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Simple good cooking

BY Will Nicholls Sep 27, 2019

Grand Chief Abel Bosum frequently speaks about the housing shortage in our communities. This problem was evident when I went home to Mistissini in early September. The house was full. No one else could offer me a place to couch surf and I felt a little long in the tooth to go teepee creeping. So the first four days were spent at the Mistissini lodge, where the kitchen is back in full swing pumping out some pretty decent food. Dad loved their Western sandwiches.

Then Mistay came to the rescue with a place to sleep. I originally thought Mistay was a Cree word, but I couldn’t figure it out. In fact, it’s a combination of Mist (for Mistissini) and stay. Mistay mostly caters to construction workers flocking to the community. In the past, companies would bring in their own trailers, so it is nice that Cree entrepreneurs saw an opportunity. Mistay offers rooms equipped with internet, satellite TV and three meals daily.

The meals were what I found most impressive. A place to lay your weary head is fine and dandy but the way to a man’s heart has always been through his stomach. Chef Jacques Simard certainly understands this, providing hearty and healthy meals for hard-working men and women. My first dish was the Garden Beef. It was incredibly tasty. After obtaining the recipe, I discovered that it is very easy to prepare. I almost regretted leaving Mistay when a bed became available at my parents’ house because the meal that night was surf and turf. Steak and shrimp prepared in a way that my taste buds can only imagine.

Of course, visiting the parents always involves cooking. Brother Don made a fine smoked moose meat stew. I did a stir fry that had dad going back for seconds. Perhaps my favourite meal was the pork chops and home-made Boston baked beans. Below I have included recipes for both Mistay’s garden beef and my mom’s baked beans for your enjoyment and sustenance.

Garden Beef

There are no real measures for this recipe as the cook was making it for a large number of people.


  • Beef cubes
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Baby carrots
  • Turnip (cubed)
  • Herbs to season (thyme, oregano, steak spice)
  • Salt / pepper to season
  • Medium spare rib sauce
  1. Start in a pot by browning the beef (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add celery, onions, carrots, turnip with the beef in an oven-safe dish
  3. Then season everything with the herbs
  4. Bake everything for about 1 hour at 350-375F
  5. The vegetables will make their own stock; continue cooking and add salt and pepper if needed
  6. Add a little medium spare rib sauce at the end for added flavour

*Beef can be replaced by caribou, moose or deer

*Quantities vary depending on the number of people. Use equal parts vegetables in the recipe.

Boston Baked Beans


1 two-pound package of small dry white beans

2 cloves garlic

1/4 lb bacon

1 cup molasses

2 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp salt

1 six-ounce can of tomato paste

1 onion cut up and sautéed (you can mix a little bacon into the frying pan while sautéing the onion)

  1. Put beans into a pot and cover with water. Let set overnight (12 hours would be great)
  2. Drain and rinse beans. Return to pot.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours in covered pot. You can stir occasionally to ensure an even spread of molasses and bacon throughout the beans.

Ed note: we used a crockpot set on high for 6 hours, stirring every now and then. Mom says the beans tasted even better a couple of days later.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.