Life / Food

Moosemeat & Marmalade star on what locavores can learn from Cree cooking

Metro caught up with Art Napolean to talk about wild food and what happens when he and his co-star come up empty-handed after a hunt. He even offers up a recipe.

Art Napoleon and Dan Hayes, co-hosts of Moosemeat and Marmalade which kicks off its third season Jan. 18.

Contributed / APTN

Art Napoleon and Dan Hayes, co-hosts of Moosemeat and Marmalade which kicks off its third season Jan. 18.

When it comes to food trends, what’s old is new again. Hyper-local and Indigenous cuisine are all the rage. And food doesn’t get much more local than meat you shoot yourself. That’s the lesson the two stars of APTN’s Moosemeat & Marmalade — Cree cook and self-described “bushman” Art Napolean and classically trained British chef Dan Hayes — are trying to impart. They hunt, gather, trap and net their own ingredients in the series, which kicks off its third season Jan. 18. Metro caught up with Napolean to talk about wild food and what happens when they come up empty-handed after a hunt.

Tell me a bit about how Moosemeat & Marmalade came about. There really is no other Canadian cooking program that does anything like this.

It originated from me. It was going to be a sketch comedy piece poking fun at cooking shows. It was going to be me in character as this trapper who is messy and dirty and giving cooking lessons in his trap line cabin. I was (coming up with it) while on the set of the kid’s show I was working on. (Dan) Hayes, the London chef, was the caterer on that show. Our producer, she’s from England, she thought (our show) would work for more of a mainstream audience if we teamed up. I might draw in more of a native audience, and Dan might draw in more of a public Canadian one. And that turned out to be the case. We get fans from both sides of the fence.

What do you think those groups can learn from each other? I imagine the usual cooking show audience is pretty diverse, but has lots of people who are not Indigenous and maybe don’t even know any Indigenous people or much about Indigenous cuisine. What do you think that audience, who are pretty used to Martha Stewart and what-not, can get out of your show?

Well, hopefully a sense of humour, for one. If you don’t have a sense of humour, they won’t like our show. It’s more of a show on the culture of food, than it is about food itself. We don’t post recipes during the show. And everything is a little bit rough and can be chaotic sometimes. I also think the content is educational, even though it can be funny. The techniques and the foods we’re after, it’s all real. There’s a lot they can learn how we process things, how we hunt, how we cook using the old methods — the fire, the wood. There’s a lot for foodie types to learn there.

What’s your favourite dish or food that you’ve featured on your show?

It’s hard to say. The beaver that I did up was very nice. It was done in a fancy stew involving red wine and a lot of veggies. It was done over an open fire and served with bannock. Very, very tasty.

What does beaver taste like, for the uninitiated?

Well (clears throat dramatically), that’s a private question. It’s got it’s own built-in spice. You don’t really need to add anything. I don’t know how I would describe it. I had to soak it in vinegar water to tame it down a little. After that you can do pretty much anything with it. It’s a red meat, like any other red meat, maybe a little softer. The fat you want to avoid, it’s almost a blubber-like fat.

Some of the recipes you’ve made have ingredients, like pigeon, that might be hard to access if you don’t know how to shoot a pigeon …

It’s not as hard as you think! Soak some breadcrumbs in wine, when the pigeons are drunk you bash them on the heads. No, I’m joking. Some things can be easily replaced. There are certain gourmet stores where you can find stuff like pigeon. But an equivalent that people could access here is probably Cornish hen or farm-raised quail.

What’s a good food to try cooking if you’re interested in wild foods, but you’re a beginner?

Any of the red meats; any of the ungulates like moose or elk. Elk is not much different from beef. Neither is bison!

This show is part of a larger movement of people who are not Indigenous, but are interested in Indigenous foods. Certainly in Toronto, more restaurants are advertising things like bannock and venison. What are your thoughts on that?   

There always has been a lack of appreciation (for Indigenous cuisine) because in North America they look for the exotic. Oh, Morrocon food is so hot. Brazilian food is the ‘in’ thing. And nowadays it’s the local or 50-mile diet. We (Indigenous cooks) have been practising of that. Stuff did make it through extensive trade networks that existed at one time. Stuff from the East Coast has been found in the middle of the prairies and dug up and carbon-dated. Stuff from the West Coast has been found in the prairies, from pre-contact (pre-colonial times). By foot, by canoe. It wasn’t like there was a big impact on the Earth. It’s good to know that there is an interest because the exotic has always been right there under our noses. If you want to call it exotic, which I’m not wild about that term. But you’re not going to get more organic and free-range than hunting your own moose. It puts you in touch with the lands. And if you do it properly and ethically, you don’t waste anything and you have reverence for that animal. But it’s good that it’s popular. At the same time, I wouldn’t want everybody going out and doing it. I want it for me and my family. I earned it.

Do you think food can be a way in to some healing and communication between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities? Can the dinner table be a place where reconciliation can happen, where hard conversations can happen?

It completely depends on the context. It depends on the on-the-table agendas and the under-the-table agendas because people usually go into these negotiation tables with an agenda, with some preconceived notions. But the food — while you’re eating, while you’re sitting, while you’re conversing — that is real. After the meal you can turn into an a-hole again and try to access resources as cheap as you can. For us, you know, we’re a highly relational people, Indigenous people. We’re family oriented. It’s all about relationship building. Food is a common denominator. I love looking at the similarities around the world when it comes to food. Indigenous foods have a lot more in common with old Europe – you know, the peasant food, very simple hearty foods, from the land, the cheap cuts.

What else do you think people should know before they watch this show?

It’s a hybrid – it involves a little bit of humour, a little bit of education, a little bit of hunting, a little bit of fishing. It’s not just cooking. We’re talking a low-budget, Canadian TV series here. We get roughly three hours to get an animal. It’s not like other budget shows from the states where they might be able to spend five days on a hunt alone. We have to be good on the fly. We have to be really creative and really efficient. Sometimes I wonder how we pull it off. So far we have been.

We don’t show kill shots. The first season, we learned from that. No cutting the guts open or anything like that. I personally think that’s a failed opportunity for people to learn, because there are so many lessons that go along with the field dressing of an animal.  But we also understand the TV world and not all audiences like that.

Having said that, I think it’s really good for people to know where their food comes from. It does come pre-packaged. Not all apples are perfectly red and shiny. I’m glad people are taking more of an interest in learning where their food comes from.

In hunting, there’s always a chance you come home with nothing …

That’s part of the lesson. We play that, so the audience gets to learn. This is real. Sixty per cent of the time you’re going to come home empty handed.

What happens when that happens, and you’re trying to shoot?

Usually community members feel sorry for us and will make a donation and we’re still able to proceed with the meal. There’s always a meal at the end of the episode.

WOOD PIGEON ON HAZELNUT SALAD

Pigeon breast on fresh greens, with hazelnuts and drizzled with the hazelnut pesto – a recipe from Moosemeat and Marmalade.

Contributed

Pigeon breast on fresh greens, with hazelnuts and drizzled with the hazelnut pesto – a recipe from Moosemeat and Marmalade.

Ingredients:

2 Pigeon breasts (duck can substitute)

2 Tbsp canola oil

Frozen peas

¼ cup roasted hazelnuts

¼ cup grated parmesan

Hazelnut oil

10 leaves basil

Small bunch parsley

½ lemon

2 cups arugula

Fresh salad greens

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place frying pan on medium-high heat, and once hot, add 2 tablespoons canola oil.

Season 2 pigeon breasts liberally with salt. Place into hot pan, laying breasts away from you to avoid oil splattering. Cook 2 minutes on first side until browned, and then flip over. Cook 1 minute on the second side, turn off the heat and let the breast rest in the pan to finish cooking.

Boil frozen peas.

Slice the pigeon breast and rest on your fresh greens. Add peas and extra hazelnuts and drizzle with the hazelnut pesto.

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