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Tawnshi's beautiful charcuterie boxes come with a QR code guide to each element.
“Charcuterie is very Euro-centric—but this is not your standard olives and crackers,” says Trevor Jansen, co-founder of a new Vancouver-based Indigenous charcuterie box delivery service called Tawnshi. Jansen and his partner Marina LeClair founded the biz last year (the idea apparently came to LeClair in the shower, as all great ideas do).
“Not your standard olives and crackers” is right: Tawnshi’s boxes include pickled milkweed pods, cedar jelly, sea bacon and a variety of other Indigenous foods not often included on traditional charcuterie boards. Every box comes with a QR code that tells you more about each item, so curious foodies know exactly how to eat them. For example, the instructions for sea bacon (made from dulce seaweed) are “place a piece on your tongue and let your saliva soften and break it down. It will slowly, then quickly, fill your mouth with a savoury flavour that reminds you of the sea.”
LeClair is Red River Métis and Jansen is Gitxsan. “Our business has become a fusion, in that sense,” says Jansen. “It falls under the Indigenous umbrella, where Métis is distinct from First Nations, and the idea moving forward—much like our relationship—is a fusion of Indigenous culture.” The contents of Tawnshi boxes are sourced from suppliers and Indigenous communities across Canada, depending on what is available, so no two boxes are identical. “We love hearing that these boxes have opened people up to the fact that Indigenous people are everywhere—we’re not something you only encounter during a land acknowledgement,” says Jansen.
Along with less mainstream foods, Tawnshi boxes also contain baked bannock, various kinds of smoked salmon, maple walnut shortbread cookies and brie. “The box is a selection of Indigenous foods that are not particular to one nation, group or area,” says Jansen. “It’s not meant to be an anthropology lesson, it’s a learning experience and an opportunity to connect with Indigenous culture.”
The company is young, but Jansen and LeClair say that they’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback on Tawnshi boxes, particularly for their power as conversation-starters. (Notably, Tawnshi means “hello” in Michif.) Boxes range from $26 to $94 and can be purchased at tawnshi.com. There are gluten-free options, too.