Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Unsure what to say, I reveal an odd teenage crush

I picked up this copy of The Art of American Indian Cooking by Yeffe Kimball and Jean Anderson (1965) because I don't know anything about the subject. That also means I've found myself reluctant to write about it because I just don't have the cultural background to figure out if this is anything like a good representation of actual native cookery (or a fair representation of those who do/ did it).

It's an interesting book, though, and I hate keeping it to myself just because I'm not sure what to say.

So here goes, even though the closest thing I have to credentials for discussing this topic is my teenage crush on Ed Chigliak from Northern Exposure. (I didn't realize until years later that Chris Stevens was supposed to be the heartthrob. My tastes have always been a little offbeat.)

The only food-related detail I remember from Ed is that he liked to eat his sandwiches crust first (in a circle) so he could end on a nice bite with plenty of filling-- the same weird way I eat mine! Clearly we would have been a great match.

The book discusses foods regionally, so I'm going to show you the sweet line drawing used to introduce each section and a recipe that seems unusual and maybe representative of each area. First up: Southwest.
What do the gardeners and gatherers feed their families?
Well, if they're too busy to garden and gather, like any good '60s families, they reach for canned goods-- a can of "natural cactus in salt water" and a can of pimientos, to be specific.

Next in the book was Ed's region: the Pacific Northwest.
 Apparently the fishermen came home with more than just the usual fish:

If the catch had extra arms, the fishers could make octopus fritters. I'm not sure what those would be like. The closest I have come to eating octopus was eating a vegan calamari substitute one time. (Yes, I know calamari is supposed to be squid, but 1. a vegan version doesn't have any sea creatures in it anyway and 2. my point is that I have not been even remotely close to eating octopus...) It tasted like deep-fried rubber bands. The breading was yummy, as any deep fried breading tends to be, but it would have been better without any filling! Hopefully this recipe is better than that one was.

Next comes the middle of the country:

The wandering hunters apparently caught more than just bison:

Keeping with the mid-western theme, I like to imagine Venison and Wild Rice Stew being brought to a potluck. (Since it's a stew and doesn't use canned soup as an ingredient, I suppose they couldn't call it hotdish. Too bad.)

I think of corn as mid-western too, but the book pictures it with the south.

This recipe sounds more southern to me:

Sweet potato cornbread! I'll bet someone would love to make stuffing out of that...

Finally, the book features the east:

Apparently the woodsmen are best represented by a chicken enigmatically staring at readers, ignoring the scallop standing on end at its feet.

Instead of chicken, though, the recipe I chose features "goose."

Not avian goose, though: gooseberries!

Just like the cooks of the southwest, cooks in the east would rather reach for cans than try to gather the requisite berries. I can't say that I blame them. The main pleasure of picking berries is putting about 90% in the basket and eating the rest. Gooseberries are SOUR, so that trick will be no fun unless you are a serious sour-head.

So there it is-- The Art of American Indian Cooking. I hope Ed would have approved.


  1. Wait? Ed wasn't the heartthrob of the show? I loved loved loved him! He was also fantastic in the John Waters film "Cry-Baby" <3

    1. Ha! It's cool to know I wasn't the only Ed fan. I haven't seen "Cry-Baby."