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SFU launches Rooted program featuring Indigenous foods

Culture on a plate — savour featured Indigenous dishes at SFU's Dining Commons starting March 24.

Folks frequenting Simon Fraser University (SFU) now will have the opportunity to savour authentic Indigenous flavours, ingredients, and cuisines with a new program — Rooted — launching.

As of March 24, with the help of a $15,000 grant from Feed BC, SFU has collaborated with Indigenous Chef Stephanie Baryluk and will offer Indigenous food curated by the chef in the SFU Dining Commons. The aim is to educate students, faculty and staff about Indigenous foods and tell their stories.

For Baryluk, it is important to showcase the Indigenous culture on the plate. “With the residential school findings recently, I think our people are meant to be silenced,” she says. 

“Today I have the freedom to practice my culture, to practice my traditions…I may not live in my home community, but it's something that I keep alive.”

Currently residing in Tsawwassen, B.C. Baryluk, who is Teetl’it Gwich’in and is from Teetl’it Zheh (Fort McPherson), Treaty 11 Territory located in the Northwest Territories, has also prepared educational resources and personal notes to accompany the dishes, conveying the cultural significance and story of its ingredients and traditions.

She says cooking always kept her tethered to her home — even when she was living far from her home.

So when Chef Rajeev Arora at SFU, whom she worked with previously, reached out for the program, she jumped on it — “It was a chance for the story to be told; not a lot of people know about the Arctic, the Arctic living and the indigenous people in the Arctic,” she said.

"I wanted to get across [the story] of how people live in the Arctic — by harvesting the porcupine, the caribou herd. The way of life there, just the resiliency of people, making it work in some of the harsh conditions and a little bit of the history each dish."

"There's a long history."

Baryluk describes the opportunity to create and share an Indigenous menu real exciting.

“I didn't think I would get to share indigenous food,” she said.

“Indigenous food can mean so many different things. To me it's about survival. It's about how people previously used to survive, and some of the techniques and preserving elements they had to use.”

The Rooted menu will feature ten different dishes — including Venison Sausage Pasta, Bison Bourguignon, Maple Glazed Trout Salad that uses spruce roots traditionally used for healing and Strawberry Honey Sweetgrass Vinaigrette Salad which uses sweetgrass that is traditionally used in smudging ceremonies.

The whole menu will be available on March 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at SFU’s Dinning Commons for the program launch, and the featured dishes will be available “on a rotation” basis on their regular menu going forward.

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