Giving Back to the Heritage She Found

While many enjoy the advantages that technology has brought us in recent years, there are some things that, in their traditional form, touch the soul. For myself, and many others, a cookbook is one of those things. There is something special about a cookbook, especially a traditional one, that gives you that “warm and fuzzy” feeling as you create and partake of a dish inspired by age-old tradition.

Another thing that touches the soul is the contribution to charitable causes. It does the heart good to give to a worthy cause. And, when the two are combined it paves the way for amazing things!

In our local area, a very special woman, Sandra McGrath, is standing out with her self-published, compilation of traditional recipes, hand-made creations, and a few legends and myths, “First Nation’s Cookbook.” The plus to this book is that it is available in its original, hard-copy form, AND online!

This book holds a collection of recipes from generations before our time, at least 200 years old, and are compiled completely from Native American family traditions. While the recipes have been slightly altered to fit modern measurements and indoor kitchen cooking, the ingredients remain the same.

Sandra said, “There are recipes that include ingredients from your yard, like Nettle Tea and Dandelion Tea. In the vegetable section of the book, the ingredients come directly from their natural place, like blossoms from plants.”

The How-To section of the book includes various creations from basket weaving, tanning a deer hide, to building an outdoor oven, and even making snow shoes! Another section of the book gives some history about the Abenaki native culture and a couple myths and legends.

Sandra’s passion for her heritage is strong. She is full of information and historical facts about the tribe her bloodline comes from, Abenaki, and other tribes as well. While their history is rich, the tribe is poor. She was inspired to create this cookbook to support the Abenaki Nation, who are native to the New England states and Canada, and to build a museum and library for others to learn about their history.

She put her own money into the creation of “First Nation’s Cookbook” and every dime that the books have brought in, Sandra has given to the tribe for the purchase of the land to build the museum and library on.

The book was published in the summer of 2018, and since then she has sold 70-80 copies. The book is available online on Amazon and Book Nook. If anyone would prefer the hard copy, Sandra has many available. At local bookstores you can provide the ISBN number and the book can be ordered.  Sandra also writes articles for the tribe’s newsletter. As a nurse practitioner, her understanding of the practice of eugenics in America both enlightened and horrified her. “They even sterilized girls as young as 9 years old, to prevent them from breeding in the future!”

Because of certain practices done against the Native American people over the decades, it was common for families to be secretive about their heritage for many years to follow. Sandra’s family was no different from these. Among the many blessings of modern technology, DNA searches have opened many doors for people around the globe. As soon as she was able, Sandra began digging into her ancestry and finding where her heritage lies. She found that she is native to two tribes: Abenaki and Mikmaq.

She is very active with the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and Colonial Dames of America, and recently spent an entire day at Reidland Intermediate School making one of her favorite recipes from the book, Indian Fry Bread, during the school’s colonial days event. Being very interactive with the children in the school, Sandra made little kits for every child, complete with all dry ingredients, to take home and make their own Indian Fry Bread with their families.

In addition to “First Nation’s Cookbook” which is already published, Sandra is working on a new book about one of the Abenaki legends. She is excited about the book and is being joined by a local group of artists who will be doing the illustrations for it. There is not an anticipated date for the publishing of the new book yet, or a Title. “But it will be as soon as we can get it done” she says.