J.B. Williams, a traditional pit cook expert, stands in front of the serving table after warm vegetables and meats were prepared underground in traditional fashion. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

J.B. Williams, a traditional pit cook expert, stands in front of the serving table after warm vegetables and meats were prepared underground in traditional fashion. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

Indigenous pit cook demonstration at Camosun College showcases traditional ways of cooking

The annual demo is a learning opportunity for staff and students at the Saanich college

The Centre for Indigenous Education and Community Connections at Camosun College (Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen) hosted a traditional pit cook demonstration on campus on Oct. 20 and 21.

Traditional plant identifier, storyteller, and pit cook expert, J.B. Williams of the Tsawout First Nations explained that a pit cook is a way to bring the community together.

“First there’s a pit dug into the earth, and we use volcanic or igneous stones that can withstand the heat,” said Williams.

Once the stones are heated in a fire beside the pit, they’re submerged in fresh cold water, where steam is then created. It is the steam that cooks the food when the rocks are placed in the pit. The vegetables or meat are placed in burlap sacks over the stones and covered by leaves and dirt, said Williams.

“In our teachings, when you’re preparing food like that you’re supposed to do it with good, happy feelings,” said Williams. “That way those feelings get put into the food when the people eat it, and they get to experience that energy as well.”

The annual gathering also demonstrated how camas, a bright blue star-like flower which grows in Garry oak meadows, is used with other locally harvested plants and traditional Indigenous foods.

The event was part of the 30th anniversary of Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen and Camosun’s 50th anniversary, in partnership with the Songhees and Tsartlip Nations.

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