Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 14, 2024
18° Mainly Sunny
November 7, 2023
Volume 193 No. 45

Braiding Sweetgrass on the Menu

<p>(Olivia Timm for the Gazette)</p>
(Olivia Timm for the Gazette)

Stella’s Eatery hosts the Thrive Minds book club in the month of the harvest




The evening started with a reading of the Thanksgiving Address — “The Words That Come Before All Else” — read aloud by Stella’s Cristina Meillon to welcome members of the Thrive Minds book club to a harvest feast at the restaurant in the heart of Waupoos.

“Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us, we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living beings. So, now we bring our minds together as one as we give our greetings and our thanks to each other as People.”

Everyone responded: “Now our minds are one.

(From Left) Cristina Meillon, Leah Marshall Hannon and Susan Smythe-Bishop. (Olivia Timm for the Gazette)

It is a Wednesday night in late October. Stella’s Chef  and co-owner Leah Marshall Hannon has prepared a menu dedicated to the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash, what Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Braiding Sweetgrass, calls “the genius of Indigenous agriculture.” When planted together, each supports and nourishes the others.

Likewise, each dish paid homage to all: a tostada featured bean and squash salsa, cilantro crema and spicy pepitas. Dessert was a pumpkin cake with corn anglaise and candied black beans.

Kimmerer is a mother, a scientist, and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her work is an essay collection, memoir, and manual about, quite simply, gardening. Across a series of meditations and reflections, it brings botany and environmentalism into conversation with the traditions and cultures of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

The book explores and insists on the profound interrelation of plants, wildlife, trees, medicinal herbs, waters, people, earth.

About 35 readers at all stages — halfway, finished, or still wanting to get a copy — discussed their thoughts as shared plates were placed on each long, communal table. The Thrive Mind’s leader, Susan Smythe-Bishop, called the book simply “life altering.”

“It changed my relationship with my environment completely. It changed the lens.”

One reader recalled a chapter called The Gift of Strawberries, about how “the essence of a gift economy is, at its root, reciprocity.” She had planted a garden, only to find the wildlife enjoying it more than she could. Kimmerer’s reflections suggested another approach. “Why am I so worried about animals taking their share? They are just trying to live.” She resolved simply to plant more next year, so there will be plenty for her family as well as the rabbits and the deer.

“We were really excited to host this event from the moment Thrive approached us. I had just finished reading Braiding Sweetgrass and I was so inspired,” said Ms. Meillon. “It was the beginning of summer, just after that season where anyone who keeps a garden has spent a million hours there, and of course after reading this earlier in the year, I tried to grow the Three Sisters. Not much came up. Everything that came up is on display on the table,” smiling faces followed she pointed across the room to the small but beautiful harvest. “I got one squash, five corn, and a little handful of beans.”

(Olivia Timm for the Gazette)

“I was really happy to go on that journey of discovery, though, of getting to know the earth and the seasons and how things were coming up and how I could do it better. I was so inspired by this book,” she said. It brought a new perspective to the work at Stella’s. She felt a new energy, inspiration, and appreciation for the way Hannon approaches every unique menu.

“She’s been really adamant from day one, in an industry that can be so consuming and wasteful, to be as conscious as possible about where we source our food. Who do we source it from? How much are we sourcing and how much are we throwing out?” she said.

Kimmerer’s stories spark a desire to rebuild one’s relationship with nature, and with themselves.

Katy McIntyre noted how the variety of participants — even just at her table — made for a dynamic mix.  “Half of the people had been in a book club, half it was their first time. Half read the book, half didn’t. Half live close by, half are from all over The County,” she said. “It makes for a rich and cross-pollinated conversation and that’s the spirit and energy of Thrive. It’s ‘How can we build community?’”

“The other books we’ve read have been really helpful for building community, but this one seemed to touch people’s hearts and the intimacy of living in the world with each other in a different way. It was such a delightful thing,” she noted.

Books & Company offers all book club members a 15 per cent discount on the books, encouraging people to shop locally. The County libraries are also prepared for requests.

Thrive Minds is a non-fiction book club with a focus on positive leadership (both personal and professional), personal growth, community building + growth, environmental stewardship, autobiographies of great leaders and new inspired ways of thinking. We believe that words yield tremendous power, and that this presents a unique opportunity to encourage positive dialogue while uniting and connecting with members of the community.



This text is from the Volume 193 No. 45 edition of The Picton Gazette
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