A Path to Healing

By Elaine Cicora

As women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries, LDEI members understand the health benefits of seasonal, local, and natural foods. But this year’s Global Culinary Initiative Breakfast, during national conference in Seattle, emphasized the spiritual aspect of the story.

As its name suggests, LDEI’s Global Culinary Initiative embraces global communities through culinary connections. This year’s breakfast focused on Native American foods and traditions. In the process, it provided a valuable reminder of the wisdom that resides in traditional foodways – and how those foodways nurture both body and soul.

Valerie Segrest, Native Nutrition Educator, Tedx speaker, Kellogg Fellow at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Food Sovereignty Project coordinator for the Muckleshoot Tribe, spoke first. Her message was simple: For the native peoples of the Northwest, a return to traditional foods equals a return to good health and abundance.

Prior to first contact, she explained, “the native tribes [of this region] made up the largest, most densely populated non-agricultural region in the world. We knew how to use and manage the natural world.” But today, with diabetes “at epidemic levels among native peoples,” and attendant problems like obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, peripheral neuropathies and blindness on the rise, that traditional wisdom may be lost.

To help reignite that knowledge, Valerie has created the Cedar Box Kit, an educational tool containing the 13 quintessential foods at the center of the Northwest Indians’ diet.

Developed with a grant from the CDC, the Cedar Box represents a way to move tribal culture into current times, Valerie said, by explicating the links between food choices, nutrition, health – and community. Thus, the foods in the Cedar Box Kit are of both cultural and nutritional significance. Among them, water holds first place. “Water is life,” Valerie teaches. “Put down those sugary beverages and drink water.”

Other foods in the box include berries (“wild strawberries are great for women’s health”); greens (“when it comes to nutrition, nettles make spinach look iceberg lettuce” ), bulbs and roots (“camas, a starch that helps reduce blood sugar, was once the most traded item after salmon”), nuts (“hazelnuts make us feel full from eating just a few”), wild game (“elk, deer, and mountain goats are a living legacy”), birds (“duck is high in fats and protein), fish (“salmon give their lives so we can have life”), and shellfish (“perfect little packages of nutrition”).

“I ask people to walk through the grocery store as if they are walking with their ancestors,” Valerie says. “For every item they buy, I want them to ask themselves: Is it seasonal? Is it local? And how do I cook it with good intention?”

Darren Jameson, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and chef de cuisine at Lisa Dupar & Company, spoke next. While his love of cooking encompasses an entire world of cuisine, his passion and focus are wild, indigenous foods.

Darren spoke movingly about his childhood memories of potlatch gatherings on the beach, and the strong sense of connection they created. “I learned you didn’t have to be rich to have a good life,” he recalled. “You just needed to have a community around you.”

As a forager, Darren also shared his concern about our impact on the land and water, especially in the case of wild salmon, an endangered species “that connects everything in the world. Its importance is not just that it is delicious. It is a keystone species whose demise will effect everything: bears, whales, eagles, and us.

“And as hospitality people,” he reminded us, “we are in a great position to educate others about salmon’s importance.”
Sea, forest and wetlands: “There is enough wild food in each of these places to create a full meal,” he said. “As a chef, to be able to take these things and create a meal that appeals to all is very special. I am privileged to be a part of that.

“It’s the most special way there is to connect with the past – and to create traditions for our own descendants.”

Read more about this year's conference in the Winter issue of the LDEI Quarterly.


Dames Dish! Five Reasons to Blog About Your Food Business

By Paris Wolfe
At its most basic, blogging keeps your customers informed and tells others about your business. Sure, you can use other social media to spread the news, but blog posts offer more space than Twitter or Facebook. (Just try to keep each post under 800 words.) And you can go on to promote those blog posts on Twitter and Facebook for a triple play.

Think about a blog as your newspaper. Introducing a new product or menu? Blog the news. Secured a new supplier? Blog why this is important. Have mad skills in the kitchen? Blog your expertise. Don’t just brag, but tell the story around your news.

Here are five reasons to blog:

1) To market or promote your business: The biggest blog benefit is awareness. It makes your business easier to find when someone is searching the internet. And it lets you tell them why they should choose you for their needs.

2) To connect with customers: Regular followers learn about your business and feel part of a community. That secures them as brand loyalists.

3) To build your reputation: The content and quality of your posts enables you to demonstrate your expertise and reaffirm your reputation as an expert in your field.

4) To share your thoughts and opinions: Do you have an opinion on a trending topic – like tipping or the paleo diet – that you really want to share? Blog it. But, blog wisely and avoid politics – or else!

5) To have fun: Share the news! Share some excitement

Dame Paris Wolfe is an award-winning writer, editor, and author of two blogs: The Herb Society of America and Willoughby Outdoor Market. She also is founder and administrator of “NEO Foodies, Ashtabula Wining and Dining,” and a contributor to The News-Herald, Edible Cleveland, Northeast Ohio Boomer, Crain's Cleveland Business, American Iron, and more. Contact her at 440-867-8966, pariswolfe@yahoo.com, Twitter @pariswolfe, Instagram pariswolfe.

Article originally published in Dames Dish! – Cleveland's Les Dames d'Escoffier monthly newsletter. Read more of newsletter here.