It appears that it’s March now (MARCH omg) so that means it’s time for a March print! A small ode to Vancouver Island food, this month’s print builds on the Island theme from February (I know it’s the honeymoon phase, but I cannot get enough of the Cowichan Valley and I can’t quite believe we’re living here). This month the focus is on food, in the form of wild mussels. I’m not positive, but I believe these are Pacific blue mussels.
I love this photo for a variety of reasons. One, I was in the midst of a glorious summer backpacking trip when I took it and it takes me back there. Two, I love a full-frame texture photo, where all the little details an colours resolve into what ends up looking almost like a repeating pattern. Third, it’s food! Once of things I’m most excited to learn about on the island, and in Quw’utsun (Cowichan) territory in particular is food, both cultivated and wild, plants and animals.
Food is such an integral piece of culture, and because it has always played a large role in anchoring me to both places and people, it feels like the right place to start. The other day I listened to a podcast interview with Jared Qwustenuxun Williams, who describes himself as food sovereignty chef. After working in restaurants Williams now runs the Elder’s Kitchen for Cowichan Tribes (also writes this column for the Discourse He talks about how quickly food traditions, from harvesting to preparation and eating are becoming lost and how crucial those foods are to the culture rooted on these lands.
Food sovereignty goes beyond food security to protect a people’s right to define their own food system according to their specific place and in line with their specific needs and values. The Cowichan Valley is so full of people growing and creating incredible food, and it’s to see more and more people working toward not only a local food system but also a just food system, one that reflects the history and culture of this territory and the reality of interconnectedness.
Place-based food systems
We’re all mired in a culture that values individualism, and I think that translates into a food culture that can end up placing self-sufficiency at the pinnacle of its values. One of the best things about living in Lillooet a few years ago was the incredible culture of sharing and trading food that ensured everyone had access to everything they needed without having to produce it all themselves.
Everyone knew who raised the best chickens, who grew the best garlic, where to get everything from root veggies and fava beans to hops and honey and homegrown ginger. If you were lucky you might even receive a gift of fish. And never mind the tomatoes. I challenge you to find me a better tomato than a Lillooet tomato. It was a beautiful thing. Food security means food for everyone. Food sovereignty means restoring a web that allows people to care for each other and their lands guided by their own history, culture and place.
I have been lucky enough to eat wild foods all over BC, from bear sausage and moose stew (the tenderest meat you will ever taste) in Wet’suwet’en, to fresh spring salmon in Haida Gwaii to ts’wan (wind-dried salmon) in St’at’imc. With such abundance on the island, I hope I will eventually be invited to eat Quw’utsun foods.
As before, it goes like this:
- The print is $30, shipping included
- You have until the end of the month to order.
- You’ll receive a 5×7 archival print
- I will mail out all orders at the end of the month
To order yours, (or send one to a friend!) click here.
If you have any questions, or would like to share a story about food sovereignty in your area or your favourite wild and local foods, just drop me a line.