In summertime, most everyone left the village to hunt buffalo on the southern plains, drying the meat and making pemmican as they went. In winter, they came back to Petite Ville. Excavations and history tell us something about what they ate including buffalo, snowshoe hare, muskrat, ducks and grouse, along with wild berries and plants.
Houses had open fireplaces and chimneys made of mud and straw. They cooked in copper pots and ate tinned and packaged foodstuffs such as tea and fruit preserves from the Hudson Bay Company. Shards of delicate English china in blue and white patterns indicate a genteel touch in a rustic prairie home. Meat was kept in ice pits outside the house (protected from animals) and other foods were stored in cellars under the floorboards.
I have not read evidence of gardens at Petite Ville, but it is recorded elsewhere that the Métis grew root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips, and I can imagine the elders tending gardens while the others were away at the hunt.
Bullet Soup is a Metis tradition. The name comes from the French word boulettes, meaning meatballs. This modernized version of Bullet Soup comes from Colleen Hamilton of CHEP Good Food Inc., who grew up in one of the original French Métis communities of Manitoba.
1/4 lb lean ground beef
1/4 lb lean ground pork
2 tbsp grated onion
1-2 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Dried rosemary and parsley
Flour for dredging
1 diced onion
2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup chopped carrot
1 diced turnip
1 diced sweet potato
1/4 package whole wheat pasta
Mix beef, pork, grated onion, salt, pepper and herbs. Form into balls about the size of a jawbreaker. Dredge in flour. Cover with water and boil until cooked.
Cool pot, refrigerate and when cold, skim the fat. (Optional. Not necessary if using lean meat.)
Reheat broth, adding more water to make a full pot. Add diced onion, potato, carrot, turnip and sweet potato. Simmer until tender.
Season broth with salt and pepper to your taste. Before serving, add the pasta and cook until done. Serve with bannock (recipe).
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)