the sioux chef
April 23, 2018 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Chef Sean Sherman on creating an indigenous kitchen in the modern world., committed to revitalizing Native American Cuisine and in the process we are re-identifying North American Cuisine and reclaiming an important culinary culture long buried and often inaccessible.

Sean Sherman on Decolonizing the American Diet
What made you want to write a cookbook?

I always tell people: I couldn’t just go online and order The Joy of Native American Cooking. I had this vision of a cookbook that helped showcase the diversity of North America, while cutting out pieces that weren’t here before: all of the dairy, and wheat flour, and processed sugar, beef, pork, chicken. Because that’s how indigenous communities were eating—they were utilizing all of the foods and flavors around them.
'What did my ancestors eat': Sean Sherman’s cookbook ‘The Sioux Chef’ is a return to from-the-land, pre-colonization foods

‘This is not a trend’: Native American chefs resist the ‘Columbusing’ of indigenous foods
Thinking of Native American food as a trend perpetuates a number of misguided notions: first, that Native American food is a monolithic thing. The food of our nation's indigenous people — some, like [Karlos] Baca, do not like the term "Native American," because his ancestors predate the naming of America — is as diverse as the country's 567 federally recognized Native American nations. Outsiders tend to think of them in the aggregate, noting fry bread, a fried dough with various toppings, as one food that many share. Around Thanksgiving, one of the few times that schools teach students about Native Americans, many include fry bread as part of the curriculum.

But Baca, Sherman and other chefs reject fry bread, which they see as a symbol of resilience under colonial oppression. The fried dough recipe, Sherman writes in his recently released cookbook, "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen," is the product of the government commodities that Native Americans were given during their forced migration, which separated tribes from their traditional foods.
Exploring Indigenous Cuisine in America

Exploring The Indigenous Kitchens of North America With Sean Sherman
FL: You brought this other thing I'd love to try now. Can you describe this little bite I'm about to try?

SS: That’s amaranth cooked down and dried out into a cracker, so it's light, sweet, and crisp. And there is some cedar-braised rabbit that we caramelized it with a little bit of maple sugar. It's got a little piece of nasturtium on top and a little bit of the wojapi, which is a mixed berry sauce. It’s a simple bite with a bunch of flavor.
Chef Karlos Baca, Founder of Taste of Native Cuisine, Talks Decolonizing Foodways and Waking Up the Indigenous Consciousness
If you single out one chef within the indigenous food sovereignty movement, you’ve lost the point, Baca said. “We work collectively. How do we maintain ownership of that, and not let people define that movement for us?”

It’s a rhetorical question, and a challenging one to ponder. Baca finds the best bet is clarity of message, and that means emphasizing complexity. The diversity of indigenous cuisine cannot fit in a one-sentence definition. Media misrepresent indigenous gastronomy when they try to package it with clickbait headlines, or make bold claims, like proclaiming: “…it’s Baca who’s leading this little-known movement,” as Zagat published in an article last April. Baca maintains that “mainstream media picks an icon and they build it up.”
posted by the man of twists and turns (21 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

I admire this movement, and I would love to experience a meal prepared by one of these chefs, and I also judge "The Sioux Chef" to be an absolute A+ pun. Full marks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:20 AM on April 23, 2018 [35 favorites]

I really want to plant a cluster of Three Sisters in my yard. But mother nature hates me. A lot.

[Also, every one of those recipes sounds delicious]
posted by DigDoug at 8:22 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fantastic post! Man I need to cook with more wild rice.
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on April 23, 2018

This is really cool and interesting! I should buy this book. It'd be awesome to see similar books popping up to capture the indigenous recipes of other regions as well.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:54 AM on April 23, 2018

I've been lucky enough to get to eat Sherman's food, and it is A+++++ delicious.
posted by heurtebise at 8:57 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

But Baca, Sherman and other chefs reject fry bread, which they see as a symbol of resilience under colonial oppression.

I want to reject it but oh god but it's so delicious.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:01 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

paleo as "Captain Caveman's diet" I love it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:38 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wonder how prevalent salt was as a cooking ingredient among Native Americans pre-contact?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:04 AM on April 23, 2018

Prevalent enough, depending on the region:
- The Role of Salt in Eastern North American Prehistory
- The ancient Miwok harvested salt
posted by elsietheeel at 10:18 AM on April 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

This is a pretty good cookbook -- I recommend it. I think I heard about it on the Racist Sandwich podcast awhile back -- they interviewed the author. There are plenty of recipes with acorns (which I would find hard to source), but most use things that one could either forage or track down through grocery stores.
posted by janell at 10:58 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Miwok article was very interesting. Years ago, we went to Ibiza Spain which had a salt distilling industry that dated way back, but similar techniques to what's in the article. Didn't get real close to the salt production place, but holy hell did it stink downwind! Just a rotten swamp smell. But I guess salt is worth some smell.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2018

If anyone's travelling to Canada, there's the Top 5 Aboriginal Restaurants in BC according to Indegenous Tourism BC. I've heard good things about Salmon n' Bannock - you can review their menu on the website for an idea of the food.
Also, I think that here may be a brand new restaurant in the Skwachàys Lodge at 31 West Pender, Vancouver. Can't be sure as I only go by there in the mornings.. might just be a cafe. There are other First Nations restaurants in Canada, such as Nish Dish in Toronto. I don't know what they're like, but if you love the various types of Pacific Salmon, come to BC!
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

oooh this all sounds wonderful. I'm going to have the chance to try out some Three Sisters gardening soon and now I've got some delicious recipes to go with it :D
posted by supermedusa at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2018

Here in Canada on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, there's the show Moosemeat and Marmalade featuring a First Nations bushcook and a classically trained British chef. There's recipes on the site.

I haven't waded into all the links quite yet but I'm glad there's some conversation about the complicated relationship of Fry Bread/bannock as an "opression food" but also a comfort food. A more academic take on it here - Unsettling Settler Food Movements: Food Sovereignty and Decolonization in Canada.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

I want to reject it but oh god but it's so delicious.

Fry bread tacos, the best kind of fusion cuisine.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:09 PM on April 23, 2018

I wonder how prevalent salt was as a cooking ingredient among Native Americans pre-contact?

I got this cookbook for Christmas and it's a very interesting read, not only for the food, but also the anecdotes and historical photos that go with it. Regarding salt, I believe the author's recommended alternative seasoning is sumac (which you can find at a lot of Middle Eastern markets), and in place of black pepper, juniper berries.
posted by tempestuoso at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2018

If you want to try some of the wild rice recipes you can buy wild rice direct from the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota!
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

All beans of the Phaseolus genus are indigenous to the Americas, so pinto, black, lima, cranberry, etc. Tepary beans were becoming more obscure but were brought back to people's attention due to Native American efforts.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 1:43 AM on April 24, 2018

Acorn is kinda easy to source. Acorn starch, aka dotorimuk, is available from Korean grocers and online.

I just looked it up and it's not exactly the same as acorn meal (Korean-style, you leach out a lot more than just the tannins) but it's about the right flavor profile, and much less work than processing the acorns yourself (in my pathetic unsuccessful experience).
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:55 PM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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