Moose meat and marmalade might not be a culinary combination on your must-try list, but it’s a winning combination for television network APTN.
In the award-winning APTN docuseries Moosemeat & Marmalade, which filmed in the Tl’etinqox territory of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) last year, Art Napoleon is the creative character representing the wild “moose” contribution.
The idea for the show was sparked by a comedy sketch of Napoleon’s, a self-described “bush cook” who grew up foraging, hunting and growing food in a small garden to feed the family. He said he only “fancied up” his cooking later in life and as he spoke to Black Press Media on the phone, he removed a moose meatloaf from the oven at his home in Victoria, B.C., declaring it smelled delicious.
“I’m always cooking, basically,” explained Napoleon, though he also has to make time for foraging.
Napoleon returns to his off-grid cabin in Treaty 8 territory of the Saulteau First Nation in B.C.’s Peace Country a couple times a year to harvest meat and forage berries and sweetgrass.
Over the years, he has seen the hunting near his home become harder and harder as industrial use and access reduce habitat and drive ungulates further into more remote areas. Napoleon is now a champion of food security and food sovereignty.
“I was quite spoiled growing up,” he recalled of his younger hunting years. “I thought we’d always have access to this.”
Marmalade in this scenario is Napoleon’s British foil, a traditionally-trained cook from the United Kingdom, Dan Hayes.
Hayes takes viewers on fishing trips and sustainable farm visits and gets to provide a lot of the fodder for Napoleon’s good-natured jokes.
The pair create a dynamic duo, with their contrasting personalities and approaches to cuisine -Napoleon providing the strong, bush-savvy archetype of an Indigenous hunter-gatherer and Hayes providing the input of a more traditional European chef- but both funny and creative with a shared passion for cooking.
Their styles provide plenty of entertainment value and some laughs, but also a profoundly powerful statement on reconciliation as the colonizer and Indigenous person learn from one another and share knowledge, highlighting the local culture and resources as they go.
During their visit to Tl’etinqox, the show spoke to Chief Joe Alphonse, who helped connect them locally after Napoleon had reached out, thanks to knowing Alphonse’s wife Chastity Davis.
Alphonse put them in touch with Paul Grinder, who works in compliance and enforcement for the Tsilhqot’in National Government and is the coordinator of the Tsilhqot’in ranger program. Grinder, who grew up hunting around Tl’etinqox said his family has been everywhere in the area.
Grinder still hunts there with his son and daughter and was their guide for a moose hunt in Season six, Episode 11 for the show.
Grinder also brought along his daughter, Breelyn, who at 16 years old, is already an experienced, having come with her dad from a young age, and came to help call in the moose.
“There was a lot of pressure on her that day,” recalled Grinder, but adding while she was initially hesitant, she became more comfortable and answered some questions on-camera towards the end.
“She answered it very well,” recalled Grinder, who said the chance to bring his daughter along to work with him on the project as a father-daughter team was “awesome.”
As for the hunt, Grinder said he is used to being a very quiet hunter, which was hard to do with the hosts and camera people along for the trip, plus it was challenging hunting conditions due to the warm weather that day.
“We had one moose call back,” said Grinder. But the bull did not show himself, and the hunt was ultimately unsuccessful.
Thankfully, there had been a successful hunt for the culture camp the community was hosting, so there was meat to cook. Elder Emily Dick also helped out with her local knowledge for foraging, though given the late time of year, their forage did not produce a lot but they did use juniper berries in a spritzer which looked vibrant alongside the food.
Napoleon and Hayes teamed up, with Napoleon taking the lead, to make a moose head soup, using tongue, cheeks and lips from the moose heads, and moose steak, using prime cuts from the hind quarter. Bannock accompanied the feast, and it was served outdoors in true Tsilhqot’in/Chilcotin style, with sunshine and then a hailstorm. The group one by one made their way into a tent for cover.
“It was amazing how quickly it changed,” said Grinder.
With six seasons already available to watch and work on Season seven happening now, the series clearly holds up.