Journeys to the North Country
It’s minus 45 with the windchill as two chefs ride in the back of a qamutiq, an Inuit sled traditionally pulled by dogs. Today it’s pulled by a snowmobile. They are on the frozen sea ice somewhere on Frobisher Bay with the icy winds smacking their faces and churning up the snow all around them. They are bundled up in old sleeping bags but still shivering. The hunting guide, Alex Flaherty, stops the convoy and walks back to the qamutiq before calmly telling the chefs through the cloud of fog on his breath that they must turn back because it’s too dangerous to continue. The visibility is bad. The hunt is abandoned. Neither of the chefs have ever seen, felt, cooked or tasted wild seal meat. As they pull back into Iqaluit, Nunavut, the storm has subsided revealing a grand red sunset that only locals are familiar with and have stories about. The seal hunt will have to wait until tomorrow — but only if the weather allows. One way or another the chefs will get their hands on the dark rich meat.
Meet Art Napoleon and Dan Hayes, hosts of the popular Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) food show Moosemeat & Marmalade, a documentary series which features chefs from two entirely different walks of life. Napoleon (Moosemeat) is a bush man from the Rez and Hayes (Marmalade), a classically trained chef from London, England. Together they travel across Canada and abroad visiting new territories and seeking to hunt, fish, forage, trade or source local foods and share the bounty. From urban and remote Indigenous communities in Canada to Europe and beyond, this unlikely duo has logged countless miles over the last five years bringing mayhem into kitchens with their edgy, but good-natured banter and memorable adventures with locals.
Fall 2020 will mark the premiere of the show’s fifth season on APTN. “M&M,” as it’s affectionately called by the cast and crew, is the small budget Canadian filmed and produced show that never quits. It is one of the top shows on APTN and broadcast in three languages, reaching millions of households in countries including the U.S., France, Monaco, Bulgaria, New Zealand and parts of Russia. With four years of filming and travels behind them, the co-hosts draw a crowd wherever they go. They are routinely recognized by fans of the show and have become accustomed to signing autographs and posing for selfies wherever work and life happen to take them. What’s impressive is that both chefs remain unfazed by it and are simply grateful to have a global fan base that allows them to keep creating this show year after year.
“I am proud that many people find the show to be not just humorous but educational when it comes to Indigenous foods, cooking styles, hunting methods, preserving methods and many other aspects of culture,” says Art. “Some teachers are even using the show in their classrooms as an education tool, so viewers of all ages get to watch and benefit from this incredibly diverse and entertaining show.”
Travelling is a key part of this show, with each multi-faceted episode filmed over a three-day period. No two episodes are the same and can involve anything from hunting, fishing, foraging or sourcing local foods, to delving into a cultural topic from the territory or community they visit.
“When we travel to a new place, the first thing we look for is an authentic story to tell,” says Dan. “If that community has something they want to talk about that defines them in some way, it’s our job to give them the space to tell their story.”
Travelling to remote communities to film requires a relationship building process and reciprocity. This can be difficult to achieve over great distances and very little time but the crew of Mooswa Films strives for this kind of partnership building. As a result, the show’s unparalleled commitment to quality and authentic representation plays a large part in the show’s popularity year after year.
The last two seasons of the show have allowed the cast and crew to travel to Canada’s North, where they were welcomed with open arms. Travelling to remote communities in the North helped the duo develop a true appreciation for the lifestyle, including the high cost of living, and the hardiness of Inuit hunters and fishers working in extreme weather conditions.
As Dan recalls, “The guides would wear thin gloves and have no facial protection in minus 40 plus windchill while Art and I were curled up in fetal position covered from head to toe in a qamutiq [sled].”
Art, who is no slouch when it comes to rustic bush life even admits, “They are tough as nails and the hunters risk their lives a little each time they head out on the frozen landscape just to be able to bring home some meat. I hope that our show did some justice to this reality and that our viewers recognize this resilience that enabled them to survive in the Arctic for thousands of years.”
In season three, the show took them to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, where they got caught in a storm on Great Slave Lake, spent time with Dene Chief Ernest Betsina to learn about the impacts of the Giant Mine, and smoked whitefish with the late Elder Muriel Betsina who gave them a taste of their own medicine with a brand of teasing that only Elders can get away with. The co-hosts even had the chance to cook and serve their creations for locals at the infamous Bullock’s Bistro.
In season four, the show travelled to Nunavut where the hosts fished for turbot and char in Pangnirtung before moving on to Iqaluit, where they hunted for Arctic hare, ptarmigan and seal. The duo were familiar with the anti-sealing movement and plight of the Inuit to bring attention to the unfair criticisms and uneducated judgments from around the world before arriving, and the two felt strongly that filming a seal hunt from beginning to end was one small way they could help shed light on the misinformation out there.
Avid fans of the show will tell you that Art and Dan don’t agree on most things — quick jabs and insults are a cornerstone of their friendship — but one thing they both have a deep respect for are the people who still practice land-based livelihoods and those who’ve touched their lives along the way. Their travels in the North have allowed them to develop valued relationships and experiences with people including Pangnirtung Elder Joavee Alivaktuk on a sled convoy up to an alpine lake for fresh Arctic char, building an igloo with perennial Toonik Tyme Festival champion, Solomon Awa, and meeting the Laughing Chef Rebecca Veevee who shared some seal cooking tips. They also learned the many uses of seal from Elder Sheepa Ishulutak who speaks only Inuktitut and grew up living in igloos during the winter and tents every summer, and met with Iqaluit TV producer, Sylvia Cloutier, who taught them how to make aluk, the Inuit treat made from whipped animal fat and berries.
“We loved meeting the Elders and hearing their stories about the land,” says Dan. “It’s such an honour to have gotten the chance to spend time with them, especially those who have passed on to the spirit world since we met them. They are a link to the past and keepers of the old ways that more young people are now craving.”
When the two friends happen upon spare time without the constraints of their day jobs or a production schedule (Dan runs a Victoria, British Columbia-based culinary school, London Chef, that also offers high-end catering and Art co-produces the show and serves as President of Mooswa Films Inc.), they enjoy catching up over a hunting or fishing trip together. As the show has evolved over the years, so have the hosts, with Dan becoming more rustic in his approach, while Art has become a lot more organized and methodical in the kitchen. Make no mistake though — he still prefers greasy spoons, hideaway food joints and moose ribs cooked on an open fire over fine dining any day!
Season five will see Art and Dan adventure to picturesque places including Haida Gwaii, Montreal, Kahnawake, Ireland and Wales. Check your local listings and tune in this fall for the season five premiere on APTN. In Canada, you can catch up on seasons one to four on www.aptn.ca. For additional recipes including the country foods featured in past Nunavut episodes, visit the ‘Recipe’ section of moosemeatandmarmalade.com.
Krystal Wiggins is Moosemeat & Marmalade Publicist for The Social Agency.
Seal Fried with Salt Pork & Onions
- 1 large onion, cut into chunks
- small package of salt pork, cut into strips
- ½ cup flour
- 2 T oil or animal fat
- 2 T butter
- 1½ cups bone broth or stock
- The meat: cut up seal into stew-sized chunks and dredge generously in a bowl of flour until all chunks are coated. Then add to heated skillet and fry in oil or animal fat.
- Give the meat a stir. Then add the onions and continue frying and stirring until mixture is evenly browned, scraping bottom of pan to prevent flour from sticking. Add more oil. If the flour absorbs oil, start adding butter for extra flavour.
- When mixture is fully browned, add stock and cover with lid. Turn heat down and allow stew to simmer until meat is tender and gravy has thickened (about 40mins).
Bubble & Squeak Side Dish
- ¼ head of cabbage
- 2 cups boiled potatoes
- 2 T animal fat
- 3 T powdered moose or ground jerky
- salt and pepper
- Cut cabbage into thin strands and fry in fat in a pre-heated medium-high skillet.When cabbage begins to brown, add cubed boiled potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
- Continue to fry stirring occasionally until the mixture is browned and caramelized. Remove from heat and sprinkle in powdered moose.
- Serve hot seal and gravy with the piping hot Cree-style Bubble & Squeak.
Birch Seared Arctic Char
- 2 Arctic Char fillets
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 t birch syrup
- ½ t toasted sesame oil
- Coarse ground salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 T wild game or animal fat, or as needed
- 1 T butter
- 1 clove garlic (crushed or minced)
- Add animal fat to preheated skillet on medium-high heat. Add scaled fish fillets (or deskinned if you prefer),
skin side down to the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow to fry until bottom edges start to caramelize. Add butter or more oil as needed.
- Mix soy sauce, birch syrup, sesame oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the fish and swirl pan to distribute the sauce.
- Cover with lid and allow the fish to cook in steam and sauce until both fillets are cooked through. (Approximately 4 mins total.) Do not overcook! If you like both sides of your fillets browned, flip them over before you add the sauce, being careful to keep them intact.
- Serve hot with your favourite steamed rice recipe. Drizzle sauce from pan over the fillets.
Chef’s notes: Birch syrup can be purchased from any specialty store or online.