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Culinary arts

Kitchen staff keep artists happy with country foods

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 18/03) - Feeding the artists, staff and volunteers at the arts festival is a formidable job, but when you've been doing it for 15 years, it almost comes naturally.

Head cook Martina Cardinal and her daughters Laura and Roberta have been cooking at the festival since it began.

Roberta said they start in the kitchen at 9 a.m. each day. The artists and volunteers help themselves to cold cereal, toast, tea and coffee while the kitchen prepares soup, bannock and doughnuts for lunch.

The artist's mainstay is primarily the food they're most accustomed to.

"We mostly stick to country foods like fish, caribou meat and muk tuk." Cardinal said. "Three times during the festival we will prepare chicken, turkey or beef roast,"

She said the most popular items are the caribou soup and the roasted caribou. Planning for the menu comes months in advance.

"My mom gets hold of certain hunters out there who bring her the meat," Roberta said. "She cuts the whole thing up, preps it and puts it away until the festival."

They are still waiting for the muk tuk order that will hopefully fly in fresh from Tuktoyaktuk before the festival ends.

Martina's doughnuts are also a hot ticket at the kitchen.

"She made 160 on Monday," Roberta said. "It varies from day to day, but she tries to make enough for everybody."

She said they try to cook for the crowd, but often the will make exceptions for people on strict diets or with allergies.

"We try to please everybody and that's really hard, because we do get some vegetarians, some people who can't eat certain things, so we have to watch how we prepare some things," she said.

The cooks have been feeding between 120 and 130 people since the festival started last week.

Roberta worked her first festival in 1989 alongside her mother Martina but also has worked in camps and at the Inuvik hospital. Her duties vary in the kitchen.

"I prepare sandwiches, salads and help with putting out soups and preparing the suppers," she said, adding that the crew will take turns cooking different items.

"If someone gets tired of doing something, we rotate and we share all the duties in the kitchen," Roberta said.

They enjoy the work, but it always helps to get a special compliment now and then.

"I love working in the kitchen, it really gives me a good feeling inside."