Sudbury pastry chef unites her Finnish and Indigenous families with food
Tammy Maki says food is her method of communicating love
Tammy Maki loves the feeling of kneading pulla, a slightly sweet, festive Finnish bread.
The dough is alive in her hands as she rolls, twists and forms braided wreaths shining with fat.
The rich aroma of butter wafts around the Walden community kitchen.
Fifteen pounds will be used before the day is over in a blitzkrieg of baking she plans to sell at the market the next day.
The pastry chef's hands are a blur as she casts flour onto her board, drizzles butterscotch and whacks vast sheets of brownies into giant squares.
She's not a natural sweet talker, though. Her food speaks for her.
"I love to feed people," she says. "I just like to see people happy and content. And I think by feeding people it it shows a level of caring that, you know, you don't need words. Here, have a chocolate brownie."
She chuckles and continues to explain.
"I'm not like an overtly warm and fuzzy person. I'm like the Grinch after his heart grows, so on the outside I'm kind of rough, and you know I'm very, very blue collar, but on the inside I just like, I melt, and I want to make people happy."
"To me, food has always symbolized that connection between people. Because it doesn't matter who you are, your race your creed whatever. If you share food together, it brings everybody to the same level and the same understanding".
Maki has seen that magical connection of food uniting people from both of her families.
She was adopted by a Finnish family in Sudbury in the "Sixties' Scoop".
Her blood family is Salteaux Ojibwe from White Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan.
She says she was loved by her Finnish family and her tender pulla is a tribute to the time spent baking in the kitchen with her mother.
She says her family did what it could to inform her of her Indigenous heritage, but it wasn't much.
She worked in the electrical industry for years after her father and brother who were electricians.
Then, ten years ago, she decided to turn her love of baking into a career.
She says pastry and her blood brother came into her life at the same time.
Maki says she was anxious about the meeting.
"I was very, very concerned about my blood brother meeting my adoptive brother because my adoptive family is very important to me, especially my brother Dennis, and Gary who is my blood brother, is of course, super important to me."
She needn't have worried.
"When they met, they were like from the same family. They were the same smart-mouth kind of guys, just so much alike, and it was so wonderful for me to see that, you know, kind of further melding of what I consider my family. And it's just completely right."
The food that connects her to her brother, Gary, is fry bread, especially in Indian tacos.
"We call it scone out here. It's also bannock. So that is very, very Indigenous. I know a lot of the purest Indigenous chefs say 'oh you know, it's not Indigenous' because what it is, is a combination of ingredients that was given to Indigenous people when they were put onto the reserves by the White people. And to me it represents our ability to make the most out of that situation".
Maki says she hopes the future of her business holds a merging of what she calls global Indigenous influences with her chocolate-making skills.
And food and family continue to be entwined.
"Food is as personal as you can get, but it's it's just the voice of everyone. My association with my Indigenous roots, my association with my Finnish roots, is very much all around that food."