Slow Food has much in common with Wampanoag traditions

Cousins Kristina Hook-Leslie and June Manning, Wampanoag tribal elders, spoke about foraging at Gay Head when they were children. — Photo by Susan Safford

Dozens of hungry Islanders sat down to enjoy an eclectic potluck at the Chilmark Community Center last Saturday evening, October 22. The theme of the harvest dinner was connecting the modern Slow Food movement to the way food was hunted and gathered and prepared by the native Americans who first inhabited the Island, the Wampanoag people.

Traditional Wampanoag dishes such as venison stew and sea bass with sage stuffing were offered, along with a cornucopia of food grown or foraged on the Island.

From the Wampanoag tribe, elders June Manning and Kristina Hook-Leslie spoke about growing up in Aquinnah, which they still call Gay Head, and what they learned from their mothers and grandmothers about foraging for ingredients and preparing native food.

After the meal a short film called “Foraging in Aquinnah” was shown by filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth.

Ms. Hook-Leslie, the film’s narrator and host, spoke of collecting sassafras, beach plums, rose hips, wild grapes, wild carrots, Queen Anne’s lace, along with clams, periwinkles, and whelks. Among the many practical applications of native natural resources was the uyse of eel grass to insulate house foundations in winter.