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Jan 27, 2008 12:18 PM

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 (, 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: 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:

                                                  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... (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: