‘Indigenous food is health care’: symposium imagines future of hospital meals

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Celebrity chefs paired up with hospital teams to deliver recipes imagining what hospital food will look like in 2030 at a symposium in Toronto on Thursday. 

More than 100 health care professionals gathered at Evergreen Brickworks to take part in workshops and discuss food innovation in health care. The two-day symposium was organized by Nourish, a national project that is working with food service providers to advocate for healthy, local sustainable food in health care institutions.

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge through consultation and traditional foods was one of the main topics discussed and also highlighted during the recipe competition. 

Gwich’in and Tuscarora chef Rich Francis teamed up with Unit Health Toronto to deliver the first-place winning dish: herb-crusted salmon with wild rice and steel-cut oat risotto and blueberry wild sage compote.

“Medicine isn’t health care,” said Francis.

“Indigenous food is health care. Medicine is sick care.”

Gwich’in and Tuscarora chef Rich Francis teamed up with Unit Health Toronto to deliver the first-place winning dish: herb-crusted salmon with wild rice and steel-cut oat risotto and blueberry wild sage compote.

Francis said food and wellness are intertwined and Indigenous foods are part of that.

“We’re talking about pre-colonial, ancestral foods from Turtle Island, not the colonial Indigenous cuisine,” he said.

Each of the teams was challenged to prepare a dish that could be served within a hospital and be patient friendly, planet friendly and scale friendly.

Three chefs were paired with three hospitals and challenged to prepare a dish that could be served within a hospital while being patient friendly, planet friendly and scale friendly. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

“I think the point we’re at with modern Indigenous cuisine is rediscovering all of these old grassroots recipes, modernizing them so we can put them in a facility like a hospital,” said Francis.

Food as a path to health

Chef Joshna Maharaj and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital created a comforting recipe for carrots three ways that took into account mobility issues and the idea of feeding oneself as self-care. They presented roasted carrots, carrot soup and a julienne carrot in rice paper.

The third team, a pairing of Chef Simon Wiseman and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, presented a plant-based option of crusted tofu with micro greens and a herb scone.

The three recipe entries. From left, carrots three ways, crusted tofu with micro greens and a herb scone and salmon with risotto and blueberry compote. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

It was the first time Haida Elder and contest judge Margaret Edgars had ever had tofu.

“It looked like halibut and tasted like halibut,” she said.

Speaking from her own experience with hospital food, Edgars said it’s important to have Indigenous foods integrated into health care because food is a path to health.

She said when her own mother was in a hospital in Vancouver, she wasn’t eating much of what was provided until a Haida nurse delighted her by bringing her some traditional food. Edgars said her mother began to get better after that meal.

“I think that’s how patients will be when they start getting their traditional foods in there,” she said.

Read more at CBC.ca

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