When people think of Native American cuisine, they often think of the traditional Thanksgiving fare: turkey, cranberries, corn, etc. While all of these ingredients are important to traditional Native American cooking, there”s more to Native American food that what most Americans enjoy for Thanksgiving dinner.
Mainstays of Native American Food
The diets of Native Americans traditionally included foodsnative to the tribes” regions. Thus, the tribes of the East might have eaten foods quite different from the tribes of the South or the West.The mainstay of many Native American meals, however, was fish and game. Native Americans living in the Great Plains often ate buffalo, antelope and deer, and the tribes living along the coast took much of their nutrients from the sea. In the east, Native Americans dined on clams, mussels, lobster and cod. In the Northwest, Native Americans caught salmon and halibut, which they often filleted and smoked over open fires.Often, Native Americans used local ingredients to prepare thick soups or stews, which they would typically eat with their fingers. They also cooked bread, often made from ground cornmeal and water, which they would eat with most meals.Native Americans were hunters and gatherers, often going on long journeys to search for provisions to last them through the winter. One of the foods they carried with them on these journeys was pemmican, a concentrated, high-energy paste made from dried meat, fat and berries.
The Three Sisters
Historically, Native Americans from coast to coast considered corn, beans and squash main components of their diets. The Iroquois called these crops the Three Sisters.Many tribes grew the crops together. They used the corn stalk to support the beans, the beans to add Nitrogen to the soil and the large squash leaves to shade the soil and keep it moist. This companion planting technique was common among Native American tribes.
Native American Food Today
Many of the foods the Native American Indians ate hundreds of years ago have become part of what we consider to be American cuisine. Most Americans eat foods that were common to the Native American diet, including:
- wild rice.
Today, chefs are even experimenting with Native American cuisine and are attempting to bring it into the world of fine dining. On some restaurant menus, you”ll see Native American food mixed with contemporary cooking techniques.
Cooking Native American Cuisine at Home
Want to bring some Native American food into your house? Get started with this easy recipe:
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels
- 2 cups frozen lima beans
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt one Tbsp. of butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the red and green bell peppers and cook for one minute.
- Add the corn, lima beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.
- Cook for three to five minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining two Tbsp. of butter.