Native chef Kristina Stanley whips up precolonial dishes for Haley House holiday menu

Indigenous chef Kristina Stanley collaborated with Roxbury staple Haley House Bakery Café this month to create a special, mostly precolonial menu just in time for Thanksgiving.

Debuting this week, the menu includes eight recipes: at least two plated dishes with a main entree and sides, two sweet items, one soup, and some brunch offerings. Each highlights ingredients — fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts — that tribes used before the continent was colonized. That means no glutenous grains or dairy.

“Envision what native folks were eating before the colonizers came and settled in the Americas,” said Stanley, a member of the indigenous advocacy group I-Collective. “That’s what I put on the table.”

Nothing on the menu is set in stone yet, but she’s thinking it’ll at least include juniper-braised turkey with corn and wild rice dressing and a “play on an Eggs Benedict.”

“Whenever I’m developing a menu, the main thing I stress with indigenous foods is that it’s essentially a place-based diet,” said the Wisconsin resident and member of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe. “I’m going to be looking at the region specifically, what is currently seasonally available with a preference towards things that are native to our region.”

The sweet dishes will not be overpowered by sugar, she explained, and will instead bring a bit of flavor perfect for a morning meal.

“The nice thing about indigenous foods is our sweets are typically not very sweet because we would only be working with agave and honey or maple — things of that nature — in order to sweeten things,” Stanley said.

The collaborative process has been mostly virtual. Stanley logs onto Zoom to teach and workshop recipes with the cafe’s kitchen manager, who will then relay the steps to the staff. Later this month, Stanley will fly from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to meet her partners at Haley House. After that, she’ll cook at Northampton’s Belly of the Beast, which also works with I-Collective, doing a separate multi-month residency.

No matter where she is, her focus is always on food cultivation, access, and equity.

“I went to college for ecopsychology, with an emphasis in horticulture therapy,” she said. “I focus on looking at food closely and seeing food as medicine, as something more.”

Her dishes will remain on the Haley House menu through the end of the month.

Diti Kohli can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.

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