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 two episodes in Bella Coola 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 also has a passion for food, and takes viewers on fishing trips and sustainable farm visits.
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 humour, 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.
Both episodes filmed in Bella Coola, Nuxalkemc territory, were directed by Nuxalk filmmaker Banchi Hanuse.
Hanuse trained in the Media Program at Capilano College and is the co-founder and station manager of Nuxalk Radio.
Until directing the two episodes for this series, Hanuse had mostly done indie film work, which can be very different from a docuseries, clarified Napoleon.
While Napoleon said Hanuse had to think on her feet, he thinks they came away with some good episodes thanks to the collaboration.
Hanuse, in turn, described the crew as “a well-oiled machine” and appreciated the opportunity to work on a project which probably felt like a natural fit for someone who, with her good friend Jessica, would create “some pretty awesome meals” and they called each other “Salmon and Jam.”
She described those working full time on Moosemeat & Marmalade as having “the ideal job” in film as the series travels all over the world to film episodes and just returned from Sweden.
“They’re super funny guys and they’re very good at what they do,” she said of leading men Hayes and Napoleon.
Season six, Episode five involved local Nuxalk foragers Su’n-Hwrna and Rhonda Sandoval, and Nuxalk seal hunting guide James Hans helping Napoleon find the ingredients for the episode.
The hunt itself was unsuccessful as the seals proved too elusive for the inexperienced seal hunter Napoleon. However, an elder supplied some smoked seal to save the meal.
Season six, Episode six might be one which more visitors to Bella Coola might identify with, as it involved ocean fishing and delicious seafood.
Art Napoleon gets seasick on boats, and so he sat out the crab and prawn fishing on the open ocean, and instead visited a regenerative farm of some friends.
The show is beautifully shot and highlights some of the area scenery and the bounty of the surrounding nature.
“It was a blast,” said Napoleon of his return to Bella Coola after having been in the valley twice before, once to perform as a musician and once with his daughters.
“People there are friendly and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
In the episode, as Hayes cooks up some fresh prawns over an open fire, he sums up the visit, and perhaps the tone of the show as well: “There’s no better feeling than cooking food from the land that one gathers oneself.”