Pow Wows: Traditional Foods & Teen Nations Cookbook / Recipe

Pub. by Mainstream Online at bit.ly/NativeDrums

Pub. by Mainstream Online at bit.ly/NativeDrums

Helen’s topic on visiting the reservations reminded me of pow wow season, when all across the land the people are dancing in the August sun. There are fringed shawls twirling in the wind, eagle feather bustles bouncing along, and over in the arbor singers and drummers pounding away like one giant heart. And there you are with a rumbling in your stomach.Determined, you make your way past the vendors. Shopping can wait. You are on a mission for the quintessential powwow food. Yes, you know it. I don’t even have to write it. Your struggle for sustenance lands you right in front of an old food truck. Handwritten in one of the windows is a sign reading, “Indian Tacos.” You take your place in a long line and wait patiently to order. (Don’t forget the sour cream.)

At an old picnic table, you indulge in the remarkable combination of frybread, seasoned ground beef, red kidney beans, diced tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese and sour cream. Satisfied, you make your way back to the shaded arbor, albeit a little slower.

Indian Taco

Indian Taco

A staple of the powwow diet, the eating of an Indian Taco (specifically frybread) is a complicated thing. A source of pride and unity, frybread links families, generations, tribes and nations. At the same time, frybread origin and history links to a painful reminder of forced removal and oppression. Born roughly 150 years ago from a combination of commodity food rations including white flour, processed sugar, and lard, frybread is accused of being one of the many contributors to high rates of diabetes in Indian country.As Native people from coast to coast look to improve the health of their communities, tribes and nations, returning to traditional foods is the answer for many. As much as frybread has become a part of powwows, indigenous foods that are truly traditional are resurfacing at pow wows.

Vendors selling healthy indigenous meats such as buffalo, elk, salmon, and venison are providing powwow goers with nutritional goodness unmatched by beef. Likewise, culturally significant crops like corn are returning in Southwest pozole – a soup made with pork, chilies and corn hominy. At the Iowa Powwow in Kansas, milkweed soup – a seasoned soup made with the shoots of the milkweed plant, bacon and onion – has found its place next to frybread and Indian Tacos on one menu. Something a little more coastal – moose stew and smothered muskrat – is served at the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Indian Days in Maine.

Pow Wow Foods 3 - Cookbook logoOne can only hope that as traditional foods regain popularity at powwows they will also find their way back to Native American homes. To promote healthy and traditional foods in Indian country, National Relief Charities is releasing the teen-approved cookbook and cooking on the rez survival kit officially known as the “Teen Nations Cookbook & Kit.”

The kit includes everything to get a young cook started including pots/pans, utensils, and recipes for traditional dishes. The cookbook and kit are supported by the Cigna Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation. Here’s one sample from this soon-to-be released cookbook – be sure to let us know if you try the recipe!!

Chippewa Wild Rice & Chicken Soup

2 quarts Water
2 teaspoons Salt
¾ cup Raw Wild Rice (Or Substitute With Another Rice Variety)
½ cup Butter
1 cup Celery, Chopped
1 cup Carrots, Chopped
½ cup Onion, Chopped
1/3 cup Flour
pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken, Cut into 1-inch Pieces
5 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Half & Half
¼ teaspoon Rosemary
1/8 teaspoon Dill
1/8 Fennel Seed
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

– Bring water to boil in large pan or pot.
– Once the water is boiling, add the 2 teaspoons of salt and raw wild rice.
– Boil the wild rice for one hour and drain in colander; set aside.
– Over medium high heat, melt the butter in a large pot, stirring so the butter doesn’t burn.
– Add the chopped celery, carrots and onion.
– Stir to coat the vegetables evenly with the butter, and cook until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft (about 8-10 minutes).
– Sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly.
– Once all the flour is stirred into the butter, fry the flour in the butter for 2 minutes. (This prevents the finished soup from having a floury taste and completes the roux.)
– Stir in the cut-up chicken pieces.
– Allow the chicken to cook through, stirring often.
– Add the chicken broth, and stir to mix the broth and flour/butter roux.
– Simmer the broth for about five minutes, stirring often.
– Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the 2 cups of Half & Half, stirring constantly.
– Add the cooked wild rice and stir.
– Add the herbs.
– Simmer the soup for 11/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Do Not Boil)
– Once the soup has thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste.


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  1. Mimi
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    How do we find this cookbook when it becomes available? I would love to check it out 🙂

  2. Posted September 21, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for
    providing this info.

  3. Posted May 20, 2015 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    New cookbook with great native recipes,” Frybread past present and future”
    Good reviews in whispering winds mags and Amazon. Com

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