The popularity of ethnic foods from around the world has been skyrocketing among U.S. consumers over the past few years and there is no sign of it slowing down in 2016 or beyond. While this interest in global cuisine has no real season, we felt it was the perfect time of year to explore what foods and cuisines are indigenous to North America. As local foods become increasingly popular from farmer’s markets, to grocery stores and restaurants, so has the interest in what are the native foods of our homeland. In particular the foods that are a part of Native American cuisine.
What is Native American cuisine? That’s a complex question. It’s difficult to summarize what Native American cuisine is in just a few sentences. Fundamentally, it was what was available to the tribes in the specific regions that they lived in. The large variety of ingredients in Native American cuisine is deceptive, for each region only had access to a small subset of the larger list. For example, protein sources ranged from large animals like deer and buffalo on the east coast and the plains while some tribes main source of protein in the Pacific Northwest would have been salmon, as it is found in greater abundance.
Native Americans used vegetables like ramps (wild onion), hominy, pumpkin and what is called the “three sisters” of Native American cuisine: corn, beans, and squash. Spices that helped define the cuisine are chilies, juniper berries, sage, sweet grass and parsley. As for fruits, some options included cranberries, blueberries and prickly pears. All played a certain culinary and sometimes ceremonial or even medicinal role for various tribes. Our chefs interviewed some notable Native American chefs from around the country to help celebrate the wonderful foods and cuisine from “the New World”.
Read this article and more like it in our quarterly newsletter, Tasteology!