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New World dishes Question

I am perplexed at comparing the foods of US/Canada and Mexico/Peru. The strain of Pre-columbian Mesoamerican ingredients and cooking techniques are so much more prominent and advanced as a part of the national food culture of Mexico/Peru, yet we here North of the Border cannot claim many wholly native dishes as our "own."

What do we have?
- "Indian" fry bread (huh?)
- "Indian" Pudding
- Pacific NW Salmon uses

What about the great Civilizations of our NOB Native American Heritage? The Iroqouis, Zuni, Pueblo, Cahokia, Huron, Sioux etc?

What are the reasons for this discrepancy?
Were they not advanced as much as Mesoamerica/ Andes to neccistate a need for complex cookery? Did we destroy them rather than absorb their culture and beauty?


This post kind of hearkens back for me time spent out in DC working for the NPS - when I got to eat quite often at the National American Indian Museums restaurant and my usual dissapointment with its Native cuisine representation.

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  1. Were the NOB natives more nomadic? More hunting and gathering based diet? Smaller groups more spread apart less prone to sharing?

    1. Could be that most of the present population of Mexico and Peru (and most of South America) is comprised of the descendants of those very Indians who used native, pre-Columbian foods. In North America we did not enslave or marry the natives, rather we killed them, drove them out, or confined them to separate territories, and therefore did not inherit their culinary heritage.

      But babette also raises a good question. It is my understanding that North American Indian groups were more dispersed and fewer in number. They also lacked the trade economy with other groups that allowed discovered foods to travel and catch on in areas of present-day Latin America.

      56 Replies
      1. re: Agent Orange

        One difference is the development of settle populations, agriculture, and civilization. There wasn't anything quite as developed as the Aztecs and Incas further north. The closest would have been the Pueblos in the SW.

        Journals of the Lewis & Clark expedition give some idea of the culinary development of the western tribes around 1800. I believe the Mandan on the middle Missouri had the most developed agriculture. Others depended largely on hunting, with semi cultivated areas of berries and camas roots. Along the Columbia salmon was king. The expedition traded some for food, mainly dogs. Otherwise they depending on what they could hunt - in other words their diet was much heavier in meat than ours.

        Cultivated foods can easily spread from one culture to another if growing conditions match. Wild products are not as easily transferable, especially to modern conditions.


        1. re: paulj

          Have you seen recreations of Cahokia? The architectural style smacks of Late Classic Maya.... since it was developed on the banks of the major river / trading vehicle, I've been to Peru and have personally seen all the Mayan influenced archeolgical artifacts from the Northern Civilizations... there is no doubt in my mind that major trading routes existed from North America down to Peru.

          One thing to keep in mind is that North America got a very late start towards civilization vis a vis the last ice age. If you read the Popol Vuh (Mayan book of creation) you will get chills down your spine when you realize the first chapter speaks about the ice age and provides a narrative (of divine punishment) on the failure of the early civilizations... and you begin to understand that people had to move to warmer climates for civilization to take root... and then spread out from there.... and was growing outward from its hot spots around Puebla... it just didn't have enough time to reach North America.

          Further, another reason that North American peoples weren't as developed is because the had less time on the continent. The archeological evidence is now pretty clear that most Mexicans descend from people that were in the Americas as early as 30,000 years ago (again the earliest evidence is in Puebla).... but many of North America's tribes (particularly those from and around modern day Canada) came across the Bering Strait as early as 10,000 years ago... and they came in an era when the glaciers still extended down to Northern California... you don't get dense populations in such a climate (that is why Scandanavia & Northern Europe never developed any significant civilizations on its own).

          Aside from the differences in civilization... you also have the deep racism & paranoia of the Social Darwinist era. Let me provide you an analogy... when people speak about Western Civilization they always start with the Greeks... why is this so? Why doesn't Western Civilization start in Babylon? There is no good reason... after all the Greeks didn't really invent much... they mostly borrowed from the Phoenicians & Egyptians who in turn borrowed from the Persians who in turn borrowed from the... all roads point to a timeline of Western Civilization that begins in Mesopotamia. However, the reason Academia blindly rejects this notion is simple:

          1) The Anglo-American academic tradition takes root during the tail end of the middle ages... and its infancy it mostly has access to Greek work (oddly much of it translated by the Irish whom they didn't exactly treat nicely)... so they thought the beginning & end of everything was Greek.

          2) The Crusades... even as the body of work from the Middle East became increasingly available in Western Europe the religious wars against the Muslims prevented Europeans from giving them any credit.

          So these two aspects from 1,000 years ago... are still deeply rooted in our academic tradition... and its frankly embarrassing to see highly intellectual professors with PhD's and jobs that involve nothing more than thinking, reflecting & learning still clinging on to the notion that Western Civilization begins with the Greeks.

          And similarly the approach of American settlers towards the Native Americans (and Africans).... is equally corrupt with blind prejudices that society chooses to justify in numerous ways.

          Finally, I would add that foods currently labeled as Native American are generally the Post-Reservation... let me prepare what I can with the lemons I have been given. There are many dishes in the American lexicon that just aren't ATTRIBUTED to Native American traditions... but really are. A glaring example is Carolina style Barbecue... it clearly descends from the Open Style Pit Cooking of the Pan-Carribbean (from Florida to the Yucatan, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico all the way down to Trinidad & Tobago)... yet some clueless ignoramuses (much like the English approach to the origins of Western Civilization) errantly attribute it to German smoking traditions etc., I wonder how many more such examples abound?

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I agree, there can't be any connection between Carolina style BBQ and Europe. The Europeans all roasted their meat in castle fire places on spits turned by spit-boys. :)

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Clearly "Pan-Caribbean." The Germans never in a million years could have thought of cooking meat in an Open Style Pit. What are the "clueless ignoramuses" thinking? Ethnocentrism at its worst...

              1. re: MakingSense

                1) If the technique had descended from Germany (ignoring that Carolina's immigrant communities were mostly Dutch & Scottish) then why is the name derived from a Carib word and not from a Germanic word?

                2) Even if they are similar traditions (again ignoring that most European cooking at the time involved boiling meat)... the fact as that Native Americans are getting credit for it... again I wonder how many other such cases exist?

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Isn't cooking meat over a fire or coals or smoke one of the oldest techniques on the planet, with independent invention responsible for most versions?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    You are funny... I would expect you to know the difference between BBQ and Grilling or Smoking. BBQ has to have three components:

                    > Smoke
                    > Dry Heat
                    > Steam

                    The result is meat that is fall apart tender yet smokey (albeit inland versions are smokier than coastal versions)... what you have in Europe & elsewhere is more of a dry smoked, or roasted dish which IS fairly universal.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      EN, I was giving you an opportunity to make the distinction so that others who reply would know what you're referring to. You and the BBQ crowd fervently agree with what you say as to what constitutes "BBQ"; but are all hounds aware of the distinctions?

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Thanks for the setup... sorry I doubted you.

                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                    NC/SC/GA are not the only States with BBQ traditions. It's found in KY, MO, AR, TN, OK, etc. And in TX, the German and Czech immigrants are credited with the use of the cheap cuts of beef, such as brisket, on cattle drives to begin what is now known as TX BBQ.
                    For the Carolinas, there was a strong Caribbean influence through the ports and the British trade patterns of the time.
                    Everything does not spring from a single source and take one single route. As Sam says, there is also independent invention which then may later be called by the same term. The Carolinas were English speaking colonies, not German-speaking.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      This SC BBQ history manages weave all the origin theories together
                      They credit German settlers for the mustard based sauce in some counties.
                      But there is a curious line:
                      "So, in that first fateful coming together, way back in the 1500s, the Spanish supplied the pig and the Indians showed them how to cook it. "

                      How did the Spanish eat pigs before that? Raw? Stewed?

                      The Spain 'Bizarre Foods' episode visits the oldest existent restaurant in Madrid, Botin (and supposedly all the world, 1590). Their specialty is roast piglet. Do you think they got their original recipe from the Americas? I think the place is only 300 yrs old.


                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Nope the Texas tradition (Closed Pit) is straight out of the Central Mexican tradition.... Open Pit can be debatable but Closed Pit was not found in the Old World.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Hey wassamatta you bruddah? Closed pit only way do pig in d' Pacific! You think come from Kon Tiki or somethin'?

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Sam... the first time I consumed Hawaiian food I really was amazed at the similarities wtih coastal Native Mexican... even the ingredients... Mahi Mahi, Papaya etc.,

                            Even when I look at the people... Native Hawaiians are by no means homogenous... some have very much a look that I associate with Filipinos & Malays... but others could fit right in in Mexico (dark skin, slightly almond eyes, body hair & mustaches which I believe are not as common in the Orient)... there is no doubt in my mind that there is some genetic & cultural connection... is it Pre-Colombus... I don't have the answers we will see what the Human Genome project.

                            But if the Mexican Genome contains 15% African genes... a significant portion which is traced back to Austral-African people... and if we accept the theory that its possible people could have made it from Australia, New Zealand, Papau New Guinea to Western Mexico... then I don't see how its not possible there was a relatinoship between Hawaii & Mexico.

                            Would I be surprised if Closed Pit cooking originated in Hawaii or among the Maori.. no. For now Mexico has oldest carbon dated Closed Pits found in Tabasco... of course Mexico's weather & building materials is also archeologically a bit more lenient than what is found in the Caribbean and South Pacific so its probably there are older traditions without record.

                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Why is it difficult for you to accept that a BBQ tradition, such as that in TX, might not be linked somehow to Mexico?
                            A simple combination of things: a fire, a piece of meat, a cover - if only because it might have started raining. It tasted good. They did it again. It became the way they did things and maybe never met anyone from Mexico.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Other BBQ traditions yes... Texas no way, no how. Your proposition is too far fetched to consider.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                Nothing is ever too far-fetched to consider. Man couldn't fly, remember? Imagination is boundless. Many inventions, adaptations, improvements were born of necessity. Others were simply serendipitous, such as Velcro and Post-It Notes, which were later patented.
                                Cooking over a fire and containing the smoke ain't building a Space Station. A cook on a cattle drive in TX didn't need to wait for somebody to come from a 1000 miles away to show him how.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  And according to some travel accounts that I've read, people often practically smoked themselves trying to stay warm, or free from insects. Build a cooking and warming fire inside a shelter, and you have a very smoky room, even if the smoke is free to filter out through the thatch. The smoke may even help preserve the thatch.

                                  As modern cooks, we think in terms of spending several hours combining a half dozen ingredients, and producing a 'dish'. But most of these Native American cultures, cooking is just the last step in a long process of gathering, preserving, and preparing the food items. And that food gathering is integrated with the whole process of living, especially if camp has to be moved to the food source.

                                  There's a segment in the Ecuador episode of Bizarre Foods where Andrew goes on a grub hunting trip with his host in the jungle. The actual cooking of the grubs was a minor part of the day's events.


                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Carolina BBQ is most closely associated with the area around Winston-Salem, for what it's worth, and that area is kinda famous for having been settled mostly by Germans.

                          Salem was a Moravian/German town established by a German bishop in 1753, and it wasn't until well after the revolution that a sizeable number of non-German Europeans settled in Winston. The whole area just reeks of German influence, or at least it did until recntly.

                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                            Moravia is in modern day Czech Republic... the immigrants that came were some kind of German ethnicity?

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              I don't know much about the Moravian faith or its origins, but the first settlers of the Piedmont area were most certainly German.

                            2. re: uptown jimmy

                              Do not forget that the Spanish had settlements - missions, forts in the Carolinas in the 1500s.

                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                Perhaps, but not in the Piedmont. Not anywhere near it, as far as I know. It's a pretty big state, FWIW....

                        3. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Actually, your timeline of the settlement of the Americas has been called into serious question by findings at the Topper archaeological site here in South Carolina. Radiocarbon tests have dated artifacts to 50,000 years ago (yes, 10,000 years before the settlement of Europe)!! Unsurprisingly, these findings have raised quite a bit of controversy. If the results can be corroborated, archaelogists and anthropologists are going to have their work cut out for them trying to rewrite the pre-history of the world. Were the Topper people the direct ancestors of North America's current tribes, were they a vanished race, or did they move south to form the basis of the great Mesoamerican cultures? EN, the people who became the Mayans et al may have been "Southerners" long before they were "Mexicans," so to speak. ;)

                          Regarding the alleged German origin of Carolina BBQ, I have argued against that viewpoint elsewhere on these boards, but to be fair to those who espouse it, they tend to be arguing specifically that the pork shoulder BBQ tradition of western (really central) NC began with German immigrants, not the whole of Carolina 'cue tradition. Like others here, I think it much more likely that German immigrants simply adapted the existing Carolina BBQ traditions to their own tastes, thus the mustard sauces of SC, etc. And yes, there were many, many German settlers in the Carolinas who arrived here courtesy of the wagon trail from parts north. The idea that they were primarily Dutch is a misconception I can only attribute to the name "Pennsylvania Dutch," which in itself is a corruption of the word "Deutsch" or "Deitsch," meaning German.

                          As a side note, in SC, you can still often tell what kind of BBQ sauce a place serves by looking at the surname of the owner. If it is Scottish in origin, chances are good you will find vinegar and pepper sauce; if it is German in origin, look for mustard sauce.

                          1. re: Low Country Jon

                            Thanks Jon for the clarification...I read somewhere that Carolina slaw traditions were Dutch in origin as a segway into the Scottish & Dutch predominance in Carolinas... but I guess I can't really say that have met too many "Vans" from there!

                            1. re: Low Country Jon

                              So how does Carolina BBQ cooking differ from traditional German methods?

                              While it is often possible to trace the origin of ingredients through trade records and such, and possible to guess the origin and modification route of words, tracing methods and ideas is harder. Sometimes the best you can do is guess at the use of some artifact, such as a fire pit or rusted bits of a spit.


                              1. re: paulj

                                Another complication is that words like 'barbeque' are just as portable as ideas and ingredients. And the 3 don't have to move together.

                                The wiki article on barbecue talks about central Texas, which was settled by Germans and Czechs. There BBQ is typically sold in meat markets (I've seen those on TV documentaries).

                                "The European settlers did not think of this meat as barbecue, but the Anglo farm workers who bought it started calling it such, and the name stuck."


                                1. re: paulj

                                  To your point about the portability of words, while we generally accept that the BBQ tradition of the Carolinas was imported via sea trade from the native populations of the Caribbean, it would not surprise me if the Native Americans of our own region were already practicing this method of cooking and the European settlers simply applied the Carib word, which had already entered their vocabulary, to the indigenous style of cooking.

                                2. re: paulj

                                  My understanding of the theory is that the German dish of origin was a braised pork shoulder rather than a smoked one. That the German settlers would spontaneously decide to start smoking the shoulders when whole-hog smoking was already taking place in the Carolinas, I find a bit questionable. I think it's more likely they adopted the smoking method and applied it to their favored cut of the pig.

                                  I've also heard an alternate theory that the exclusive use of pork shoulders in western NC was a phenomenon that didn't arise until much later - late 19th, early 20th century - as a result of the large political barbecues that were being held in the Charlotte area and the resulting need for cheap cuts of pork that could be cooked more quickly.

                                  1. re: Low Country Jon

                                    Although S. Louisiana has no BBQ tradition, there is the whole-pig cochon de lait, which some speculate may have originated with the Germans settlers who arrived in the River Parishes about 1700, before the founding of New Orleans. Many of the German surnames were changes to the French translations of their meanings or simply given French pronunciations by the later-arriving French settlers, and the German influence on S. Louisiana food is often overlooked. Many of the sausages and smoked meats are as much German as French.

                                    Remember that at one time there were so many German speakers in the US that there was a controversy over whether German or English should be the official language of the country. Sound familiar?.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      Or Spanish... roasted Coachon de Lait is first documented as a Castillian dish served by El Botin served at least a century before it appeared in early French cookbooks (although given the Germanic origins of Castilla I wouldn't be suprised if really had German origins).

                                      However... Couchon de lait is NOT Barbecue they are completely different animals (no pun intended)... it occurs to me to ask if you have you ever had real BBQ?

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        You're stretching. I suppose de Soto and his boys could have been cooking pigs when they were exploring the Gulf States and the Mississippi Basin around 1540 but there weren't any settlements to leave a cooking tradition behind with.

                                        Never said that cochon de lait was BBQ.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          No lets not forget that Spaniards that settled the Bayou... the governor of Louisiana descends from people that were here more or less at the same time as the early Acadians.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            Hmmm....oldest city in America...would be? and founded by whom?

                                            I am having a bit a trouble with the origins of Jambalaya? Do you think it may have been from those people the French ceded their Louisiana territory to after the French & Indian War? I wonder what European country's national dish it smacks of?

                                            1. re: kare_raisu

                                              St. Augustine, FL, 1565, oldest permanently settled city in the US. By the Spanish.
                                              Some of the Parishes in LA are referred to as the Florida Parishes because they were once part of a large portion of land owned by Spain. You find many Spanish surnames in St. Bernard Parish South of New Orleans, although most have French pronunciations. The Spanish influence in New Orleans is very apparent. Napoleon bought the territory because he wanted the port for the Caribbean trade.
                                              There are Spanish roots in the foods of the Gulf region, setting it apart from what we think of as traditional Southern foods.
                                              Many think it that Jambalaya was likely the child of paella although rice was a commercial staple in the US by the late 1600s.
                                              Louisiana has always looked to Europe, although that often came through the Caribbean Basin trade routes developed by France and Spain.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                I think Kare's point would be that if Paella was slightly modified and renamed Jambalaya... its also reasonable to think that Lechon Asado could have just been renamed Couchon De Lait... as you note much of the Spanish names & roots have been Francoized.

                                                If you think about it, it makes sense... the Spanish cooking that incorporates tomatoes, peppers etc., likely all evolved in Veracruz (where you would have the Spanish, Mexican & African ingredients & techniques all coming together in the mid 1500s)... went back to the mainland & their Florida colony as well... that is why there are so many similarities between the traditional cuisines of Veracruz (Port), New Orleans & Valencia.

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  The use of rice in a dish such as Jambalaya may have been a contribution of some Spanish settlers but the name could just as easily have derived from the French "jambon." No one knows.
                                                  Cooking of pigs, likewise, was common among the German and French settlers, who had different names for what they cooked. There was no need to borrow from the Spanish and call it something else. The French culture predominated in South Louisiana, even during the periods of Spanish rule. There were not many Spanish settlers, fewer than there were Germans, and they were isolated in a few areas.
                                                  No one can deny the impact of various New World commodities on the cuisines of Europe and how they ricocheted back to affect the rapidly growing US colonies, but the US colonies were not Spanish in culture or in their food.
                                                  New Orleans is a port city and has influences from many regions but its classic cuisine is not now, nor ever was, Spanish. That is only one of many, many influences.

                                      2. re: Low Country Jon

                                        In the 1750s, when would the whole hog have slow roasted/smoked, as opposed to being cut up, and preserved in various ways?

                                        Whole hog cookery would have been part of a community event or some sort of commercial enterprise. A family would eat some parts right away, but most would be preserved - salted and smoked - for later use.

                                        In these parts of the Carolinas, is there much of tradition of dry ham curing, the kind of thing that Virginia is famous for (Smithfield etc)?


                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Yes, I think for the typical small holding farmer, smoking a whole pig would have been reserved for special occasions. One might imagine on the larger plantations, with many more mouths to feed, smoking a whole hog might have been a more common occurence and there was probably a whole hiearchy, from the master's family to the field slaves, that determind who got what parts of the pig. Also, there were commercial establishments even back then that served BBQ. Pete Jones, the late owner of the Skylight Inn in Ayden, claimed his family had been selling 'cue in the same place since the 1830s at least.

                                          Yes, the tradition of curing "country hams" is very strong in the Carolinas, as in most of the South. My grandparents had a smokehouse on their tobacco farm where they cured their hams, although, despite the name, they did not employ smoke in the process.

                                          1. re: Low Country Jon

                                            Country ham is about as Carolina as it gets. Ah, memories of youth...

                                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    "Aside from the differences in civilization... you also have the deep racism & paranoia of the Social Darwinist era. Let me provide you an analogy... when people speak about Western Civilization they always start with the Greeks... why is this so? Why doesn't Western Civilization start in Babylon? There is no good reason... after all the Greeks didn't really invent much... they mostly borrowed from the Phoenicians & Egyptians who in turn borrowed from the Persians who in turn borrowed from the... all roads point to a timeline of Western Civilization that begins in Mesopotamia. However, the reason Academia blindly rejects this notion is simple:".....Eat Nopal

                                    Excuse me, but there ARE two critical reasons why "Western Civilization" is credited to have "begun" with ancient Greece. They are Literature and Philosophy. Plain, simple.

                                    Anyone with ten minutes more than a two week education in man's cultures realizes that there were Great Civilizations that predate Greece. Some of their accomplishments are mind boggling. The buildings of Egypt, and not just how the pyramids were built, but the sheer massive size and beauty of public buildings. Their manufacture and distribution of beer is a model that is surprisingly contemporary by today's standards.

                                    The Laws of Hammurabi are certainly a legal landmark. And that culture (series of "civilizations") had amazing accomplishments few are even aware of today. Passive air conditioning that kept public buildings at around 74F inside when the outdoor desert temperature was way above 100F. Great sculpture and architecture.

                                    The Minoans had amazing navigational skills. They circumnavigated Africa at a time when other sailors only sailed during daylight and only then within sight of land.

                                    I could go on about the accomplishments of great civilizations that predate the Hellenes, and contributed remarkable things to the world, but... NONE of them had literature or philosophy. And THAT is what scholars are talking about when they trace "modern civilization" to ancient Greece. Nothing else.

                                    As for food, what we know about the food of most of the ancients comes from archaeological evidence, not cookbooks. Cooking was often women's work, and regardless of the gender of the cooks, the recipes were handed down through one-to-one instruction. Very rarely written, if ever, though some banquet guests did write about the food they ate, which is not the same thing as a recipe. The oldest recipe I have in my personal recipe logs is for bread, it takes two to three days to make, and only dates back to about 300AD, from Greece.

                                    As for "barbecue," it goes back to the first guy who figured out how to start a fire on demand. Any culture that had access to wild pigs, fowl, or fish did "barbecue". Cattle was fairly tough by comparison. We do know the Greeks ate "barbecued" beef from early times. It was always a part of funeral games and other ceremonial sacrifices, when the bones and skin were burned to ash and the smoke carried them to the gods, while man ate the roasted flesh. Lamb was probably the preferred "red meat." Far more tender, easier to slaughter, and probably tasted much better.

                                    You can "trace" barbecue and attribute it to any culture you wish simply because they all had fire.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      As you say, at some point or other, everyone roasted their meat over a fire, and often that would involve the whole animal. Even the OT account of the Exodus talks about cooking the lamb with head and legs (and entrails). Indians living in the Carolinas would have known about it. German settlers would have experience with spit roasting. Retired buccaneers would have had experience with it while hiding out on Caribbean islands.

                                      But why did it remain popular in South Carolina into the 20th century? And why the 'barbecue' name?

                                      Here's a NC 'pig pickin' article that gives some history, including its association with political rallies, and weekend bbq pits.


                                      1. re: paulj

                                        I don't t hink "barbecue" has as much to do with any specific ethnic cultural influence as it has to do with the domestication of pigs. NC barbecue, Texas barbecue, Memphis barbecue, Kansas City barbecue... All of it is pork. Twentieth century pork. Big fat swine from the feed lot!

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          Texas BBQ is quite famously all about beef, I thought.

                                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                                            Not really. Maybe in the past? Long ago past? Sonny Bryan's (www.sonnybryans.com), arguably the most famous Texas BBQ place in the whole state, let alone just the DFW metroplex (featured on Food Network several times), only has beef ribs on Mondays, and when they're gone, they're gone. Personally, I don't think they're very good.

                                            If you want Texas beef, you have to go to a "steak house," where they do cook over charcoal, but they don't call it "barbecue." Here's my favorite Texas steak house: http://www.cattlemanssteakhouse.com/ If you check out the menu, they do have a little barbecued beef, but believe me, it's not what most people go for! And on weekends (when it's crowded) they have a real live "cowboy" on horseback to help you find a parking place. Took friends visiting from London there and they were blown away! '-)

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              Caroline, everything I have ever read about Texas barbeque had to do with beef cooked over an open pit with their own take on the rub and sauce. The Barbeque I had in Dallas at a private home cooked by a cowboy chef was beef brisket with a thick sweet and spicy sauce that was pungent and full of flavor. Heavenly.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                Yes, and I've had steer-on-a-spit at private homes too. But that's not accessible to the general public. Today's barbecue restaurants (aka "pits") do have beef brisket on their menu (nine times out of ten it's dry and mealy), along with pork butt, baby back ribs, barbecued ham, and barbecued chicken. But it's extremely hard to find barbecued beef ribs without going to a steak house, which is where you can get charcoal broiled (barbecued) beef with rubs and the whole nine yards.

                                                I think a lot of what people read about Texas barbecue and a steer-on-the-spit comes from writers who are romanticizing the past. LBJ used to do it regularly when he and Lady Bird entertained at the LBJ Ranch. I have to assume that Bush does the same thing on his ranch. And it is true that if you're fortunate enough to know a cowboy chef, a bona fide cattle rancher, or a Texas millionair, and if you're lucky, you may land an invitation to a "texas cook-out" with beef cooked fresh off the hoof. Well, actually in today's world, even a whole carcass will likely be dry aged.

                                                The Chisholm Trail was replaced by railroads, and when people have big beef barbecues, it's mostly a tribute to days gone by. And to prove they still can! And then there are the entrepreneurs who let you pay through the nose to work on a cattle drive, and you will get barbecued beef at least one night on the trail while you work your butt off. But if you're not an accomplished rider who rides horses regularly, you won't give a damn about barbecue because you'll be too saddle-sore to eat! '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  At chuck wagon cookoffs, such as the televised one at Ruidoso NM, the beef is usually turned into chicken fried steak, or some form of smothered steak. Admittedly the main tool in those events is the dutch oven, and beef cut is usually something suitable (not ribs or chuck).

                                                  I haven't seen a discussion of what parts they used on real cattle drives. I suspect they used animals that died of accidental causes along the drive, not market worthy ones. Keeping the meat for more than a day would have been a problem. Chili is often attributed to Texas cowboys (vaqueros), spicing up less-than-fresh meat.

                                                  The SW and north Mexico is also known for its dried beef (machaca). In fact that may have been more common than freshly killed beef


                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    Well, call me suspicious, but I'm just not convinced chicken fried steak showed up on chuck wagon menus with any sort of regularity. But there are a LOT of "official" chuckwagon cookoffs beside the one in Ruidoso. And they all seem to feature chicken fried steak. Hey, it brings in a crowd!

                                                    My problem with the menu is pretty basic. First off, cattle drives were rather interesting undertakings that were the establshed means of getting cattle from the prairies of southern New Mexico and west Texas to market in the north, typically Kansas City or Chicago, long before the chuck wagon came along. It wasn't "invented" until 1870, which is about five years after the end of the Civil War, and you just know northerners were eating Texas beef long before then! Interestingly, if memory serves me from long ago research, the first chuck wagons were made out of Civil War army surplus. Prior to that, most cowboys carried an iron pot along with their bedroll, tied to their saddle.

                                                    As you say, it doesn't make a lot of sense to slaughter a cow for dinner on the trail. It doesn't take as many people as most people think to drive a couple of hundred head of cattle. The size of a herd had to be geared to the size of the holding pens available when they got to where they were going. Five or six men can handle a herd of two hundred head fairly easily, so a chuck wagon wasn't exactly cooking for a huge army. But I think there were occasional cattle drives that were pretty large.

                                                    Since the trails north were known ahead of time and well established by the time the chuck wagon came along, it was the job of the chuckwagon cook/driver to take off right after breakfast to set up at a predetermined rendevous for dinner that night. The cattle drivers might get there a little early. They might get there a lot late. Chicken fried steak isn't something you want to have half cooked when a hungry crew arrives, or have it cold and greasy if they get there late. I think most chuck wagon cooks made stops on their way when they passed through settlements to buy some provisions for the day, including fresh beef in appropriate amounts, along with vegetables, eggs, chickens, and whatever else was available. But that still doesn't make chicken fried steak a very reasonable menu. Stews, chilies, even chicken and dumplings just make a lot more sense for feeding a crowd that "should" arrive "about sundown." But could also concievably not get there until dawn.

                                                    But nobody can say chicken fried steak doesn't make the most interesting menu for 21st century audiences to watch in an "official" chuckwagon cook off, no matter where it's held!. '-)

                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                If you think Texas BBQ is about pork, you've been smoking something other than meat.

                                                Classic Texas Q is all about beef. If you want to call Black's or Kreutz's or the Hard Eight a steakhouse, you're more than welcome. But you'll earn yourself a strange look from the owners and the regulars.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Mr. Barnes, you MAY be an ex-butcher, but you apparently haven't followed a word I said. Either that, or you've intentionally proven my point, in which case, thank you! Here are the websites with menus for the places you cite as being all about beef:

                                                  Black's has Brisket - Pork Ribs - Ham - Pork Loin - Turkey on their menu. The ONLY beef is brisket. One kind of beef versus three kinds of pork. Here's the website:

                                                  Here's Hard Eight Barbecue, and while they do show beef ribs in the photo of the giant grill they're cooking everything on, in the small picture under meats, they show PORK ribs. Menu: brisket (beef), chicken, turkey, sausage, ribs, rib eye (beef), sirloin (beef), and porkchops. Not even close to "all about beef." Their website:http://www.hardeightbbq.com/home.html

                                                  As for the third one, it's "Kreuz Market", not "Kreutz's." No "T" in Kreuz. They do still have three cuts of beef, but they also have three cuts of pork, including pork ribs, but NO beef ribs. Here's their "menu":

                                                  I do really wish you wouldn't twist what I have said. Yes. I DID say that "classic" Texas barbecue -- the kind you most often read about and the kind you see in movies, is about beef. But the REALITY of today's Texas barbecue "pits" (as in restaurants open to the public that specialize in barbecue) is that it is about pork more than it is about beef. In the places you cite, beef seems to be a hold-over from their past, and bravo for that, but NONE of them openly feature barbecued BEEF ribs. They ALL feature PORK ribs! Thank you for making my point.

                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                              Feed lots were not an important factor. More rural than ethnic influence in BBQ territory. People could breed and raise pigs easily anywhere they had a little land. The average pig litter in the US is 10. Great return on investment. Lots of BBQ at little cost since pigs can forage for their own food. Pork is the most economical animal food source since you can use everything but the oink.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                "Feed lots were not an important factor. More rural than ethnic influence in BBQ territory. People could breed and raise pigs easily anywhere they had a little land. ... ... ..." MakingSense

                                                That's true. And there came a day when every kid in the family had to take a turn at "slopping the hogs." And smoke houses were primarily used for curing ham and bacon, and not for barbecuing pork.

                                                But in today's world of pork barbecue, chances are pretty good the pig comes from a commercial feed lot right next door to the slaughterhouse.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  That's safe to say in general. If you're eating in a BBQ restaurant, the pork came from a commercial producer.
                                                  I don't get the chance to eat BBQ from local-farm-raised pork more than a couple of times a year. That's at private parties. It's too easy to buy pork and most farmers have day jobs in town.

                                            3. re: paulj

                                              Perhaps you have a mistaken impression of SC. It's a very complex State. Very cosmopolitan because of the international influences through the port at Charleston. Heavy ties to Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Yet SC was a rural State and remains so.. Everybody had pigs because they were economical livestock. Large gatherings called for a large main dish that would feed a lot of people - like roasting a whole pig. Both the urban and rural populations embrace tradition even today.

                                      2. re: Agent Orange

                                        < In North America we did not enslave or marry the natives, rather we killed them, drove them out, or confined them to separate territories, and therefore did not inherit their culinary heritage. >

                                        Not true for many areas of the US. The Louisiana Purchase Territory, Georgia Colonies, Florida, Virginia and other areas of the original 13 Colonies. The Indians were largely not confined or driven out. They intermarried, mostly with blacks, and contributed to the culinary heritage of those areas.

                                        There are substantial climate differences among the areas of the East Coast, SW, Mexico, Central and South America where various Indian groups lived. In much of North America, the temperate climate allowed them to live off the land, hunting and gathering, rather than establishing an agriculture-based society or building permanent settlements. The trade economy flourished in the Eastern part of the US in the 1700s, especially trapping in the NE.
                                        They were however fewer in number because of the harsh climate - winter in NA which wasn't a factor further South through the Andes.

                                      3. Native Americans are well known for their use of indigenous herbs, vegetables and meats. Corn, squash and beans are but a few of the vegetables used on a daily basis.
                                        Consider their use of Peppermint, Spearmint, Clover, Sage, and Rosehips to make teas and other foods. Besides deer, the Native Americans frequently ate rabbits, Prairie dog, Beaver, Lamb, Buffalo, Mutton, and Pork. Using wild grains and vegetables was also commonplace in the Native American diet and along with sage, wild onions, cabbage, pumpkins, and cactus played a vital role in Native American food.

                                        I direct you to the following web site which lists and expands the many varied foods Native Americans cultivated and caught.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Pork? You mean from peccaries? Not many javelinas north of the Rio Grande.

                                          Lamb? Mutton? Indiginous?

                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                            The range of peccaries/javelinos/musk hog is from the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts of southwestern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, southward through Central America to northern Argentina.

                                            As for lamb....French and Spanish Basques began immigrating to the U.S. during the 1848 California gold rush. ( There is additional evidence that they were here with Columbus) They brought with them sheep and sheepherding techniques which Native Americans soon adopted. Especially the Paiutes living along the Yosemite valley.

                                            Indiginous herbs, vegetables and other animals namely bear, bison, deer were consumed by early Native Americans on a daily basis.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              According to this page
                                              Navajos acquired sheep from their Spanish neighbors in the mid 1600s.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                I was under the impression that some native species of Sheep existed pre Colombus... is this not true?

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  There are some wild sheep in the Americas (big horn etc), but whether any of them were domesticated is another question (the wiki article say none). In the Andes, llamas and their relatives were domesticated and used for wool and food, but I think all the sheep are of Eurasian origin.

                                                  Horses were an early acquisition from the Spanish, but I don't know if they were normally used for food.

                                                  Dogs proceeded the Europeans. L&C bought quite a few dogs from the tribes they encountered, though their journals indicate that the expedition had a greater liking for dog meat than did the Indians. In contrast to the Indians, the expedition quickly tired of salmon.


                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    "Dogs proceeded the Europeans" is that a typo. Canines were alive & well in Pre Hispanic times... the Xoloscuintl (Hairless Mexican) was domesticated for food source... according to early Spanish reports it was comparable to veal =)

                                                    Yes... I agree about the lack of Sheep domestication... but I do believe they were hunted for food and a favorite of the Central Mexican barbecue pit.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        I believe so... http://www.thefreedictionary.com/prec... (proceeded would indicate the Europeans brough them?)

                                                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    This is true Eat_Nopal. From what I've read wild sheep crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia during the Ice Age and, spread through western North America as far south as Baja California and northern mainland Mexico. I believe their closest descendants are Bighorn Sheep and the Dall sheep. Native peoples did use the wild sheep as they did other animals but it was not until the Basque began their immigration and with them their sheep herding techniques did domestication of these animals occur.
                                                    As paulj's link points out the Navajo used all elements of the Churro sheep, but in the wild.

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      The native species of sheep in the Americas have never been domesticated. All domesticated sheep, even those raised by Paiutes, derive from the European/Middle Eastern species.

                                                      I doubt if wild sheep ever formed a significant part of Native American diet. Their usual habitat is just too rugged (mountains or desert). I suspect more pronghorn antelope were eaten, though without guns, hunting these fast animals would have been difficult.

                                                      In any case, the Indians would have taken advantage of whatever hunting opportunities thay had - whether it be deer, beer, rabbits, bison - with the exception of selected taboo animals.

                                                      Note that one method of hunting bison, particularly before they got horses, was to stampede a herd over a cliff, such as the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta.



                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Yeah... if ever go to Loreto, Baja California Sur... you can see the 8,000 year old cave paintings that confirm wild sheep hunting... as well as deitification of the Humpback whale:


                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          LoL, where would you go to hunt beer? ;-)

                                            2. Overall, larger sedentary and socially stratified populations dependent on agriculture, imperialism, and trade might be expected to have more developed culinary traditions than smaller, somewhat more egalitarian hunter-gatherer or semi-sedentary groups.

                                              That being said, I suspect we've lost the culinary traditions of the more developed north American native societies--those of the NW coast, the pueblo/Chaco Canyon type groups of the SW, and the Iriquois nation of the NE. The anthropologist Franz Boas did collect hundreds of black-berry pie recipes from the Kwakiutl, after all.

                                              And, on the other hand, what dishes come to mind when thinking of the Inca?

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                They have a soup with freeze dried potatoes is one example. Cebiches seem to have originated here. Cuy. Quinoa applications (great protein source)

                                                Mainly everything outside of the Criollo and coastal valley realms of their tripartite Culinary geogaphy

                                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                                  Yeah. Chuno soup is good. Chicha is ubiquitous. There aren't all that many quinoa dishes. Takes 50 cuy to equal the meat on one capybara. Don't know if pre-contact societies ate ceviche. Still not comparable to Central Mexico.

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    Regardless of the amount of quinoa dishes - it as a protein source - I believe - was as important as nixtamalized maize in Mesoamerica.

                                                    What's your point?

                                                    Mine is -though not as complex as central Mexico - Incan cuisine still was more advanced than many other Amerindian groups - so tell me why?

                                                    Can you? Or are you just going to pick at points I make?

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Sam, from what I learned in the time I lived in the Andes and met many anthropologists and historians, the cuisine was largely permutations and combinations of a very few products so it was quite limited and repetitive. Not as much grew as in Central America or even at the lower altitudes of the Amazon or coastal regions.
                                                      Is this correct?

                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                        After 15 years in Colombia and 4 in Bolivia plus work in Peru, my take is that modern cuisines in the ex-Inca empire either lost those advances that Kare Raisu refers to or there never was such development. On the other hand, The complex, rich, and often technically complicated dishes of Mexico and parts of Central America is clear testimony to a rich heritage of pre-Colombian cuisines in those areas.

                                                        I'm not sure it has anything to do with numbers of ingredients or products: some of the foods developed by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin are richer, more complex than some of our Andean foods.

                                                        Similarly in SE Asia, for reasons that are more speculative than clearcut, the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos reflect long historical development and are now widely accepted internationally. On the other hand, Cambodia and the Philippines--with similar historical depth and amounts of products--remain largely "not ready for prime time".

                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                          There's an anthropological case study book called 'Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes' (Weismantel) that looks at food in a relatively isolated community in the Ecuadorian mountains. Studies like this give insight as to what food options would have been like before the Spanish, since it is possible to identify foods and preferences that reflect the older way of life, and distinguish them from ones are borrowed from the national culture. The diet based on locally grown products is indeed simple and repetitive But is typical of any subsistence culture. The exact mix depends on what can be grown in that particular climate.

                                                          The Incas (and predecessor cultures) brought a high level of organization to the region. That included roads, record keeping (knotted cords), and food storage facilities, even transport of fresh seafood from the coast to Cusco. But without wheels and limited pack animals (just llamas) large scale trade in foods to/from tropical to temperate or subalpine areas was not possible. The ruling classes could enjoy a wider range of foods than their subjects.


                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            "The Incas (and predecessor cultures) brought a high level of organization to the region. That included roads, record keeping (knotted cords), and food storage facilities, even transport of fresh seafood from the coast to Cusco. But without wheels and limited pack animals (just llamas) large scale trade in foods to/from tropical to temperate or subalpine areas was not possible. The ruling classes could enjoy a wider range of foods than their subjects."..................paulj

                                                            Reading back over this discussion, I don't know that I can go along with this argument. Considering the remarkable mortar-free building that required extensive transport of huge rocks, and the fact that they built all over the Andes, doesn't do much, in my opinion, to support any argument that no wheels and only pack animals would do anything to prevent them from having a widely varied diet... *IF* they wanted it! Now, whether there was some sort of religious belief that kept them to a lesser diet than they could have had is another thing entirely.

                                                  2. there is a PBS show about native food cultures of north america. i can't for the life of me remember the name of it, but this woman visits different tribes and learns their food traditions. there was one episode showing the harvesting and cooking of wild rice in minnesota, one focusing on salmon in the northwest, etc. might be worth looking into.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: augustiner

                                                      And then we have Loretta Barrett Oden who has been cooking, writing, speaking about Native American culture for years... trying to educate the public and Native Americans alike to the heritage of her people.... proud woman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. A food historian, Loretta has been in the forefront of the push to celebrate America’s natural bounty combining Native American history and culture with delicious, healthy recipes inspired by indigenous peoples. I have been enthralled by her treks into the origins of Native culture... her passion to keep her heritage alive, and her understanding of modern ways.
                                                      Read about her here:

                                                    2. Question.... since Barbecue (real Barbecue) is obviously of German descent (ignoring the whole Carib origin of the name etc.,), I wonder where I can go get some decent Open & Closed Pit Barbecue in Germany, and what the name is?

                                                      14 Replies
                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                        Do a web search on 'Amish pig roast'.

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          There is a German dish called Speisbraten. It's marinated pork cooked over an open pit. I just Googled and found the following explanation and several cities & restaurants in Germany which specialize in this "barbeque".

                                                          I have read that some think Speisbraten is Argentinian in origin.... and the debate continues. <edit> However, upon further investigation the dish appears to have originated in the Trier/ Oberstein section of Germany.

                                                          Planning a trip, are you?

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            I lived a year in Berlin, never heard of it - I must have been living in a cage? Can't be as ingrained in local culture as BBQ in parts of the US.

                                                            1. re: kare_raisu

                                                              You didn't live in a cave, KR... probably just not near Idar Oberstein where, apparently, the restaurant is located. I've been to Munich, but I have No Idea where Idar Oberstein is. Another town where Speisbraten can be had is Baumholder . It's curious that neither restaurant name is mentioned.

                                                              The link I posted is just one of several other sites which mention the dish and the town. Now I'm on a hunt to find a recipe.

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                Schweinebraten is another German term for roast pork. It comes up often in connection with Bavarian or Munich beer festivals.

                                                                Porchetta is a Tuscan style roast pork. In the US I've thought of it as a slow baked fennel flavored butt, in some ways more of a braise than a roast. But apparently in parts of Italy it is possible to buy meat from a whole roasted pig at a market day stand.

                                                                I don't recall that we've established what is unique of Carolina BBQ, and what aspect must have come from New World sources. As best I can tell, people have been roasting whole animals, including pigs, for many centuries, on both sides of the Atlantic. A modern stainless steel propane fired BBQ 'pit' is a far from a Carib earth pit or smoking rack, as it is from an old European spit or village oven.


                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Yes Paul....Schweinebraten is roast pork, so I'm thinking that Speisbraten is simply a variation on that theme. Speis = spice??
                                                                  And as I noted above, this dish did indeed have it's beginnings in the Tier/Oberstien area. Wonder how long ago, though.

                                                                  As you say, "people have been roasting whole animals" all over the world - including the Pacific islands. What we have is the evolution of a culinary method.

                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                    Spanferkel is another German name for roast pig - apparently young but not suckling.

                                                                    A lot of the Germans who came to SC in the mid 18th c came from Baden-Württemberg


                                                                  2. re: paulj

                                                                    Here's an example of Ecuadorian whole roast pig, a typical market-day (and road side) feature

                                                                    In contrast to the Carolina version, they keep the head on:
                                                                    "Pay just a dollar for your order of meat and you earn the right to peel off a piece of skin from the pig head. Go ahead, dig your fingers right in. You paid for it!"
                                                                    another image
                                                                    A google image search for 'roast pig' turns up images from all over the world.


                                                                2. re: kare_raisu

                                                                  Not odd. You can live apart from cultural traditions. My husband is a native of Louisiana but had never been to a boucherie (traditional pig slaughter) or cochon de lait (pit pig cooking) until I took him to ones that my South Louisiana family had. These still aren't events that are common for restaurants or outsiders in that area although very traditional.

                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                    But they have a reputation for such activities specific to that style. I can't wait to get my hand on some Low German bbq recipes though! Please bring them.

                                                                3. re: Gio

                                                                  "In accordance with the dictates of the Hollywood distributors and their overseas minions, parents all over Cologne, Germany and the rest of Europe were simultaneouslytreating their children to Harry Potter as part of the Christmas holidays. But only in Cologne and the rest of the country could the families precede or follow a visit to thecinema with a trip to the outdoor Christmas fairs that, to me at least, seem particularlyGerman. The fairly tale hut stalls, the hot and spicy gluewein and speisbraten of the Cologne Christmas fair all harked back to some mythical, Grimms Brothers version of the German past. The nearby Renaissance Fair was a German appropriation of a global or at least Western phenomenon. My German friend said that the vendors were speaking cod medieval German (as opposed to cod Elizabethan English), a food stall sold what my friend translated as ‘bandit’s pot barbecue’, and the items on offer – birdwhistles, hats – were slightly different than those at similar events in the US or the UK. The Christmas fair most probably has fairly deep roots in German culture butmost likely bears an encrustation of fairly recently invented traditions, perhaps dating to the nineteenth century’s ‘creation’ of the Christmas holiday as currently celebrated. The Renaissance Fair, by contrast was a post-modern simulacra, a part of the heritageculture that now thrives in Europe and the United States. Both fairs, however, probably appealed to relatively the same demographic of families with young children, perhaps those very families on their way to or from Harry Potter. The Harry Potter posters were the most ubiquitous and predictable Cologne manifestations of a global Anglo-phone culture; the two other examples I encountered were rather more surprising."

                                                                  From an MIT essay on Cultural Globalization: http://web.mit.edu/cms/Events/mit2/Ab...

                                                                  It basically calls out Speisbraten as a dish associated with German Christmas Fairs in Cologne (theme parks somewhat akin to our Santa's Villages here in the States)... and a native German describes this dish using the Carib word "Barbecue" + the tradition is belived to only go back to the 19th Century.

                                                                  Seems like German Americans took back the barbecue tradition they encountered in the States? Certainly could explain why its not an ubiquitous German dish... yet we are suppossed to believe that a tiny, obscure tradition in "one town" in Germany would have become a huge cultural icon in the U.S. (and perhaps around the world)?

                                                                  Yes, I agree with you that would be absurd.

                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                    I found a really interesting site that tries to define exactly what barbeque is. The authors say that true barbeque refers to pig. Here I quote one paragraph, " it was the Spanish who first introduced the pig into the Americas and to the American Indians. The Indians, in turn, introduced the Spanish to the concept of true slow cooking with smoke. So, in that first fateful coming together, way back in the 1500s, the Spanish supplied the pig and the Indians showed them how to cook it. That is when authentic barbeque was first eaten." Here's a link to that site:

                                                                    According to the site we should be giving props to Making Sense - as the authors say the first real barbeque sauce originated in North and South Carolina - the vinegar and pepper sauce....

                                                                    Also a few good paragraphs about the German settlers and their introduction of mustard into the ...mix.

                                                                    I'm really interested in all of this because I'm presently reading a series of historical novels, excruciatingly researched by the author, and all of the methods of cooking in middle to late1700 America play an important part of the story.

                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                      A problem with that scbarbeque claim is that main (only?) evidence is a drawing of alligators and other animals on a high cooking rack above a fire. I'm not sure that qualifies 'true slow cooking with smoke', nor is clear that the Spanish (and other europeans) knew nothing like this.

                                                                      Seems that modern BBQ requires some sort of enclosure, where smoke and hot air can circulate at around 200F. I'm not sure the Indians were doing this. Earth pit cook creates the hot moist cooking environment, but I don't think it is particularly smoky.

                                                                      It may be the Europeans preferred to roast their meat slow before, not over a fire, depending more on radiant heat than the smoke to do the cooking. That may require frequent turning, hence the use of spit, which would have required a metal technology that the Indians did not have.

                                                                      Europeans also had brick ovens, which certainly could be used to roast meat slowly. It is possible that most ovens were designed to use heat radiating from the oven walls, more so than hot smoke directly from the fire. But I suspect that required intentional design and operation (e.g. build a fire to heat the oven, then remove it while baking bread and roasting meat overnight). It probably was easier to make a smoky oven.

                                                                      Intentionally allow the meat to acquire a smoky flavor may have been an Indian innovation, though I don't think Europeans were unacquainted with that. They already had cold smoked meats, and the Spanish are well known for their smoky version of the New World pepper.


                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                        I almost feel this origins of BBQ debate should go in its own topic. In any case here's another source, a set of articles on a California BBQ site, about

                                                                        ABC - the American Barbecue Conjecture


                                                                        They acknowledge that it is a conjecture, a guess.


                                                              2. i think in many cases in north america we end up with native american ingredients and methods being adopted and absorbed, rather than specifically native "dishes" being passed down. after all, a method of making a mahnoomin porridge could be taken in several directions by a cook depending on the season: add venison, augment with dried fish, mushrooms, berries, maple syrup-- for practical reasons there is not a set-in-stone "recipe" that requires specific ingredients, the ingredients at hand are used in various combinations. many methods of cooking fish and game were adapted to the metal implements obtained from white settlers as a matter of course. in my area salt is still considered a european import and elder tribespeople reject seasoning with salt in traditional method native cooking, preferring to season with maple syrup, sumac, other herbs-- but cooking without salt doesn't go over well in restaurant cooking etc, it's not to many people's tastes, so it has limited appeal.

                                                                to refer back to the op, i think the fact that much of native north american cooking was/is by definition *not* "complex cookery," made it very easy for it to be absorbed by regional colonizers, though native influences can still be recognized in many regional dishes and cooking methods.

                                                                1. This is an interesting thread. I have enjoyed reading the knowledgable postings on food history. As to the question, "Did we destroy them (indigenous dishes) rather than absorb their culture and beauty?"--I'd guess that we did indeed destroy much. Not only did European settlers bring their own cuisines and adapt them, they probably destroyed many of the food products themselves. (for instance,Buffalo) And if a tribal group was resettled into a different area, some or much of the food gathering might have been affected, as well. In Mexico, the native population was not mostly destroyed. The cuisine there could still continue.

                                                                  It is also possible that some of the native foodways have survived in the cooking of wild game. Anyone know anything about that?

                                                                  1. "What about the great Civilizations of our NOB Native American Heritage? The Iroqouis, Zuni, Pueblo, Cahokia, Huron, Sioux etc?"

                                                                    I don't know much about the eastern tribes such as Iroquois and Huron. You'll probably find greater preservation of their traditional foods among similar Canadian groups.

                                                                    I believe the Sioux were originally a midwestern woodlands tribe, that migrated to plains ahead of white expansion. So they came to that area after the horse became an integral part of life in that area. That made a big change, allowing greater mobility, and made it much easier to follow and hunt buffalo. I don't think the horse based plains culture existed that long - one or two hundred years. The Blackfoot near Glacier NP and parts of Alberta is one of the larger existing plains tribes.

                                                                    The Pueblo (in the broader sense that include Hope and Zuni) tribes have retained a lot of their traditional culture, and that would include food. A lot of information is available, though some of the tribes have become more secretive, especially regarding religious aspects of their culture. There is a Pueblo museum in Albuquerque. I've eaten at the restaurant there, though I don't recall the meal. There is also a Hope cultural center with restaurant and motel. Blue corn seems to the main Pueblo item that has become popular outside of that area.

                                                                    Alaska and northern Canada have significant Native populations. Nunavut is the Canadian territory with a dominant Inuit culture. The Metis (French-Indian mix) are another significant group in Canada (also some in North Dakota). Also in Alaska, the native culture also has significant Russian component.


                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      Here's a good size page describing Metis (Mechif) foods and cooking


                                                                    2. You started us off with some interesting questions, kare raisu, but as often happens, I think we're suffering a bit from "thread drift."

                                                                      So to return to yur original questions about the diet of native Americans before Europeans arrived and messed up or completely erased the records, the only way left to find out seems to be through kitchen middens, as archaeologists call the mounds of food scraps and broken pottery found around ancient established settlements.

                                                                      I suspect that Europeans brought a meat-heavy diet with them that quickly overshadowed the more vegetation oriented diet of the natives. Because we still think of ourselves as "steak eaters" (whether or not we only actually eat steak once in a blue moon is irrelevant to how we think of ourselves), and because meat of all kinds is so readily available to us, I think we tend to think of the human diet as meat heavy.

                                                                      When we pick up books about prehistory, chances are there are tales of hunters banding together to down a wooly mammoth, or we see photographs of the famous French cave paintings, and we think of early man painting animals on cave walls to make them come to their hunting grounds. And then there are the brontasaurus ribs of Fred Flintsone.

                                                                      But the reality appears to have been far different. Pottery for cooking and storing food dates back in the Americas about five thousand years. The archaeological evidence is that American populations, both north and south, ate a diet heavy in cooked vegetables, probably with meat used as an occasional flavoring. Pemican making was common to all cultures, and even though we eat jerky as a snack, there's no hard evidence that was the case with native populations. Rehydrating it with corn or quinoa as a primitive form of chpped beef makes a lot more economic sense, whether or not they had toast to serve it on.

                                                                      If we go to the story of the First Thanksgiving, there is turkey, but I don't remember ever having it clarified whether the Pilgrims or the Indians supplied it. But most of the vegetables were courtesy of the Indians. And I also remember being taught in elementary school how the Indians taught the settlers to put a fish in with seeds when they planted a crop to fertilize the plant. I think these things speak volumes to a more vegetable oriented diet among the indigienous peoples.

                                                                      As for archaeological evidence of diet, the only peoples, of both North and South America, to leave such evidence outside of "civilizations" seem to have been those who dwelt along the ocean shore or near lakes that had a constantly renewed supply of fish and shellfish. The kitchen middens of western South America and eastern North America are laden with shells, along with broken pottery shards. For the more nomadic hunters and gatherers, the archeological evidence is slim-to-none because they didn't have one spot where they disposed of their garbage all the time. So their dietary evidence is pretty much scattered all over the continents and unrecognizable.

                                                                      But to me, it seems pretty obvious that the economy of feeding people, whether it be a large sedentary population in a city or town or a small traveling tribe, is a lot easier to manage with stews and grains and seasonal vegetables with a little meat thrown in for flavor. Which is not to say that "party time," whether it was religious or not, couldn't include roasting the fatted calf, so to speak.

                                                                      So I think much of the native diet was buried under European searches for a familiar dining style. Spain fought bulls, then ate them. The English liked "poached" game (pun intended). But some native American cooking is making it back into the mainstream. Fifty years ago, if anyone said, "squash blossom," it was assumed that Native American silver "pawn" (jewelry) was being discussed. Today we think of stuffing the flowers and eating them. Time marches backward! Not a bad thing.

                                                                      For anyone interested in kitchen middens in the Americas, here's a really fascinationg book you can read on-line or print out. Its "First Farmers; The Origins of Agricultural Societies", by Peter Bellwood. You'll find it at: http://tinyurl.com/27cwpt

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        For east, southeast, and southwest USA, your description of a vegetable (corn and bean in particular) diet makes sense. But I don't think tribes to the north and west of the Mandan on the Missouri could grow enough corn. Meat had to be a much more important part of the diet. Wild plants were also important, and in a limited sense were cultivated. That is, some areas were burned periodically to enhance the berry crop. Meadows where camas roots grew were protected, but I haven't read of any actual cultivation. Acorns were a important food source in California.

                                                                        Many of the large communities in the Pacific NW depended on a reliable supply of seafood, particularly salmon and sea mammals. They used many plants but I think the forests provided more in the way of building materials (cedar bark, spruce roots, wood, etc) than calories. But I haven't seen any attempt to quantify their dietary sources.

                                                                        And further north the Inuit (Eskimo) had a diet very high in animals like seal and walrus, while inland many of the Dine (Athabaskan speakers) depended on caribou and smaller animals.

                                                                        The Wiki article on the south Athabaskans (Apachean) describes a whole range of crop dependence, from none for the plains Apache, to the most among the Navajo. The Navajo also adopted sheep herding shortly after the Spanish arrived.


                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          I wholy agree about the Inuit diet! Where are they going to get vegetables anyway? "Tundra stew" doesn't sound very appetizing. So I wasn't even thinking Inuit when I made my remarks about Native American's diet. Shame on me.

                                                                          I'm fairly cynical of "fossil evidence," and how archaeologists and cultural anthropoligists interpret it. For a "scientific community," there is a whole lot of conclusion jumping going on regularly. (I was once an archaeology/cultural anthropology major, so I feel free to make the criticism.)

                                                                          A seafood-dominant diet seems to be ubiquitous around the globe for early people who lived along ocean shores or any lakes or rivers where fish and shellfish were constantly available. All of the kitchen middens of the world found as markers of sedentary people living in such locations are primarily comprised of shells. And it's certainly one heck of a lot easier to dig a basket of clams than it is to raise any kind of food crop! It also seems logical that even sea-food rich diets contained a fair amount of vegetation simply based on the number of pottery shards found alongside the shells.

                                                                          I think that the development of pottery says more about man's diet than it says about anything else. You don't need pottery as a cooking vessel to throw an animal on a spit and call it dinner. I have no doubt that cooking a whole animal was a celebratory act for all cultures, just as it is today, but I also doubt seriously that it was the common food of every day life. Way too many pottery shards have been found to support that theory.

                                                                          At the hunter and gatherer stage of cultural development, if you look at the economy and conservation of productive energy required to sustain a meat diet, in which men had to hunt animals as a group and most often packed up and went home when one large animal was bagged, that's a very inefficient way to feed any population, large or small. While logic certainly dictates that a large animal had to either be consumed before it spoiled, or the meat had to be preserved as biltong, pemmican, or jerky (whatever you want to call it), those people didn't have dentists to keep their teeth in good chewing condition, which makes a strong argument for pemican stew with a lot of vegetables to feed the multitude. It also allows a reduction of hunting expeditions, and what guy wouldn't rather sit around a camp fire chatting while their wives tend to the fields?

                                                                          Once animals were domesticated, as in South America for example, it was still inefficient when it comes to large animals such as llama, to use them as a primary food source because it meant the loss of a pack animal and renewable wool resource. But there is evidence that while they were domesticating llama, guinea pigs were also domesticated and apparently raised as food. I have to wonder if, like everything else, they tasted like chicken?

                                                                          As for "pit barbecues," I think geological considerations dictated whether or not that was a viable option. In areas where small rocks (as in smaller than child-sized boulders) suitable for lining a pit were available, and the land didn't have bedrock burried a few feet below the surface, then I think that cooking method would have been "hit upon" by any people living with the right geology.

                                                                          Most of all, I think that availability and practicality are always the most important and least considered driving forces in the development of any culture. That, plus what they could get from their neighbors by raid or trade, depended on how strong or defenseless the neighbors were. '-)

                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                          Page 147 of that Bellwood book has a map outlining where agriculture was practiced. It mentions 120 day frost free zone boundary. Also maize (corn) is mentioned as the dominant seed bearing crop in the North America. p157 mentions a few other, lesser known, domesticated plants in the upper Mississippi valley (sunflower, knotweed, goosefoot).

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Here's a report from interior British Columbia on 'blackholes', earth pit ovens that were used 2000 or more years ago to steam wild roots.


                                                                            Not too far from here, the First Nations caught salmon on major rivers like the Fraser, and air dried them in the hot August winds. This wind dried salmon was different from the smoke dried salmon of the coastal tribes. Apparently the two types were traded.


                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              "The Plymouth settlers . . . held an autumn celebration of food, feasting, and praising God. The Governor of Plymouth invited Grand Sachem Massasoit and the Wampanoag people to join them in the feast. Evidence to support that claim came from diaries of Plymouth. The settlers fed and entertained the Native Americans for three days, at which point some of the Native Americans went into the forest, killed 5 deer, and gave them to the Governor as a gift." I found this on Wikipedia. I thought I remembered that the Indians provided deer for the feasting.

                                                                              "Jerusalem artichokes were first cultivated by the Native Americans (who called them "sun roots") long before the arrival of the Europeans; this extensive cultivation makes the exact native range of the species obscure." (Wikipedia) Also I thought I remembered that Jerusalem Artichokes were eaten by Native Americans. Another plant food not mentioned heretofore is wild rice, harvested by native Americans in Minnesota. I also seem to remember that California Indians leeched the tannin out of acorns in order to use them for food.

                                                                              Each region seems to have had mostly ample foodstuffs; it is just that so many of the cooking methods have been lost.

                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                This Southern Ute page describes a case where small family groups traveled extensively through out the year due to limited food sources (about 2/3 of the way down the page)

                                                                                Acquisition of horses allowed them to live in larger groups, and shift to a buffalo hunting culture. Later they lived more by raiding tribes to the south (such as Navajo).

                                                                                is Nez Perce description of their traditional seasonal travels. It has a good list of animals and plants that they used. They lived in a large rugged mountainous area of central Idaho and NE Oregon.


                                                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                  i mentioned wild rice (mahnoomin, "sacred gift") above. by the time of the european arrival, native americans were gathering more than 2000 different types of plant-based foods in their different regions, in addition to game & fish, & were experienced botanists. in present-day mexico native americans were believed to have been farming corn in 5000 b.c, followed by squash & beans. agricultural techniques seem to have spread from there, and many native groups had well-developed agriculture; others lived in areas where wild foods were prolific and they relied exclusively on the wild foods of their own area, & many nations used a combination of agriculture and hunting/gathering. when these nations were displaced by white settlers, they lost the local wild foods that had been their specialization, and had to rely on bought foodstuffs and new cooking & growing methods. many traditional foods and preparations were lost in this way.

                                                                              2. For comparison, here's a paper looking at evidence for cooking methods in European prehistory.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                  Thanks! Interesting paper. But I think there are a few things he ignores that would be better if looked into. For example, I don't think it is reasonable to study the stomach contents of most bog bodies found in England, Scotland, and Wales, to determine what the diet was for the population at large. After all, many (most?) of those bog bodies were Druidic sacrificial victims, and who knows what kind of diet was used to prepare a human for sacrifice? On the other hand, the evidence that the primary diet of people preserved as bog bodies shows that they primarily ate gruel can't be readily dismissed as the exclusive diet of human sacrifices either.

                                                                                  But I also think there is a strong tendancy among all archaeologists to assume that because a kitchen midden is rich in animal bones that animals comprised a major part of the daily diet. You have to take into consideration the duration a population spent building up a kitchen midden before you jump to conclusions like that! The bones of one bear found at a site that was only occuped for a couple of weeks would be tentative proof that those people ate a whole lot of meat! But if the site was occupied for decades....?

                                                                                  The other thing in his paper I don't think is adequately considered is why the meats he recreates the cooking proccess for were tied up in grasses before boiling? We all know you don't have to tie up meat to boil it. Just toss it in the pot. So this raises a question for me as to whether the grass binding was done for flavor, or whether it was done to hold some sort of "stuffing" in the carcass while it was being boiled? The latter seems the more probable answer to me. You can flavor meat with grasses by just tossing them into the pot seperately.

                                                                                  I have difficulty imagining a people smart enough to figure out that you can heat huge chunks of granite and toss them in a conatiner of water to bring it to a boil, yet not realize that while you're boiling the meat, you can also use the same pot and water to simultaneously boil the veggies, whatever kind they may be. Since veggies of nearly any sort have a shorter cooking time than large chunks of meat, stuffing the meat with them, then securing the meat in a grass covering makes sense when it comes to having everything ready to eat at the same time. It would extend the cooking time for the vegetables and result in a more flavorful chunk of meat.

                                                                                  I think he comes up short when it comes to asking about the why of doing things the way they were done. But it's a common shortfall among archaeologists. And as his looooong bibliography indicates, the world of academic archaeology is always hell bent on perpetuating any premature or false conclusions about anything. <sigh>

                                                                                  But he does nicely describe the origins of haggis! I wonder if anyone back then hated tripe in any form the way that I do today?