Pub Date: 2016
Thomas Pecore Weso
Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir
by Thomas Pecore Weso
In this food memoir, named for the "manoomin" or wild rice that also gives the Menominee tribe its name, tribal member Thomas Pecore Weso takes readers on a cook's journey through Wisconsin's northern woods. He connects each food—beaver, trout, blackberry, wild rice, maple sugar, partridge—with colorful individuals who taught him Indigenous values. Cooks will learn from his authentic recipes. Amateur and professional historians will appreciate firsthand stories about reservation life during the mid-twentieth century, when many elders, fluent in the Algonquian language, practiced the old ways.Weso's grandfather Moon was considered a medicine man, and his morning prayers were the foundation for all the day's meals. Weso's grandmother Jennie "made fire" each morning in a wood-burning stove, and oversaw huge breakfasts of wild game, fish, and fruit pies. As Weso grew up, his uncles taught him to hunt bear, deer, squirrels, raccoons, and even skunks for the daily larder. He remembers foods served at the Menominee fair and the excitement of "sugar bush," maple sugar gatherings that included dances as well as hard work.
Weso uses humor to tell his own story as a boy learning to thrive in a land of icy winters and summer swamps. With his rare perspective as a Native anthropologist and artist, he tells a poignant personal story in this unique book.
"Hunger knows no season," Tom Weso tells us in these wonderful stories of food and a Menominee life. We hear tender tales of elders' morning meals, gathering partridge eggs, learning to hunt, and delightful stories within stories—"There was this guy on the rez with a huge appetite who could sit down and eat an entire deer. People did not like hunting with him." But Menominee cooking is a fusion: Weso tells us of older Menominee relatives went to Kansas for school and "to avoid religion" but eventually returned. With recipes. New traditions meld with indigenous ingredients of Wisconsin to create a tasty heritage. This is a delightful memoir in recipes. We learn that in Weso's youth, a meal for his Menominee family took an entire year to plan. Eating with the seasons you get wild game, fish, maple, berries, squash and other delectables. But you only get them once a year. It is this sustaining way of life that Weso narrates for us in Good Seeds, but it is also about transitions to diner food and Fair fare. These stories and recipes make us appreciate the past, make us long for woods and waters today, and make us just plain hungry. " --Heid E. Erdrich author of Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest.