In his debut cookbook tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, Chef Shane Chartrand works to “bring the beauty and artistry of his world to everybody.” As such, tawâw is not just a cookbook; it is “a collection of healing, of nourishment, of sharing.”
Born of Cree parents in Canada, Chartrand was one of many Indigenous children taken from their biological parents, put into foster care, and later adopted during the “Sixties Scoop.” Not until his thirties did he learn about his history and his home nation. tawâw recalls this, and it is as much a journey of discovery as it is a cookbook, offering recipes but also drawing the audience into an experience larger than themselves.
The book’s many sidebars and essays range in topic; some are from other contributors. They include “Reclaiming the Culinary Frequencies of the Land” from Redx Talk founder Cowboy Smithx and “Rediscovering Indigenous Terroir” from Chef Ryan O’Flynn. “Visibly Indigenous: Wearing Our Ancestral Marks,” from Nakkita Trimble-Wilson, extends to cultural tattooing.
In keeping with the kind of chef Chartrand is, the recipes use modernist ideas, French and Asian techniques, and non-Indigenous ingredients. They are laid out well and are accompanied by tips and advice. There are entries for every level of cook, from beginners to professionals.
The recipes are wonderful, representing a variety of ideas. Salmon Pemmican is a twist on traditional bison pemmican, and Potatoes Boiled in Garlic Cream is a fancy version of boiled dishes found in Indigenous cooking and is an excellent example of how good simple food can taste. Chartrand’s signature dish, War Paint, is included; it involves roasted quail on top of wheat berries with red pepper sauce.
Chef Chartrand set out to create a cookbook that expresses his personality and that replicates how he learned about his own identity and history. He is part of a group of Indigenous chefs from Canada and the United States who are taking back the Indigenous culture that was stolen from them. tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine is a welcome voice in the ongoing conversation about the resurgence of Indigenous culture and food.
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