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Tuesday, 01 November 2016 21:31

Minaajim: Good Stories from Curve Lake First Nation - MIIGWECH WAABAMIN (Thanks to the Apple)

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As told by Doug Williams to Julie Kapyrka

            Autumn was a time of harvest for us. And the harvest meant spending time with the women who prepared and preserved fruit in the fall season.

            One of those harvesting activities was going to pick WAABAMINUG(apples) with my grandmother. The traditional apple for Anishinaabe is crab apples.

            My grandmother would take a number of us grandchildren to the trees with a little wooden

ladder. You would have a stick to tap down the WAABAMINUGto those waiting below who would catch them – if they hit the ground you could not keep them.

            My brother and cousins were good tree climbers and I was more of the organizer at the bottom of the tree. I would make sure they were safe, that the WAABAMINUGwere put into bags, and that they were not bruised.

            We would fill these huge burlap potato sacks full of apples, load them into three or four canoes and paddle back home.

            There were a number of things you could do with WAABAMINUG. One of them was to peel them, core and remove the seeds, and then cut them into quarters. Then we would sew them and string them on a line which would be hung across the ceiling to dry.

            It had to be a quiet room, a cool dry room with no dust, clean, and no human activity. That was one of the ways to preserve them; it would take about a month. I don’t see many people dry apples anymore, it seems to be a lost art.

            Another thing was to make apple preserve and apple sauce. These came in handy when we had no food during some winters. There is nothing like hot baked bannock with butter and apple preserve or sauce. Mmmm.

            My grandmother had a secret ingredient that she added to the apple preserve which she didn’t tell many people. It was always difficult to keep the apples from turning brown. The modern way is to use lemon juice, but we didn’t have that so my grandmother used a secret ingredient. I cannot tell you what it was but I can give you a hint: it had something to do with the parts of a pig.

            My grandmother also had a knack for what I call an “instant dessert.” She would grab a couple of fresh apples from a bag, throw them in a pan with a little bit of water and brown sugar and baste them for about half an hour. And then we would have a beautiful dessert.

            We made oodles of crab-apple preserves and my grandmother made crab-apple jelly. It was a tedious job for us, taking a lot of organization and time, but we did it.

            My grandmother was also an amazing cook. Fresh apple pies cooked in a wood burning stove to a beautiful brown, caramelized top were the pies I remember to this day as the best I have ever eaten. My cousin Melody comes in a close second.

            Those were good healthy times for us as Anishinaabe peoples. Our connection to the harvest and to the gifts of the earth also made a time of laughter and of family. The memories of those times are very strong with me and give me moments of nostalgia now.

            I remember a couple of homes in Curve Lake when I was young that had this beautiful apple aroma when you entered. It was like a modern day Febreeze. In fact our people had many aromatic remedies . . . but that is another story.

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