We arrived at the feast for the two children who had their walking out ceremony that morning with a large aluminum foil baking pan of macaroni salad. We didn’t really know what else to bring … The event also coincided with the first birthday of one of the children.
The Sabutan longhouse was festively decorated with balloons and streamers. Several large congratulatory and birthday cakes were displayed on a table.
I set my salad between half a dozen similar pasta salads and stood at the end of the line up for food. While waiting, I was able to identify the huge dishes of turkey, moose, ham, and beaver. That one dish was definitely beaver, I surmised this by the clawed foot that was clearly sticking out of the mass of meat. The beaver paws, apparently are coveted by women and the head, by men.
Where were the serving spoons? The young woman in front of me saw my hesitation.
“You just grab it, Indian style!” she laughed. This is the second time I’ve been told how to eat right.
The procedure is to pile your plate with as much meat as possible, filling in the gaps with macaroni salad(s). On top of this, donuts and fry bread can be heaped. Additional cookies can be easily inserted into the macaroni salad.
People don’t go back for seconds; leftovers are quickly piled up onto paper plates and covered in foil to take home. No food is wasted.
Then you eat! But quietly… If my family had been there, there’d been laughter, gentle teasing, interruptions, reaching over each other for condiments, noise decibels escalating as each member competed to be heard.
Even the children are quiet. Nicholas sat in his high chair in a little suit, gravely observing gifts as they were opened. Emma, slightly older, and more steady on her feet, ran about with a handful of balloons.
After dinner, a young woman passed around a plate of Nicholas’s leftovers. We were told that it was considered an honour to take a portion. I quickly speared a noodle.
Clean up is easy with everything being disposable. The table-cloth, with everything on it, is just bundled and tossed.
All this meat … for someone who has been a vegetarian and who still doesn’t eat much meat, it is a challenge. Being anaphylactic to fish doesn’t help either. Can a woman live on macaroni salad alone?
** I took some lovely pictures, but I am sensitive to posting pictures of children and chose this one because the faces are indecipherable.