Vendor Profile: Vancouver vendor Peter Thompson talks about the seasonal foods he and his family traditionally prepare
Lots to eat, lots to do
“In the summertime, we usually go fishing and we prepare our food, wind-drying fish. You have to filet it by slicing it and you hang it up and the sun cures it.
“You can build yourself a hanging space outside or you can make branches and hang it on there—we usually put a screen around it so it keeps the bugs away and the wind can get through it.
“That way it keeps the bees and flies from getting into it, otherwise it’ll ruin the fish meat. We fish for sockeye salmon and spring salmon in the summer. Usually we used to catch quite a bit many years ago. Now with the decrease of the salmon stock, it’s been very slim these past few years.
“A lot of people haven’t been making much because of the stock. The government only allows you so much to fish and so much per fisherman. So they’ve taken a lot of the fishing days away so we can’t fish as much.
“We save it all for winter season.
“We mostly fish in the summer and pick berries too. We pick a lot of berries that are out there, like huckleberries, black caps—those make a good jam for bannock.
“I remember I used to help my Mom pick black caps and she used to make jam for the winter, and we used to eat it with bannock.
“The family used to go out and pick huckleberries. We used to go way up in the mountain where there’s a big patch and even the bears were around there, eating. It was crazy.
“One time, me and my sister were picking on one side, and I saw this bear on the side picking and eating away. I was going to tell her but I decided to wait. I saw it first but then I knew, if she saw it, she would scream—I thought, ‘I better not do that.’ So we moved down to a different area and let the bear alone. Let him eat his fill.
“In the springtime, we go out and we do trout fishing. It’s really good. Sometimes, we set the nets for our spring salmon too because the spring salmon starts running.
“With the trout, we just fry it up and it’s our daily food. Plus, we get all the nets prepared for the fishing season.
“In spring, everything just blooms. Everything is getting prepared for the summer. In the springtime, you get your garden going too. Everything’s been planted in the spring.
“It makes for a pretty good garden in summertime and we canned tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots, corn when I was growing up.
“In the fall, we go deer hunting a lot of times. While we canned deer meat, you can also make deer jerky and sausages. We go up the mountains because there’s a lot of deer up there, and moose.
“We hunt moose too. Moose is good, a lot of meat on a moose.
“My Mom makes soup stock out of the moose bones. I like steak fried with some herbs, put some sage on it and gravy, with potatoes and carrots.
“In fall time, we also pick pine mushrooms—it goes good with the moose meat and the gravy or deer meat. Or you can mix it with any other food too actually, and it’ll be good.
“We dry mushrooms or we can them too. We boil the mushrooms for awhile and then put them in jars and seal them. We preserve it with the water it was boiled in.
“Winter is the time for enjoying all the food. Like all the canned stuff too, the berries and the cherries, apricots—even vegetables from the garden.
“I think those days, they were the best days.
“People lived a lot longer and were less susceptible to diseases because of all the natural foods. During that time period, there wasn’t any kind of sicknesses, or weren’t as much, because of all the natural foods.
“Everything we ate was natural. As for today, you’ve got pesticides and everything you can name in the foods. It’s what makes people more sick and age faster.
“My Dad was about 80 and he looked around 60 or something.”
Peter Thompson (Nlaka’pamux Nation) sells at the corner of West 4th and Vine, under the canopy outside of the Whole Foods building. Photo by Priyanka Roy. Interview by Stefania Seccia.