I first heard about the Sioux Chef about a year ago when I started following the Standing Rock posts in social media. For me, it’s been an awakening experience- seeing the world through the perception of the Indigenous Peoples of America. After following Standing Rock and the Tribes from North Dakota, I started seeing other Indigenous People from around the world differently. That missing element, the mysteries of the world’s peoples became clearer than I’ve ever known. I’ve always been drawn to different cuisines, native garments, languages, and travel- but for some odd reason I must confess, I’ve never liked American culture. America seemed to lack culture, despite it’s 200-year old history. It needed something beyond the surface.
I’ve been rebellious against everything I’ve been taught for a reason- something was awfully wrong with the big picture. I finally found that missing element last year when I learned Thanksgiving is actually a celebratory feast of ransacking Native villages. It used to be celebrated all the time, throughout the entire year until Abraham Lincoln dismissed all the little Thanksgivings and turned it into a national holiday. I haven’t looked back since discovering this little secret and can’t help not getting as excited about Thanksgiving anymore. Instead, I prefer to celebrate the beauty of the Native cultures which brings me to introduce to you, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook authored by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley. Some of the ingredients were hard for me to source, so I remained to cooking the recipes with ingredients that are easier to find in my neck of the woods- Northern New Jersey. To my amazement, the recipes were easy, simple, and utilized a lot of the vegetables I’ve always used, except everything had an earthiness I haven’t sensed before. I can’t even begin to describe it- you can’t write it into words, it’s something you just sense. I recreated a Thanksgiving meal with a fresh killed duck ordered from Gofle Road Poultry Farm. The spices used include Juniper and Sage. Instead of cooking the traditional Colonial American Sweet Potatoes or Mashed Potatoes recipe, I made Wild Rice Pilaf. Here is where I started to recognize the Indigenous flavors of wilderness and fresh cranberries. The cranberry sauce from the cans and bottles seem rather profane compared to the fresh and natural hunters and gatherers version.
At one point during this week long cookbook review process- I ventured outdoors to a nearby recreational park looking for acorns but to no luck, I was confronted by hissing squirrels and no acorn supply. I had amaranth in my pantry forever and never knew what to make with it. Here it is cooked (boiled) and then baked off in the oven for about an hour. The end result is a wholegrain cracker like you’ve never had before. I am seeing where the marriage of different cultures stems from after reading and cooking off some of these recipes. I envisioned the Indigenous tribes sharing the three sisters with the Colonists and enslaved Africans. I see the influence in Southern Cuisine, in Mexican cuisine, and throughout Latin American cuisines. It was an absolute delight to see the source of our cultural history and I can’t wait to discover more recipes in the future! You won’t find butter or cattle or even chicken recipes. You’ll find recipes based on the plants and animals that are Indigenous to America, just as they were before the mass immigration wave from Europe began. This cookbook will help you connect to where you’re living if you are here like I am, looking to find new ways of rediscovering your surroundings. For me this cookbook means more than a recipe collection. It’s a piece of America we’ve been longing for and missing. I’ve never felt more American than I do right now, embracing this Indigenous food with the native plants and wildlife that nourishes our bodies.
The Sioux Chef is cooking off an Indigenous Feast at the Sioux Chef at James Beard House on October 27th. Tickets cost $135 for members and $170 for the general public. You can get a copy of the Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook via Amazon here.