You know, we probably don’t think enough about how colonialism affects our diet. Especially here in the United States. The truth is that as people move around and take over other places, they bring the food animals and plants they like with them. Even dishes as supposedly American as apple pie aren’t all that American in terms of the soil they started in (note: pies were common throughout Europe and apples originated in Central Asia).
Long before Europeans came to the Americas, native people ate too. And they had their own game, their own livestock, their own crops and their own recipes. Also, the stereotype that it was all simple survival fare is just that, a stereotype.
On Thanksgiving here at Fairy Tale Fandom, I like to spotlight something having to do with Native Americans. Either some issue that’s impacting them or something accomplished by them, along with one of their stories (granted, I’m not as well versed in this stuff as my storytelling associate Gil Payette, but I try). I’m lucky enough today to have found one of the accomplishments.
A Lakota man named Sean Sherman has founded a company called The Sioux Chef which is part catering company and part culinary history educator. The intention is to create modern recipes using native ingredients inspired by the traditions of the 573 recognized tribal groups native to the United States. This seems to include NATIFS, the North American Traditional Indigenous Food System, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the economic and health crises affecting native communities by reestablishing traditional foodways. There’s also a cookbook The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, which won the James Beard award for the Best American Cookbook in 2018.
It really is an interesting project. If you are interested, you can check out their website or you can do like I did and check out this New York Times article that includes ten essential Native American recipes.
It’s nice to acknowledge the roots of the food we eat sometimes. After all, familiar foods like turkey, corn, beans, avocados, chili peppers, all squashes both winter and summer (including pumpkins), blueberries and strawberries are all native to the Americas.
Mmm . . . strawberries.
You know, one of my favorite food stories is about the origin of strawberries.
An old Cherokee story tells of the first man and woman in all of creation. They were happy at first as husband and wife, but soon they began to quarrel.
One day, the woman became fed up and started heading toward Nundagunyi, the Sun Land. Her husband, grieving, followed after her. The Sun, Unelanunhi, felt bad for him and asked if he would like her back. The man said that he would.
So, Unelanunhi first made a patch of ripe huckleberries grow along her path. She passed by it, though.
The Sun then made a patch of blackberries grow beside her path. She passed by that too.
Unelanuhani made different fruit after fruit grow along the woman’s path, but she passed by them all.
That is, until she came upon a patch of strawberries. The first strawberries in the entire world.
She stooped down to pick some and as she did she turned her face toward the west where she had come from and thought of her husband. She sat down to eat some but the longer she sat the more she thought of her husband. So, she gathered up some more berries and went home to share them with him. The two reunited and went back home together.
So, whether strawberries, roast turkey or pumpkin pie, maybe give the origins of your food and where they’re evolving to a thought on this (sometimes problematic) day of feasting. Because folklore is always evolving, food always is too and maybe this holiday could too.