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May 28, 2007 01:51 PM

What exactly is Native American cuisine?

I know that Native Americans used corn heavily as one of their staples, and perhaps lots of game meat (e.g. deer, rabbit, etc.).

But beyond that I'm not really clear as to what constitutes Native American food or dishes?

And, are there any cities that have a good concentration of Native American eateries?

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  1. Think regional / tribal and you might get some useful answers. There is no one Native cuisine just as there is no one Native culture.

    1. andytee is right, the food varies a lot by region and by what produce and meats are avaliable. Here in N CA we studied the Yahi Indians in school. One project was to collect acorns from the local live oaks, cookthem in a fire, grind them, and...yuck. Not something I'd eat again. I also tried fry bread on a reservation in New Mexico and buffalo in Montana. I'd guess that reservations, not cities, offer more choices.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Glencora

        We tried to prepare acorns in California for school in the 50s. You have to lime the ground flour. Still...yuck!

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Squirrels bury them as did Native Americans to get rid of the bitterness.

        2. re: Glencora

          you're supposed to run water through acorns to remove the toxic tannins that make them bitter, the native americans did this

          1. re: peanuttree

            Yeah, you have to leech them. My family and I did this a few years ago as an experiment, We came up with a mush that was not at all bitter and kind of like a nutty polenta. So we served it under my dad's rabbit stew. Yum! It's a lot of work so it can't be done that often but it sure was delicious.

        3. There's an excellent aboriginal restaurant in Ottawa:

          1. Thinking about different staples provides a view of diversity:

            1. Maize, domesticated by native peoples, from North America through Central America
            2. Acorns in the coast range and foothills of the Sierra Nevada; add pinon nuts in the Sierras
            3. Cassava in the Amazon
            4. Beans, potatoes, and amaranths in the Andes
            5. Native Americans also domesticated squash, tomatoes, chilis, others--as well as llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs

            Food systems varied widely by agricultural ecosystem from hunting and gathering to irrigated agriculture.

            Change came with contact with Europeans--steel implements allowed the Kwakiutl and other NW Pacific coast groups to potlatch slaves, canoes, bear grease, and salmon--overexploiting their environments for the first time. The horse allowed the plains populations to grow based on buffalo hunting.

            Today's more accessible Native American cuisines (all changed since contact with Europeans) include those of the Navajo, the Andes, the Amazon, and parts of Mexico and Guatemala.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Salmon, shellfish, wild rice, corn, squash, grapes, citrus, nuts, turkey, some rabbit and all other varieties of fish. Pacific Coast tribes, Chumash, etc, mainly depended upon the Ocean for food, while some lived by rivers that yielded plentiful fish.

            2. Years ago, we were part of the entertainment for a NA scholarshio benefit. It took place in Manhattan, so I assume it was a New York tribe.

              They served rattlesnake chile, wild boar, bear, (rare, spicy tasting), wild turkey with sage sauce, (the most flavorful turkey I've ever had), vennison, rabbit stew, squash, grits I think, and salad. There must have been other vegetables, but I don't remember.