SKC Produces TV Show On Traditional Cooking

Aug 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 20-1: Native Voices, Modern Media, Tribal College News
By Vince Devlin

Jody Perez was sure that when, after a week at a Traditional Living Challenge Camp, she stepped on the bathroom scales back home, she wouldn’t like what she saw. “I really thought I was overeating all week,” Perez says. There were buffalo and elk steaks, salmon, dried meat, vegetables, fruit‚ and even camas that participants harvested, peeled, dried, and baked in the ground with black tree moss wrapped in skunk cabbage leaves.

“People use camas in soups sometimes, and if you boil it, you get a bitter taste,” Heather Cahoon, Perez’s sister, says. “But baking it made it so sweet, it was similar to a yam.” The food at the camp was delicious, plentiful, and as it turned out, good on the waistline.

Perez ate to her heart’s (and stomach’s) content and lost six pounds in the process. Her four children – 7-year-old Olivia, 5-year-old Jonathan, 3-year-old Robert, and 1-year-old Sierra – spent the week living in a tipi at the camp with her. Perez was none too pleased when her husband, Juan, picked the kids up at Blue Bay and immediately herded them through the drive-through at McDonald’s in Polson.

She was sold on the benefits of a healthier, and more traditional, diet. She and Genevieve King co-host a new cooking show, “Rez Chef,” that premiered last spring on KSKC-TV, the public television station at Salish Kootenai College (SKC, Pablo, MT). King and Perez and their guests weave cooking and healthier lifestyles in with Indian tradition and culture on the half-hour program.

Anita Dupuis, director of the SKC Community Health and Development Department, came up with the ideas and grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for both traditional living camps and the cooking show. “Historically, Native American genetics weren’t made to properly digest and metabolize non-Native cuisine, i.e., sugar, flour and trans fat,” Dupuis explains. Her goal is to help Flathead Indian Reservation residents combat diabetes and cardiovascular disease by returning to more traditional diets or by using foods with similar nutritional values to the ones their ancestors ate.

“In order to be successful, an intervention in Native communities must speak to who we are, must be based in and founded upon the traditional wisdom of our ancestors, and it must be learned by experience,” she says.

Under the direction of KSKC-TV General Manager Frank Tyro, Ph.D., they taped five episodes (two were combined into one show).The episodes aired on KSKC-TV for a month in spring 2008. Pend d’Oreille tribal elder Stephen Smallsalmon helped the women prepare an elk and vegetable stir fry for the first show.

“My phone rang off the hook,” King says. “Lots of people seemed to see it.” King, Perez, Cahoon, and Dupuis are writing a grant proposal that would allow them to produce 13 more episodes of “Rez Chef.”

Vince Devlin is a reporter for The Missoulian in Missoula, MT. The story was reprinted with permission from the The Missoulian.

 

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