America is known for having a varied cuisine , taken from four hundred years of immigration. Yet one cuisine was suffocated, almost forgotten under all this foreign recipes - indigenous American cooking. Fortunately it's coming back, thanks to Native American chefs who want to reconect ith their pasts.
Tejal Rao, a regular contributor and food blogger wrote about this in today's New York Times Food section. Chef Sean Sherman of the Oglala Dakota tribe is bringing ancient ingredients and ancient recipes to modern Americans. Many original dishes have been lost because they were orally handed down as opposed to writing then down. Chef Sherman's quest has been mostly trial and error. He does draw from the knowledge of the Lakota and Ojibwe tribes who farmed and foraged the Midwestern plains long before any Europeans did, He was lucky in his upbringing. His grandfather had a cattle ranch that provided fresh beef along with wild antelope , rabbit and game birds. He also collected chokeberries,a kind of wild blueberries that goes into an indigenous sauce called wojapi..It beat the horrible government issued food of cereal, shortening and a vile canned hash that had the consistency of dog food. At thirteen he had his first restaurant job washing dishes where hr learned to skim French sauces and roll out Italian pastas . Chef Sherman was 32 when he turned his attention to indigenous foods and stared Sioux Chef that he runs with his life partner, Dana Thompson.
Indigenous cuisine doesn";t rely on any of the European standard ingredients that are a big part of the modern American diet. There is no refined sugar. Chef Sherman only uses maple syrup, namely locally sourced syrup, following in the steps of native cooks who tapped maple trees and then boiled the sap. It can be used as a sweetener in savory foods as well as in teas and desserts. Wild rice is another staple and it grows wild around the lakes of Northern Minnesota.This can be foraged but also can be bought in grocery stores across the country, Walleye perch is a staple and Chef Sherman makes it a couple of ways. One is crusted with spices while the other is flaking the meat to create tender croquettes. They can be also pan fried with herbs and butter or simply roasted in the oven.Pair it with the wild rice along with corn or wild greens. Chokeberries are a big staple in some indigenous diets.Red Lake Nation Foods, owned by the tribe of the same name, makes a syrup from them that can be used in flavoring sparkling water or drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Wild plums were another staple of native cooking and they make a delicious jelly that accents everything from soft cheese to buttered toast. Then there is buffalo jerky made by Lakota entrepreneurs, but it's perfect for those who can't have access to the meat.
American food is not only dishes from other countries but also flavorful recipes , rich in ingredients and tradition. It's take harvest from the land and water, turning it into bountiful dishes. It is truly the food of America, of its' indigenous peoples.