Food Taster to bring Indigenous eats to NMU

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North Wind file photo: Right, NMU alumna Kayla Argeropoulos volunteers with a smile at the annual “First Nations Food Taster” event last year.

Mason Wallace

Envision how your life would be different if you had to survive solely on the food found in the Upper Great Lakes Region.

Things you may be making for yourself would include roast turkey, bison and venison stew, minty wild rice salad and three sisters casserole, which is comprised of corn, beans and squash. Other recipes could be white pine or wintergreen tea, pumpkin cornbread, maple roasted pecans and much more.

This is the goal of the “First Nations Food Taster” put on by the Native American Student Association (NASA) of Northern Michigan University.

The event is now in its 17th year and aims to provide people with a wide array of choices from traditional and contemporary Native American recipes.

It also raises money for the annual “Learning to Walk Together” Pow Wow held later in the winter semester, said NASA co-president Biidaaban Reinhardt, a senior physics and Native American studies double major.

“It’s a way to bring diversity to the community,” Reinhardt said. “People can try Indigenous foods to this area and learn about the culture all at the same time.”

The food taster will take place from 5 to7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10 at the Jacobetti Complex. Tickets are available at the door and are $7 for NMU students with their ID, elders, veterans and children ages 5-10, and general admission is $15.

The group is also looking for volunteers to prep the food and work at the event. Anyone who signs up for a shift will be able to get into the taster for free.

“When we are preparing the food everyone is happy, singing and laughing,” Reinhardt added. “That energy is all infused into the food, and it will definitely come out at the event as well.”

The majority of menu items are selected out of the Decolonizing Diet Project cookbook, which members at the Center for Native American Studies put together a few years ago. It was a year-long study consisting of 25 people using and eating precolonial foods indigenous to the Great Lakes region daily.

There are more benefits to the event then just trying new food. The foods and recipes provided offer multiple health benefits. These foods are also a great and popular choice because many of the recipes offered are gluten free as well as vegan and vegetarian, said Reinhardt.

NASA is always encouraging people who have never tried this sort of cuisine to come and enjoy it, said NASA member Marlee Gunsell.

“I was really surprised that there were so many things from this area that you could make,” Gunsell said. “I never knew that you could make tea from the pine needles right outside.”

It is a “dish-bag” event. The goal is to cut down on paper and plastic waste by offering incentives. Attendees who bring a reusable cup, bowl, plate and silverware will then be eligible for a raffle prize.

There will be hand drumming and flute playing during the meal. There will also be a silent auction comprised of an array of donations from local artists, including a moose antler in the shape of an eagle, Reinhardt added.

“We are all related and are the whole environment, and we can bring awareness to Indigenous communities that are local in this region,” she said.