Food culture on campus part 1: Three Sisters Feast

Every Wednesday night from 5 to 7 p.m., Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre hosts a free drop-in meal for students.

“It’s for all students, staff, faculty and community members as well,” said Laura Maracle, Aboriginal Advisor at the centre.

The feast serves a home-cooked meal prepared by staff or a guest chef in a setting meant to make students feel relaxed and welcome. It is named for the tale of the Three Sisters: the bean, the squash and the corn. In the tale and in nature, the bean leans against the corn and together they shade the squash, all supporting and ensuring each other’s growth and survival.

“We all come together, we communicate, we hang out,” she said.

Before the meal is served, the Centre honours a few Aboriginal traditions.

“First we prepare the meal. We acknowledge our ancestors and give thanks for everything we have today by leaving them a plate first,” Maracle said.

“Then we smudge the whole house,” she said.

Smudging is a sacred ceremony meant to cleanse the space through the smoke of the four sacred medicines: cedar, sweet grass, sage and tobacco.

“We strive to make it as inclusive as we can. In our culture, family is very important and that extends to the community as well,” said Aboriginal Advisor Vanessa McCourt.

“There are already so many academic spaces on campus,” McCourt said. The Four Directions Aboriginal Centre offers a more casual environment that sees community members of all ages coming together.

Our visit during the holiday season feeds us turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables, salad and apple pie. The menu varies weekly and meals include spaghetti, pumpkin soup, stews, salads and desserts, to name a few. They oftentimes serve traditional items such as banic, a bread that is a staple in Aboriginal cuisine . There are always vegetarian and lactose-free options available as well.

Students enjoy the feast because it’s a unique opportunity on campus.

“The Three Sisters feast is a way for me to experience different meals with different people. The food is delicious, the people are very kind, and I even got a chance to eat in a real teepee once,” Mike Cornacchia, ArtSci ’12, said.

Next time you’re in line at the ARC on a Wednesday night, consider stopping by Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre to experience a new campus food culture.

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