THE EMERGENCE OF NATIVE CUISINE
Although there are only a handful of Native American eateries scattered across the country, native cuisine is coming into vogue. Native food “can center us,” explains David Ruiz, executive chef of the Pueblo Harvest Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “It can answer our question of, ‘What’s our home food?’ ”
Additionally, Native American cuisine aids in the general quest for whole, natural, local and sustainable foods. Boris Revilla, food and beverage director at Pueblo Harvest Cafe, says, “Native American cuisine represents the original local, fresh, healthy approach to eating―and it’s full of delicious flavors,” proving there are many benefits of eating traditional native cuisine, he adds.
Native American food is gaining a larger public foothold, and native restaurants are often opening that door. In New Mexico, for example, Pueblo Harvest Cafe seeks to expose diners’ palettes to indigenous ingredients in exciting ways by reinterpreting them. For example, its Three Sisters Ratatouille dish incorporates traditional squash, beans and corn, yet features a black-bean purée and sweet corn. Modern reinterpretations invite foodies to sample native cuisine; recipes may bring a rich Spanish mixture of chilies, sautéed cactus and calabacitas con puerco, for example.
In Minneapolis, The Sioux Chef uses food as a platform for Native American cultural outreach. The catering company holds foraging events and leads cooking classes, disseminating ancestral knowledge as tribal members also reclaim their gastronomic heritage. These educational initiatives invite Americans of every background to learn about Native American culture, thereby increasing their presence in general American culture, by way of food.
With its rich history, Native American cuisine is not just a trend and can be appreciated any day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving.
The Bison Poyha Sandwich with chokecherry sauce at Pueblo Harvest Cafe. Top: The cafe's chef David Ruiz (left) and the award-winning Tewa Taco, a combination of pueblo beans, ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and chile on fr ybread.