Building relationships through food
by Cat Clarke
Cat is a Food technology and Hospitality teacher at Tully State High School in Far North Queensland. For a recent event she helped her students to run a bush foods stall in conjunction with the Girringun Aboriginal Cooperation.
Through the window, I can see that the rain has started to ease at last, after weeks of drenching weather. Within me too, I feel a sense of ease, knowing that what we accomplished at the recent World Rafting Championships was our own little triumph – bringing delicious, authentic Bush Foods to a swarm of hungry international guests and enthusiastic locals.
Now in my third year at Tully State High School, I have formed lasting friendships with the members of the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation. Jirrbal woman and teacher aide, Tonya Grant, who shares her knowledge on plants and their stories with me, introduced me. Tonya and I have been working together for over two years. My other strong learning relationships are with my beautiful friends, Daniel Beeron senior supervisor, Aunty Jean Thaiday senior elder and Sandra Leo supervisor 2IC whom all work at the Girringun Nursery.
As an educator delivering Hospitality to this generation of teenagers, I find that sparking an excitement about food and the opportunities it can open up for them can be challenging within the restrictions of the classroom. It is paramount for me to be true to the country that I am standing on, learning about local foods and their history, the changing seasons, and absorbing the stories shared with me. In turn and with permission, I can pass these on to my students in my classroom.
In 2018, my students and I, in partnership with Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, hosted two Deadly Bush Food Dinners for the community, where we showcased dishes using our local native ingredients with the imparted knowledge and support of Girringun members. We presented dishes such as macadamia and ricotta stuffed chicken, baked in candlenut leaf and served on mashed potato and taro, finished with delicious Burdekin Plum chutney. A dessert of milk chocolate delice cake with Red River cherry jam and fresh coconut was immensely popular. In fact, both dinners quickly sold out – there was a palpable hunger for food of this origin.
It was from these dinners that we designed a new menu for the rafting stall, street foods such as lamb and pork sliders with Burdekin chutney and lemon Aioli, and kangaroo and ginger leaf ragout pappardelle that matched appetites on rainy nights. Version three of our Deadly Bush Food Dinner is planned for August 29, 2019.
Now our journey with the relationships we have developed through food and education has lead us to designing a Girringun Bush to Plate program, based on Stephanie Alexander’s kitchen garden program, to engage students in an authentic, connected learning space. Students will learn the science behind particular Bush ingredients while working closely with our Girringun Nursery staff and rangers, developing recipes in the kitchen and working on community engagement. In this way, I hope to nurture both their work skills and the passion for food that fills my days.
If you are keen to connect with Cat and exchange stories about working with students and/or indigenous communities you are welcome to email her at email@example.com