Tashia Hart dropped spoonful after spoonful of wild rice into a pan. Toasting it is one step in the making of manoomin flour. And, with wild rice, the options are plentiful.
Hart would know. The Duluth-based Anishinaabe ethnobotanist, cook, artist and author recently released “The Good Berry Cookbook: Harvesting and Cooking Wild Rice and Other Wild Foods” featuring 75 recipes from Manoomin Chocolate Pie to Nutty Manoomin Patties.
The Minnesota Historical Society Press publication features more than 250 images, many of them by Hart herself; instruction on how to make ricing push poles, led by Hart’s father; and contributions from at least 12 members of Indigenous nations, including: stories from Fond du Lac elder Wendy Savage; recipes from Dr. Arne Vainio; and images from Ivy Vainio.
“I’ve tried to make myself open and vulnerable to learning from other people and their stories, and learning from the manoomin itself,” Hart said from her Lakeside home.
Working on this project, Hart said she felt connected to both our natural work and our community.
Since the News Tribune last spoke with Hart in 2019, she has started and/or completed books across several genres: paranormal thriller “Modern Orphan and the Rematriation of Laughter”; children’s book “Gidjie and the Wolves”; the Rainy Bay Romance series about life on a modern, fictional reservation.
Hart took time to talk “The Good Berry Cookbook,” her favorite cooking scenario and more.
Find “The Good Berry Cookbook": tashiahart.com
If you go
What: “The Good Berry Cookbook” book launch
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 30
Where: Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S. Second St., Minneapolis
More info: mnhs.org/event/8884
Q: You’ve included recipes and stories from other Indigenous folks. Tell us about the community approach to “The Good Berry Cookbook” and why you chose it.
A: Manoomin is special to many people across communities and generations. The story of manoomin is not one that is told by one person. They (the manoomin) speak through the voices of the people whose lives they intertwine with. It is always a joy to hear the many voices.
Q: Tell us about the non-cooking-related “recipes” here.
A: In the book, I talk about the importance of being patient and utilizing extra-sensory perception to hold conversations with and build relationships with plants, animals and the spirits. The "recipes" for connection mentioned are illustrated through personal experiences written in a diary format in the book.
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Q: “The Good Berry Cookbook” is described as one to help foster healing and a return to a whole self. Talk about the role working on this has played in your healing.
A: During the last few years of gathering stories, recipes, dreams and diary entries, I've collected not only the writings that are shared in literary format, but also have further developed relationships with the plants, animals, landscape and people therein. I've found so much love, acceptance, and encouragement within these relationships, providing something any human can benefit from: finding their place among the rest of creation.
Q: You mentioned learning from others and the manoomin itself. If you’re comfortable, please share some of the lessons.
A: These stories are better read within the wider context of the book ;)
Q: Name your go-to cooking scenario. (Time of day, music/podcast on, solo or with a helper, and what are you making?)
A: Breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's nice to prepare a meal with my husband, who often takes his turn leading the meal prep. We listen to music, tell jokes and talk about things we'd like to accomplish in the days, weeks and years to come.
Q: You’ve been foraging, cooking for many years. Does struggling with a new recipe happen for you at this point? If so, any kerfuffles working on the cookbook?
A: Oh, yeah. For instance, while attempting to make what turned out to be Manoomin Wraps in the book — tortilla-like flat breads that are made entirely with manoomin flour and cooked in a frying pan — I had a few batches that were... let's just say unsuccessful. However, I don't think there are really ever any failures when it comes to recipe development. You always learn something. And the mishap batches with this particular recipe, although didn't end up working as wraps, were tasty and had my mind running wild with what could be done with them. (Think wild rice waffle cones! — Coming soon!)
Q: Any tips for people who are starting to cook with manoomin?
A: Don't use paddy rice. Use the real, wild, canoe-harvested manoomin. It tastes better, cooks faster and is a better bet for a healthy future of our natural ecosystems.
Q: Are there other cookbooks on the horizon?
A: I'm always gathering recipes and look forward to making a companion for “The Good Berry Cookbook.”
Q: You can (safely) dine with three people, alive or dead. Who are they and why?
A: Three of my grandmothers, all passed on. I have so many questions to ask them.
Q: Anything else readers should know?
A: Water is alive and sacred and so is manoomin. Pipelines running through the wetlands of Minnesota threaten the delicate balance we all rely on for healthy future generations.