrounded by fir and poplar trees. As we approached I saw a couple of native guys that I had met at an Aboriginal Gardens meeting here in town. They were sitting around a large fire that they had made. Piles and piles of alder, maple and cedar logs were stacked all around the trees and the smokehouse. Sam came over to show us the smokehouse. It was good to see him again, his quiet, but very friendly personality. 

The smokehouse was full of fish, the second day of the smoking and the first time the smokehouse had been used. What good fortune to be visiting at this time, to be witnessing the first smoking at the new smokehouse. We were invited to stay for some fish soup and we eagerly joined the group, Sam, Clarence, Vern, Peggy and Cathy, the elders, and Mary Holmes the coordinator of the Aboriginal Gardens Project, and sat around the warm fire. It was good to see some friends again. We talked while we waited for the fish soup to finish cooking. We heard about Vern’s idea to build an “arbor”, a type of longhouse, at the site as a healing centre for young men and women. We shared stories about canning, and as always, I am blown away by the wonderful sense of humor among aboriginal peoples, despite all the years of the residential school holocaust.

So there we were, a couple of visitors, welcomed to join the camp for dinner. We ate tasty fish spine soup, basically the leftovers from the fish cuttings. There is always a little meat still along the spine and the bones. The soup also had salmon roe, potatoes and onions and tasted great. Of course there was fresh bannock and freshly made strawberry jam. What an amazing treat.

Somehow, I would really like to figure out a way to connect my food security work with what these folks are trying to do –  to stay connected to their food traditions, and to pass that knowledge on to the younger generations. It is worth asking what I can bring to this project of theirs. What do I have that I can share with them, and how can I support their work.  This is a start.

Ian

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