Ilhenaylh (ill-hen-ail) means “feast” in the Squamish language. As an Aboriginal Woman a descendant of the Squamish and Sto:lo First Nations people of British Columbia on the West Coast of Canada, I have found the concept behind this age-old tradition to have tremendous influence on the way I view and prepare food.

My people, the Squamish, have always made sure to cook extra food for guests. We never want to be short of food for our family and friends, because they have been generous to give of their time to be with us. This custom goes back to a time when people would travel great distances by canoe or on foot to attend ceremonial gatherings or celebrations. Food would always be ready for them to take back on their journey home. Generosity and hospitality continue to be among the greatest values held by the Squamish people.

The Squamish believe it is important to prepare oneself in a good way when planning to invite people to share a meal and their time. Being in a positive frame of mind is essential when preparing and cooking food, because, in turn, the food is infused with all these prayers and heartfelt thoughts. This acts as a blessing for guests. At the same token, negative orbad feelings can go into the food as well and make guests sick physically or spiritually.

Aboriginal philosophy teaches that health equals not only freedom from disease, but also a robust body, mind, and spirit. Thus, through experience and the teachings of their elders, succeeding Native generations have learned to select foods in proper amounts to supply the body with the required nutrients. Food is not only a source of energy and vitality, but also medicine.
Historically speaking, plant and animal life were considered sacred by the Squamish and therefore never to be wasted or taken unnecessarily. There was a strongly held belief that the Creator provided food for everyone, so each person had a duty to share his or her food with others. This relationship was often expressed through legends and daily customs. Thus, this cookbook contains teachings and anecdotes pertaining to the legends and daily food customs cultivated over a period of two hundred years by Squamish First Nations people. These can be viewed as snippets of indigenous wisdom geared toward offering cultural perspective and encouraging overall balance in lifestyle and health.
By highlighting dietary changes that have arisen from the consumption of traditional to more modern foods, this book seeks ways to blend both categories through gluten-free cooking, something that is especially close to my heart.