Food notes and some recipes

Deer and buffalo stomachs were once used by the Plains Indians to cook food by dropping hot rocks into water contained in the stomachs and boiling the food hung on a wooden tripod over a campfire. Soups and stews were the most common meals served everyday because these dishes could be stretched the furthest and yet the taste could be changed by use of different seasonings. Wild onion or garlic, sage and other strong flavored plants were used.

An example of a soup would be boiling small venison or rabbit pieces, sage, wild onions, Shepard's Purse, Curley Dock, Lamb's Quarter, and the peppery tasting Water Cress. That sounds pretty good tasting and nourishing even today. The ingredients are easily gathered today.

This must read site is well written, funny because it uses lots of humor and riddles on the progression of Native Americans and their foods and ways of gathering and cooking them especially into SOUPS. Not only is this site highly entertaining but it is full of useful information. You may want to explore this website further as all of her articles are witty, educational and fun to read.

All tribes were adept at finding edible plants, roots and fruits and wasted nothing. Food collection was an ongoing pastime and often there was little available in some areas these nomadic people found themselves. Food needed to be stored for the winters when it was not plentiful. Drying their excess food was a lightweight solution to carrying it with them as they moved around following the buffalo herds. Edible and medicinal plants, fish, meat, and cultivated crops were eaten fresh or smoked, dried, or preserved.

Traditional Native Americans will always give a part of the food back to Mother Earth in thanks for her providing it. At a County Fair in Colorado I observed a woman making fry bread and as she prepared each batch for sale she pinched off a small piece of dough and tossed it on the ground. When I asked her why she did that, she was kind enough to explain the importance of thanking Mother Earth for providing sustenance to all people. It was also a way to give back to earth so it can be replenished. I observed Native American customers pinching off a small part of their fry bread or Navajo Tacos and doing the same but not one non-Indian did while I was watching. Their food booth was the most popular with Fair goes and they were kept busy all day long.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on foods Native Americans used and introduced to those who came to this land at  Scroll down towards the end of the article for list of foods and game.

The Plains Indians had originally grown corn before being forced to move west and becoming nomads and hunters. Corn has always been a major staple of all Native Americans. No matter what each tribe's word for corn is, it always means "life." Corn was unknown to the Europeans until they were given it to eat by the Native Americans to help keep them from starving to death when they first came to America.

Diabetes was unknown in Native American tribes until after they were forced onto reservations in the late 1880's and made to change their diet to that of the White Man. Diabetes was not discovered in any tribe until after 1940. It is believed that that the loss of the traditional foods which were, high in fiber and low in fat, to the "White Man's Diet", high in processed carbohydrates and sugar, high in fat, and low in fiber is the main cause for the huge leap in Diabetes to the Native American cultures.

This disease is now the 4th largest cause of deaths in the Native American culture of all tribes. The Pima tribe in Arizona now have almost all of their members suffering from this serious health problem and are noted as having the world's highest rate of Type 2 Diabetes in any culture. Native Americans are much more likely to develop Diabetes than non-Indians, possibly because of the way their bodies had developed to survive during feast and famine lifestyles. Some think Native Americans have a "thrifty gene" developed that causes them to be more susceptible to getting Diabetes more than other peoples or cultures.

Fry Bread:
4 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder (note: this can be omitted to make unleavened bread.)
Combine all ingredients. Add about 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and knead until dough is soft but not sticky. Shape dough into balls the size of a small peach. Shape into patties by hand; dough should be about l/2 inch thick.
Make a small hole in the center of the round.
Fry one at a time in about l inch of hot lard or shortening in a heavy pan. Brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with honey or Chile with bean and taco toppings for "Navajo Tacos

Indian Tacos:
Ingredients for Topping:
1 lb. Fried hamburger
2 cans tomatoes
1 large green pepper
1 large onion
Cooked rice, about 1/2 cup
1 small can refried beans
1 large can of red kidney beans
1 tsp. Chili spice
A few shakes of Tabasco sauce (to your likeness)

Separate Toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded,1 head of lettuce
4 diced fresh tomatoes
Note: Use Fried Bread as the base.

Mix the first 10 ingredients in a large pot.
Simmer on low heat for about 2 hours.
While this is simmering make fried bread.
Place hot fried bread on a plate,
Top with sauce, add some shredded cheese on top,
Add lettuce and tomatoes.

Blue Grape Dumplings:
Easy to make dumpling and noodle dough. The dough can be used to make noodles for Chicken and Noodles also.
4 egg yolks or 2 eggs
2 half egg shells of cold water
Plain flour
Dash of salt to taste
Beat egg yolks and salt together. Add water and beat well with fork. Add enough flour to make dough you can knead without sticking to your hands. Knead dough a few times, then roll out thin on floured board or counter. Cut into small square pieces. For easier cutting, dip knife in hot water or liquid when dough wants to stick.
1/2 gallon unsweetened grape juice (* Wild Holly Grapes could be used)
two cups sugar
Mix together juice and sugar in large pan. Bring to a boil and drop in dough pieces a few at a time, keeping the
juice mixture boiling. Boil for about 5 minutes, then
cover and lower heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. This can be served warm or cold with a little cream (optional).

Pemmican (*notes added by teacher)
Pemmican was a nourishing high-energy winter staple and kept well in rawhide bags. It freezes well. How to make 10 pounds of Pemmican using modern methods:
Grind five pounds of dried meat to meal-like consistency (*buffalo, wild game or beef jerky is best)
Mix with one pound of raisins (*Berries of all kinds were the traditional food used. Ground dried nut meats like Pinion Pine Nuts were good additions)
1/2 pound brown sugar (*no sweetener was added by traditional Plains Native Americans unless they had access to wild honey)
Stir into four pounds of melted fat
Eat raw or fried.

Corn Stew:
3 small wild onions, diced
2 lbs. venison or buffalo
1 medium Hatch green Chile, chopped
1 tbsp. New Mexico style red Chile
4 1/2 cups of corn kernels
2 medium yellow squash
Brown meat in a Dutch oven. Remove. Cook onion and green Chile in meat juices until onion is transparent. Return meat to pan; add red Chile and 4 cups of water. Simmer for 1 hour. Add corn, squash, and salt to taste. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Indian food links:

The history of Corn shows how clever the Native Americans were on using everything they could to survive. This link shows the versatility of Corn and its byproducts

For those of you who have inquiring minds and have wondered about that burning question, "How do we know what they ate?" here is a great site that explains in detail how we know the answer far back into history to present.

Googling the net for "What foods were introduced by Native Americans?" will bring up a plethora of websites and many have recipes you might want to try yourself.

Be careful you identify what you are thinking of eating when collecting wild foods. All white berries are poisonous and many mushrooms can be deadly. Some root plants like camas and others are deadly too.

I encourage you all to at least try a few of these wild foods if you have not tasted them. Cook a few meals using game animals and natural wild foods. They are generally easy to identify and have more nutrients in them than those sold in grocery stores. Wash them thoroughly. You will find many of the plants are considered weeds today and are ruthlessly pulled up and discarded. What a great loss that is and many taste far better than the vegetables we eat from the grocery stores. Best of all, they are free.