Elder Little Brown Bear, Director of Indigenous Education, Programs, Culture and the Indigenous Healing Program, recently tested a bowl of Three Sisters’ Soup in the kitchens of Michael Garron Hospital. Photo: Michael Garron Hospital.
By JESSE GAULT
Michael Garron Hospital began offering Three Sisters Soup, made using an Indigenous recipe, to patients this fall as part of an initiative to bring fresher, more local foods to its menu.
Elder Little Brown Bear, Director of Indigenous Education, Programs, Culture and Indigenous Healing Program at Michael Garron Hospital, expressed his absolute joy at the addition of Three Sisters Soup to the patient menu.
“Being able to serve this first bowl to one of my native brothers was an honor. When I asked him what he thought about it, he answered me with the biggest smile and said, “This bang, I’m taking off my moccasins,” Elder Little Brown Bear said.
The Three Sisters Soup is made up of several ingredients. However, the recipe is based on the combination of beans, corn and squash.
Elder Little Brown Bear helped prepare the Three Sisters’ Soup recipe served by the hospital and also highlighted its importance to the local Indigenous community.
“There is an Iroquois legend (Haudenosaunee) about the three sisters, who were very different but are depicted as loving each other very dearly and living together in peace and unity as they leaned and helped each other to become strong, ”said Elder Little Brown. Bear.
“The beans, or the first sister, take nitrogen from the air and use it to keep the other sisters healthy, followed by the corn, the next sister, which grows tall stalks that the beans can climb,” keeping the plants together and the last sister is the squash which grows large leaves that cover the ground, preventing weeds from growing and making the soil moist. The thorny gourd also repels animals that would eat the sisters. A garden of these three plants could provide a family with enough food to survive the winter.
Three Sisters Soup is offered once a week as part of the hospital’s Moo and is chosen by approximately 60 patients.
Maria O’Connell, director of food services at Michael Garron Hospital, said refreshing the hospital menu makes local, fresh and sustainable food a priority.
“About two years ago, we started our Inpatient Menu Gradual Refresh project with the goal of offering fresher, more local and more sustainable menus,” said O’Connell.
“We researched local and native recipes and came across Three Sisters Soup, a vegetable blend made from corn, squash and beans. We consulted with the elder who provided the recipe, which we had to adapt for baking in quantity and to adhere to as many different dietary codes as possible, ”she said.
“The Three Sisters Soup is a great option for us. When one feels bad with a lack of appetite, a very common occurrence among hospital patients, a bowl of fresh and hearty homemade soup is its own medicine and source of healing, ”said O’Connell.
“We also felt that the story behind the soup, the three main ingredients are planted together so that each plant can support and nourish each other, reflected the team vibe of our department. It was exactly what we were trying to accomplish.
O’Connell said the addition of Three Sisters Soup has meant a lot to members of the local Indigenous population and to other patients at the hospital.
“To be honest, we were a bit overwhelmed with the answer. The Elder told us how culturally important this soup is to the Aboriginal community and we were honored to learn that this addition has meant so much to our hospitalized Aboriginal patients, ”she said.
“We also received many questions from our non-native patients. They ask about the name and we share the story behind the name and our collaboration with the elder. This opened up great conversations and opportunities to learn more about Indigenous culture.
Elder Little Brown Bear said the hospital’s support for Indigenous healing is gratifying.
“I am so blessed to work with Michael Garron Hospital because it makes my heart dance to know that we have such a commitment from what I call my extended family here at the hospital. The gratitude I feel has no words to speak, just humility as we walk together arm and arm, ”he said.