Why are there so few Native American Restaurants?
Each winter there are plans to finish projects, complete research and writing, organize a lot of things I keep, sort out and dispose of the rest. The job is never complete. But, during the sorting out process many topics of interest and the reason the article, item and information was kept starts the interest all over again.
The recipe was for a steamed cranberry pudding. Those who know me know I have an interest in cooking and recipes, with a special leaning toward old-time, ethnic, and the more unusual. Some of these were included in the two cookbooks that I authored (both now out of print), but we learn more every year. There are dishes and foods new to us.
Food touches everyone
Those of us who are older remember when pizza came to this area. It was strange to see people pick up food with their hands. I recall a woman asking whether we had tried pizza, then saying she couldn
We can also remember when Oriental food, Mexican and southwestern dishes were almost unknown in this area. All are very popular now. Food and spices from other parts of the world are also gaining acceptance. I grow and use herbs and spices my mother never used.
Writer of the old clipping I found last week commented that with all the fuss today about the gourmet delicacies of France, Italy, China and other foreign lands, it is refreshing to see tribute paid to the cooking of America. He told about an (unnamed) cranberry producer hosting a contest to feature Native American recipes using cranberries.
Mention was made that (American) Indian cooking posed a problem, since there are few such restaurants. He found one in Rhode Island with such all American dishes as pumpkin soup and Johnny cakes with maple syrup, Western beef (would have been bison in earlier times) and wild rice soup. He also was served a tangy mixture of green chili peppers, diced tomatoes and garlic called pezole.
The writer went on to list true American foods that would have been eaten by Native Americans including clam chowder, gumbo, fish stew (very famous in San Francisco), and cranberries that he found in the delicious steamed pudding in a (non-Indian) restaurant in Wisconsin.
My son came home from a business trip several years ago with a Southwest Indian Cookbook with Pueblo and Navajo images, quotes and recipes. I have enjoyed the gift, put together by a photojournalist who spent 20 years in Pueblo and Navajo cultures. After sharing many meals with friends, she asked for written recipes. There were none. It took much work on the part of Indian friends to refine family tradition and history into cups and tablespoons. The 120 page book brings dozens of dishes that we don't see often and not in restaurants.
Another book that our daughter gave me after going on a college field trip to the Prairie Du Chien area, is filled with Native American recipes and remedies. Many wild plants and fruits are used. Honey and maple syrup were prized ingredients.
Just think of the variety of fruits and berries such as blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, grapes and many others that were used by Native Americans in cooking, in beverages and teas. Each part of the country had natives using foods and herbs from that area. We all use versions of the native recipes and don't recognize it.
So why don't we see more restaurants featuring Native American Cuisine ? Is there a Native American Cuisine?