Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week of Indigenous Eating Challenge + Broiled Haddock with Cranberry-Sage Quinoa and Delicata Squash Strips

     I have to say that November is a pretty good month and it's not just because of an extra hour of sleep or a day to gorge ourselves in delicious Thanksgiving foods.  November has been recognized in the U.S. as National American Indian Heritage Month officially since the year 1990, though an American Indian day has been celebrated in some form since around 1915 thanks to Arthur C. Parker (Haudenosaunee, represent!).  It is marked by events, celebrations, and festivities around the country that celebrate the strength, survival and continuity of Indigenous nations.  Coincidentally, it is also Diabetes Month in November which started as a week-long dedication in 1948 and has since expanded.  It really does make one wonder if it is truly a coincidence since Native American people have extremely high rates of diabetes - 2.3 times higher likeliness of type 2 diabetes diagnosis as adults and a 110% increase in Native youth diabetes diagnoses from 1999-2009.  But I'm not here to throw around scaremongering statistics vis-a-vis news reports or on your doctor's office waiting television monitors (whoever thought of this idea, I would like to personally force him/her to listen to them for hours nonstop!  Grrr... yes, I have some built up anger here.).  However, I do think it's important to acknowledge and bring awareness to this heightened risk and to do what we reasonably can to make our lives healthier right now to ensure better health and healing in the future.  So November basically means I get to acknowledge two really significant components of my identity and existence as a Haudenosaunee woman with type 1 diabetes.

     In relation to these month-oriented dedications, there are some interesting developments going on around Indian Country in terms of this correlation between diabetes and Native American people while examining the impact of decolonzing/ancestral-based diets.  A recent news article highlights the work of Martin Reinhardt at Northern Michigan University and the Decolonizing Diet Project blog, a year-long challenge to eat only Indigenous foods.  The participants of this study ate foods native to the Great Lakes region pre-1609 like turkey, fish, duck eggs, rice, wild cattail, berries, squash, and many more.  You can check out their master food lists here.  Devon Mihesuah had inspired Reinhardt with her own work at the American Indian Health and Diet Project at University of Kansas.  This project calls for a return to Indigenous eating to bring attention to Indian health problems, connect with the natural world, and find sustainable ways to support the earth in this process.  Mihesuah posts meals/recipes consisting mainly of Indigenous Western hemisphere foods and geographic region food lists.  You can find her Facebook page here and her own food list here.  Both projects, as well as previous writings I have cited, support a decolonization of our sustenance and eating patterns as a means to alleviate many of our health ailments and to nurture this connection between ourselves and the earth.

     Reverting back to an ancestral diet can be difficult to fully adapt to because of the time-pressured lifestyle in which most of us live.  For some of us, eating this way may never take us off insulin or Metformin.  Yet it is still a powerful concept and there are little ways we can make changes and move towards a path of wellness.  Challenge yourself to cook a meal from scratch and avoid the pre-packaged freezer section or interior grocery aisles for just one day.  Perhaps sauteing your vegetables in duck fat or coconut oil instead of hydrogenated margarine or fake butter products can be a start.  Maybe substitute a nut and berry trail mix as your afternoon snack instead of that 10-ingredient cereal bar that was processed in a factory on a conveyor belt.  You could simply substitute sunflower seed butter for peanut butter.  Or if that all seems too much right now, simply give some thought to how your own ancestors (whether Native or not) might have eaten and maybe meditate on the gratitude the act of eating itself provides.

     As part of Mihesuah's Indigenous Eating page and in conjunction with the Decolonizing Diet Project, she offers a Week of Indigenous Eating challenge to us for November 3-9, 2013.  Now I'm a bit late in joining this and can't commit to a full week at the moment.  However, I am making it a personal goal of my own to incorporate more ancestral foods into my diet, especially ones that are local.  Ideally, I would like to make an Indigenous meal weekly at least.  Most of my diet already consists of whole, natural, unprocessed foods but they are not strictly "indigenous" per se.  I encourage you to join me and try this out maybe just for one single meal and see what happens.  It couldn't hurt and I think challenges like this create an awareness we need to help combat the colonizing diseases we face, especially diabetes.

     I made my first meal this evening in response to this challenge - Broiled Haddock with Cranberry-Sage Quinoa and Delicata Squash Strips garnished with Red Onion.  While I didn't have enough time to take elaborate step-by-step photos or write down recipes and measurements this time, I will still delight you with a photo and description.  I breaded and broiled a store-bought haddock fillet with traditional Iroquois white corn flour and ground flaxseed seasoned with garlic powder, homegrown oregano, and sea salt.  I used lemon and olive oil to help the breading stick.  The red quinoa was cooked on the stovetop and infused with fresh sage, a pinch of dried cranberries, and walnuts.  The squash was previously roasted and leftover from another meal, so I simply peeled it, cut it into long strips, and reheated it.  This whole process took me about 20 minutes (10 minutes prep time + 7 minutes broiling/12 minutes quinoa).  It was also okay to my blood sugars as the carb count was moderate (29g quinoa, 5g cranberries, 5g corn flour, 4g squash) and the protein/fats from the fish and walnuts helped curb a rapid rise in glucose.  The fish turned out crispy on the outside and moist, flaky, and flavorful on the inside.  It was a wonderful and balanced meal and most of the ingredients were sourced from the Western hemisphere.  Nya:weh!

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