Friday, April 27, 2012

Not only Squirrels Eat Acorns

acorn2 acorncoast_liveoak_ 
The acorn bearing oak tree are found throughout the world. In times of famine or need it has provided populations with a protein and fat rich food source albeit rough on the taste buds at times. While there are some acorns quite edible most have a high tannin content which makes them astringent and bitter. Removing this feature takes time and effort and usually involves leaching the hulled and crushed nuts with water, drying and milling. The resulting acorn flour is made into mush, stews, soups and breads by Native Americans. Acorns became quite important to western tribes in their food chain whereas the eastern tribes had an abundance of other nut crops easier to include into their diet. Acorns were called various names by the Native American.
The only other society today that eats acorns on a regular basis is the Koreans. Acorn jelly (do-to-ri-mook) an insipid brown gelatinous substance made from acorn starch a little salt and water. It is used in salads and other cold dishes. Acorn noodles made from acorn flour is used in soups and salads. Ogam Acorns Village has topology especially suitable for growing acorns. Linked to the mountainous regions of Gangwon Province, full of hillocks and land made fertile by the Namhangang River, the town abounds with acorns in autumn. Acorns serves as a substitute for rice during bad harvests.
The townspeople enjoy food made of acorns. The versatile nut is turned into jellies, dumpling, noodle, pancake, and wine or rice cakes.
Acorn jelly is especially popular nationwide in Korea for its fresh and mild taste. Acorn wine and rice cakes are specialties of the town rarely found in other parts of the country. Free of the bitter acorn taste, the wine is especially popular. Totorisul is an acorn liquor with 40% alcohol and a pungent smell of acorn.
Some vegetarians have included acorns in their varied non meat diet.
Besides the wild birds and animals acorns provide a food source for wild pigs of our southern and southwestern states. These run always from early Spanish populations have also provided a food source for Native and non Native Americans for hundreds of years.
Whether Korean, Native American or vegetarian the making of acorn edible is similar. Here is one of the best methods. Put them in the blender with water (3 cups water per 1 cup acorns) and “liquefy” them. Make sure that you blend them until they are “finely” ground. YOU MUST GRIND THE ACORNS AND YOU MUST LEACH THEM. You’ll use this same water to leach them. Keep acorns leaching in large mouthed quart- size canning jars in the refrigerator. The blended meal will settle to the bottom. Everyday for about a week, pour the darkened water off and add fresh and mix well. The water will get clearer everyday. This leaching process is done to remove tannic acid. Be careful that you don’t pour out your acorn meal. Acorns can be leached in a shorter period by other methods, like constant water running through them hot or cold. Leaching large quantities in big bowls or buckets is fine too, but difficult to keep refrigerated. Put a little note on the refrigerator that reminds you what day you leached the acorns. Black Oak acorns contain 31.4% water, 3.44% protein, 13.55% fats, 8.60% fiber, and 41.8 1% carbohydrates. According to Edible and Useful Plants of California, by Charlotte Clark.
Of course really the best method is to go to a Korean store and buy packaged acorn flour or starch.
An interesting theory is to use the abundant hill country as commercial acorn forests and harvest acorns for human and animal food. This would utilize unused areas that are not now suitable for agriculture production. It is a part of the sustainable organic agricultural or slow food movement now growing in popularity. So if you look over your shoulder foods like acorn might be creeping up on you. Why not turn around?
As a chef you might wonder why use this difficult bitter astringent product when there are so many taste friendly nuts out there. Authenticity is one when dealing with Native American or Southwestern cuisine. Beyond that there is a unique taste factor if a species low in tannin or well leached acorn meal or flour is used. Of course there is always the desire to be unique and different, to go where none has gone before. Come on, acorn in anything sounds as intriguing as adding, say pansies to a salad and it is far more unique.
For PDF cook book Eating Acorns

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ok Guys, It’s Bannock

The History of Bannock

The Aboriginal staff of life, Bannock and Fry Bread, is common to the diet of virtually all North America's Native population. The European version of bannock originated in Scotland and was made traditionally of oatmeal. The bannock of Aboriginal people was made of corn and nut meal, and flour made from ground plant bulbs. There were many regional variations of bannock that included different types of flour, and the addition of dried or fresh fruit. Traditionally, First Nation groups cooked their bannock by various methods. Some rolled the dough in sand then pit-cooked it. When it was done, they brushed the sand off and ate the bread. Some groups baked the bannock in clay or rock ovens. Other groups wrapped the dough around a green, hardwood stick and toasted it over an open fire. Early fur traders introduced leavened wheat or oat flour breads to the Aboriginal people. The use of leavened breads spread and adapted from there. Prior to the introduction of baking soda as a leavening the native population used wood ash. Fur traders and pioneers also introduced cast-iron frying pans that made cooking bannock quicker and easier. Today, bannock is most often deep-fried, pan-fried and oven-baked. Bannock is one of the most popular and widespread native foods served at pow wows, Indian cowboy rodeos, festivals, and family gatherings in the Canadian First Nations and parts of the northern United States.
First you take flour, baking powder, salt, oil or lard and sugar and mix then make a hole in center and crack in an egg (optimal) and add water or milk and mix to a sticky firm dough. Add any fruit such as raisins you wish. One caution high sugar content from fruit or fruit pulp will cause the bannock to overly brown fast if deep fried. So if you plan on a sweet dough bake or dry pan fry the bread. You can change direction and make a savory dough with the addition of spices and vegetables and or meat.

The next step is to pat down the dough or roll it out and cut the forms you wish to produce. You can roll it out in thick strands to wrap around a stick. It can be hand formed or cut out biscuit style.
If you have produced a dough with little or no sugar you can deep fry it, otherwise bake it, pan fry it or roll it on a stick and place in front of a fire. It can even be rolled in small balls and used as dumplings.
Now for the best. The eating part

There are as many Bannock recipes as there are ideas on how to make it. We have provided a few for you to get an idea of the wide nature of this staple dough product. Chef David Wolfman produces a new type of Bannock almost monthly on his TV Cooking with Wolfman show.

Basic Bannock Recipe (Fried or Stick-cooked)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp margarine/butter
2 tbsp skim milk powder (optional)
Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut in the margarine until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (at this point it can be sealed it in a ziplock bag for field use). Grease and heat a frying pan. Working quickly, add enough COLD water to the pre-packaged dry mix to make a firm dough. Once the water is thoroughly mixed into the dough, form the dough into cakes about 1/2 inch thick. Dust the cakes lightly with flour to make them easier to handle. Lay the bannock cakes in the warm frying pan. Hold them over the heat, rotating the pan a little. Once a bottom crust has formed and the dough has hardened enough to hold together, you can turn the bannock cakes. Cooking takes 12-15 minutes. If you are in the field and you don't have a frying pan, make a thicker dough by adding less water and roll the dough into a long ribbon (no wider than 1 inch). Wind this around a preheated green, hardwood stick and cook about 8 inches over a fire, turning occasionally, until the bannock is cooked.

Shuswap Bannock (Epanigishimog Pakwejigan)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup blueberries
Mix the dry ingredients together, add the blueberries and stir. Add the water quickly and continue to stir.
Spread the batter on a pie plate and put in a preheated oven heated to 425°F. Bake for 20 minutes. Cut in pieces and serve hot or cold. Excellent served with mint tea.
- This recipe comes from the Cappilano Reserve, Chilliwack, BC and belongs to the Shuswap people.

Sunflower Bannock (Missiiagan-Pakwejigan)(Fried)
3 1/4 cups sunflower seeds
3 1/4 cups water
2 1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp corn flour
2/3 cup corn oil
Put the sunflower seeds, water and salt into a pot, cover and let simmer for 11/2 hours. When well cooked, crush the seeds to make a paste. Add the corn flour, 1 tbsp at a time to thicken. Work with your hands; cool a little.
Make small, flat pancakes of approximately 5 inches in diameter. Heat oil and fry both sides, adding more oil if necessary. Drain well and eat.

Manon's White Woman Bannock!(Baked)
6 cups of flour
2 tbsp (heaping) baking powder
2 tsp (heaping) salt
1 inch wide (or so) of lard
sprinkle of white sugar (optional)
2 cups of very warm water (warm enough so the lard will melt when mixing everything together)
Mix dry ingredients together, add lard, using your hands to blend it together. Add water and form a big ball and let sit in the bowl for a minute or two with a clean tea towel over it. Pat it out until the shape of a pizza (not too thin or you will have hockey pucks for bannock!). Use one of your biggest glasses to cut out your bannock and put in ungreased pan. Using a fork, poke your bannock twice (uncertain why but Manon's mother in law does it!)
Turn the oven to 425°F and bake for 25 minutes. Raise the rack to the top for the last 5 minutes. - Manon Metz

Thelma's Lazyman Biscuit/Bannock (Baked)
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp margarine
1 cup milk
1 cup water
Mix ingredients together and pour onto a lightly greased (with margarine) cookie sheet. Bake in oven at 450°F for 20 minutes. Cut it right away into squares. It is good with soup or as a snack. Thelma Blackstock

Prince Edward Island Baked Bannock (Baked)
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening and then stir in milk. Form a ball of dough using flour to prevent sticking to hands. Roll into a square approximately 2" thick. Mark with squares (by making shallow cuts into the dough so cutting is easier after it is baked) and bake at 350°F for about 1/2 hour. Confederation Bridge

Bella Coola Bannock Recipe (Fried)
4 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 can milk, mix with water
1/4 cup margarine/butter
2 eggs
pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed. Pinch some of the dough and shape it. Fry it in hot oil until golden brown. Greg Mazur

Lichen Bannock
# Pit cook or steam black tree lichen (Bryoria fuscescens)
It turns into a hardened licorice tasting "bannock". It can be cooked with berries like saskatoons to add sweetness and flavour.Mary Thomas - Elder - Neskonlith Indian Band

Whole Wheat Bannock (Pan-fried)
1 1/2 cups white flour
4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
canola oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sugar
Heat frying pan with 1/4 inch of canola oil. Combine all dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and add water. Stir until the dough is a thick batter (It will be a gooey mess). Drop a generous tablespoon of dough into the heated pan; spread the dough to 1/2 inch in thickness (use a spoon and fork for this step).
When the bannock is puffed and brown on one side (yes, peek if you wish), then flip it over and brown it on the other side. Smother with favourite toppings - Roger's Golden Syrup, honey, peanut butter, jam or jelly or even a taco filling. You may also sprinkle it with a sugar/cinnamon mixture (1part cinnamon to 10 parts sugar).
Louise Framst in A Tahltan Cookbook

Corn-Flour Bannock (Fried or Baked)
2 3/4 cups corn flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp lard
2/3 cup water
Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease lightly a cast iron frying pan, or baking sheet. Stir and blend together the flour, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, finely cut in the lard. Then gradually stir in the water. Stir with a fork to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Turn dough on a lightly floured surface and knead gently 8-10 times. Roll out or pat 1/2 inch thick, or flatten dough to fit frying pan. Cook in frying pan on hat ashes over an open fire (turning to brown both sides), or on a baking sheet in oven for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut and serve with butter. Makes 1 loaf.

Bannock Buns (Fried)
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup lard
1 cup soured milk*
Lard or shortening for skillet
In a bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Cut in lard until mixture resembles a fine meal. Make well in centre, pour in soured milk and stir using light strokes, just until liquid is absorbed. Knead lightly 5-6 times to make a smooth dough; set aside.In large heavy skillet, melt just enough lard to thinly coat bottom of pan. Heat pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Divide dough into 6 portions; shape into flat, round buns about 3/4 inches thick. Arrange in pan (in batches if necessary). Cover and cook for 6 minutes or until bottoms are deep golden brown. Turn buns, replace cover and cook for 6 minutes longer. Remove to rack and let cool before serving.*To sour milk: Add enough milk to 1 1/2 tsp vinegar to make 1 cup.

Blackfoot Fried Yeast Bread (Pan-fried)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/4 ounce package of active dry yeast
2 tbsp softened butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached flour
oil or shortening, for deep frying
Place water in a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add butter, sugar, and 2 1/2 cups of flour and salt. Knead, adding enough flour to form a stiff dough. Allow to rise for one hour. Place oil in a deep saucepan and heat to 350°F. Form dough into cakes approximately 4 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick and deep fry for about one minute per side or until golden brown. Makes 8-10 pieces.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Merry Christmas From Indian Country


                                     OKI-   I'TAAMOMAHKATOYIIKSISTSIKOMI



Click Here For a Cherokee Nation Greeting




1 10 to 12 pound turkey breast (have your butcher cut the eat from bone and skin and slice it into 2- to 3-ounce medallions. save and trimmings for the sauce.)
2 yellow onions, skin on, cut into eighths
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch; lengths
3 ribs of celery, washed and cut into . 1-; inch lengths
5 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups apple cider
1 cup dried currants
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup toasted pinion nuts (or substitute pine nuts)

Turkeys were among the few animals domesticated by early Native Americans. These birds provided meat and acted as sentinels, using their noisy gobbles to warn of approaching danger. In this recipe, cranberries, indigenous to the Northwestern tribes, are blended with the piñon nuts of the Southwest to create a tart, nutty sauce.

Preheat oven to 350oF. Place bones and trimmings from turkey in a heavy roasting pan and roast until they turn mahogany in color, about 1 hour. Transfer them to a heavy stock pot and cover with water. Add onions, carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim the foam from the surface and turn down heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 3 hours. Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer or cheese cloth, and chill overnight. In the morning, remove all the congealed fat from the surface of the stock. Reserve two cups of the stock for the Cornbread-Sage Dressing.

Return the defatted turkey stock to the stove and add the cranberries, apple cider and currants. Cook over medium heat until reduced in volume by half, about .4 cups. Season to taste with a pinch of salt.

While the sauce reduces, prepare the turkey medallions. In a pie plate, combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Dredge the turkey medallions in the seasoned flour and sauté in a small amount of oil over medium-high heat until golden on both sides.

Remove the cooked turkey from the pan and place the turkey on a paper towel-lined heated plate. Drain the oil from the pan, add the cranberry sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the piñon nuts. Simmer until ready to serve.

To serve, place 1/2 cup of the Cornbread-Sage Dressing on a dinner plate. Top with 2 or 3 turkey medallions and ladle some of the sauce over the turkey. Contributor: Loretta Barret Oden. Yield: serves 8 to 12 Preparation Time:4 hours


for the cornbread:
1 cup organic, stone-ground cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1 cup skim milk
1 cup fire-roasted corn kernels(can be found in Korean/Asian stores under teas)
2 tablespoons canola oil for the dressing
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 ribs of celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons poultry seasoning
4 tablespoons minced fresh sage

Before Europeans introduced wheat to the New World, most tribes used cornmeal as a major bread-making ingredient. This recipe calls for the addition of flour and leavening's to the cornmeal, which results in a lighter version of this Native American bread.

Preheat oven to 325oF. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, corn and canola oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until most of the lumps are removed.

Pour batter into a 2-inch-deep baking pan and bake about 25 minutes or until the interior of the cornbread reaches 200oF. Remove cornbread from the oven and let cool. Scrape the cooled cornbread from the pan and crumble it into a large bowl.

Heat the canola oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the celery and onion with the poultry seasoning and sage until the vegetables become translucent.

Add vegetables to the crumbled cornbread and mix well. Add reserved turkey stock if the mixture is too dry. Transfer dressing to a baking dish and bake 20 to 30 minutes until heated through. Contributor: Loretta Barret Oden Yield: serves 8 Preparation Time: 20 minutes


6 medium sweet potatoes
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/3 cup apple juice or cider
1/4 cup currants
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 nonfat milk
6 tablespoons chopped pecans

Gathered in large quantities by the Iroquois, pecans were added to breads, trail mixes, and all sorts of stuffing's. Preheat oven to 375°. Wash sweet potatoes, wrap in foil, and bake until tender, about one hour. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook apple in apple juice until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in currants, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cover and set aside.

Cut a thin slice off the top of each sweet potato and scoop out most of the
flesh into a large mixing bowl, leaving about 1/2-inch of flesh on the insides of the skins. Place potato shells in a baking pan and set aside.

Add apple mixture and milk to sweet potatoes and mix well to combine. Fill shells with potato stuffing and sprinkle the top of each with 1 tablespoon chopped pecans. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot. Yield: 6 servings.


1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped summer squash
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup defatted chicken broth
2 tbsps. chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 tsp. hot sauce
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
2 cups frozen baby lima beans, thawed

Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat until hot. Add corn, red pepper, onion, and cumin; sauté 5 minutes until vegetables are slightly blackened. Add summer squash, olive oil, and garlic; sauting and additional minute. Reduce heat to medium-high, add broth and remaining ingredients. Cook 3-5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Yield: 8-10 1/2-cup servings


8 bacon slices
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled butter; cut into pieces
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 3/4 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
1 cup thawed drained frozen corn kernels
1 egg, beaten
freshly ground black pepper

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter heavy large baking sheet. Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels. Crumble bacon into small pieces. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon dripping; discard remainder. Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 2 eggs, buttermilk, sage and reserved 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in medium bowl to blend. Add to flour mixture and stir until moist dough forms. Mix in corn and bacon. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead gently until smooth, about 8 turns. Roll out dough on work surface to 10x8-inch rectangle (about 3/4 inch thick). Cut rectangle into 12 squares. Place squares on prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Brush biscuits with egg glaze. Sprinkle lightly with ground pepper. Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with lots of fresh butter!


1/2 lb pecans, chopped
1/2 lb walnurs, chopped
1 lb shredded moist coconut
1 lb raisins
1 lb vanilla wafers
1 regular can sweetened condensed milk

Combine dry ingredients well. Pour in sweetened condensed milk and work through with hands so that dry ingredients are thoroughly saturated. Press into spring foam pan. Refrigerate for 2 days. My Cherokee ancestors used hazelnuts, dates and thick goats milk, then wrapped the cake in watertight leaves bound with vine and placed in cold running stream for several days. This is delicious and easy. Contributor:Ruby M. Harper. Yield: 4 servings


3 strips bacon
1 head shredded jicama, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 celery rib; thinly sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika

Cook bacon until crispy in oven or on top of stove. While bacon is cooking, in large bowl, combine jicama, Carrots and celery. When bacon is done, let cool. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cream, sugar, vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir until sugar dissolves. Crumble bacon into jicama mixture. Mix well. Pour cream and sugar mixture over jicama/bacon mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Toss well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Approximately 6 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Kitchen is a Kitchen, Really?

You want to feature Native American food. What kind of a kitchen should you have? I bet just any good commercial kitchen will do the job. But? Well what if you wanted to really create a cuisine that had a Native flare most diners could recognize and relate to. We frowned at the piki stone stove greased with brains and wrinkled up our collective nose at dishes of frozen whale meat served with lard ice cream.

Grilled and smoked meats, stews right off a campfire. Fresh oven adobe bread smelling of mesquite, pit roasted corn and of course what would any right minded Native restaurant do with out frybread?  Now that's what we wanted to feature, but how? Campfires?  Pits?  Health codes?


First the Building, a 1914 stone structure sitting on a old highway just off a interstate in a oak forest of rural San Diego, California. It had first been a residence then later converted into a restaurant with a bar and three dining rooms. It was rustic with high vaulting wood beamed ceilings and a large fireplace to greet guests. Perfect for a destination restaurant. Even with three Native reservations within ten miles. The kitchen was small but with a long hot line and front steam and cold line and back prep area, adequate. We did fall in love with the building.


Now back to that pesky kitchen we wanted. Those campfires? Well being a chef that spent twenty years in Asia what came to mind was, of course a wok. We took out the grill and replaced it with a three-burner wok. Those chefs who have used woks know that there are three ring gas burners that are separately regulated to serve heat where and how much you want to the wok pan. We placed heavy-duty grills over the wok pans. These are the same circular grills you find in camp sites that have a center screwed post to raise and lower them to the fire pit. With this arrangement we could deliver low to super instant heat to the grill without gas flames coming near the product. We then could add wood smoke pellets to the bottom of the pan to accurately add wood flavor to the items being grilled or smoked. To smoke we placed a wok lid over the grill/wok. Having three woks allowed us to produce three entrees at a time with three different wood flavors. Changing the wood was as simple as sweeping the wok pan and adding a new type of wood pellet or chip. The only downside to this was we had to replace wok pans about every month as the high heat burned holes in the bottoms. We sold these as flower planters.

Adobe oven bread was another challenge. The adobe oven (hornos) is built or lined with adobe and fired with mesquite, which produces a distinct hard-crusted soft interior bread with the aroma of mesquite. Outside hornos would not meet health code so we modified a wood fired pizza oven with adobe bricks, just what the health department and we wanted.


That fry bread. Trying to cook fry bread in a commercial deep fryer is a pain. They are to narrow for the job. We used a wok as a fryer but it was hard to control temperature, clean and it decreased or grill area. The answer was a slightly modified donut cooker.


Piki bread and that stone? Well piki bread is great and since it is really a Native crepe why not just use a crepe pan? We did.

The pit corn with husk was cooked in an alto sham and finished off on the grill to give it the scorched husk flavor.

Of course salsa was made by the gallons with our trusty Hobart food chopper.

For you Italian chefs, we used a salamander to cook a Native pizza on a frybread crust.

Monday, November 07, 2011


This catered event in November 1621 could have included: corn soup, succotash, white fish, venison, turkey, amimi (pigeon), duck, berries (including whole cranberries), maple sugar candies, corn starch candy, watercress, ramps, beans, squash, corn bread, corn and pumpkin.
November was a religious obligation in England for many years before coming to the New World. On the other hand, Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance, which gave thanks for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown. Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year.
When the Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them! Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration, but they had no idea how big Indian families could be. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives that Squanto and Samoset brought with them. The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and get more food. Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food: Five deer, many wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries.
Three hundred and ninty years later this first event is celebrated throughout our nation in homes and restaurants. Refined somewhat but still with the turkey as its center, cranberry and pumpkin happily alongside.
From this first food encounter has developed an abundance of American Indian ingredients to enhance our culinary world. New cuisines including Southwestern, Mexican and those of South America have spread throughout the world. The largest culinary growth trend is predicted to be from the Native lands of Central and South America.
Native American Cuisine is slowly peeking its head above the dining room table. It has been presented at the Beard House and a cruise line  feature it. The Crystal Cruises Wine & Food Festival Cruise Jan. 12, 2007 to South America. The Miami to Valparaiso (Crystal Serenity) featured Chef Loretta Barrett Oden, Native American chef and food historian and host of PBS series Seasoned With Spirit. Titled a "Native Cook's Journey" (first series focusing on Native American food).
There are a number of restaurants that serve or feature Native American food. As chefs learn more of the exciting possibilities of this and its fusion potential, menus may go Native. We do have to get past the historical pemmican syndrome.
Native Recipes
Native American Restaurants

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Remember


While in high school a buddy told me of an Italian restaurant that had this thing called pizza. Across the street from my grandmother's house was a walkup food place that sold hamburgers for fifteen cents ran by a couple brothers named McDonald. The Bell twins had an uncle who just knew he could sell this Mexican taco thing. Malts had malt in them. That Xlint tamale served in a paper boat with chili was 50 cents. The veal cutlet, mashed potatoes, gravy and peas served at the diner was a Saturday night family ritual. Every other night we sat down to a meal cooked by mom Yes it was the 1950's.


Later in college as an exchange student I experienced the adventure of eating in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. After returning in the late 50's I looked for these exciting foods I had tasted. Living near Los Angeles enabled me to visit the areas of Asian ethic diversity. The sushi I ate in the Atomic Café with chopsticks made me feel cosmopolitan and secretly superior to friends who I loved to give exaggerated details on eating raw fish. Not far away was Temple Street and Filipino food. Couple streets north was China town. A wonder of smells and sights like the Asia I had visited.


You worked your way through the kitchen as apprentice chefs or talented dishwashers. Culinary school? There was one in Switzerland or someplace wasn't there? The work was hot, long and hard, sprinkled with fowl language and alcohol.


Within forty years left behind is the diner. The "exotic" fare has spread to every corner of America in all its forms and shapes. The word fusion has burst into our culinary vocabulary and mind. Culinary schools abound and churn out a new breed with bright eyes and willing hearts. Moms are no longer at home cooking. No smiling girl brings a tray to your car filled with malts, hamburgers and onion rings. Potato chips only come in bags.

But I remember.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Notes From The Dining Car


One thing about age is it brings along experience and memories. Memory is an amusing thing. It seems to be all about the good and enjoyable. Those darker parts have been sent to the trash bin awaiting deletion.

Over the years I have worked in many venues, some challenging, mostly fun. I want to use the word funnest which the word processor underlines in red. But funnest it's going to be to describe cooking on a train.

The adventure starts out with a "consist" (train term meaning a string of cars) of three cars. A baggage car (prep kitchen) and two "heavies" as they are called. A historic private car called the Robert Perry was used by Pres. Roosevelt 34 times in 1934, 35 and 36. Others using the Robert Perry in the 1930s included opera star Lily Pons and screen stars Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. In 1973 Perry was used in filming Executive Action with Burt Lancaster & Robert Ryan. In October 1976, Perry was used in filming MacArthur with Gregory Peck & Dan O'Herlihy. The car has a galley with oil-burning stove/oven; stewards' quarters with shower/toilet and two berths; a conference/ dining room; four (originally five) bedrooms; a shower; a solarium- lounge; and open observation platform. It can seat about thirty for dinner. The third car was the ATSF 1509. This car was used on the Kansas City-Tulsa Oil Flyer, Chicago-Los Angeles Grand Canyon and Fast Mail & Express, and the Phoenix-Los Angeles "Bankers' Special", and in the film A Time of Destiny. It has four 4-seat and four 2-seat tables in its dining room. The cocktail section contains a wardrobe, linen locker, crew lavatory, small stainless-steel bar, two 4-seat tables, and two settee's with smoking stands. The lounge area has eleven upholstered armchairs and a writing desk with chair. The kitchen has a wood & coal-burning stove, grill, ovens, two sinks with steam jets, a refrigerator with roof-top ice hatch, and a side service door. A steam table with coffee urn and carving table separates the kitchen from the serving pantry. Thirty-seven can be seated for dinner.

Where's my damn train.

Realize that train people think in "train do" or more like do-do. There are many chiefs and each one has an opinion on how things are to be done. You would think with a train consist of three cars and an engine it would be simple to assemble. To give credit they did work in a yard without a turntable. Getting all the cars in order and pointing in the right direction was an amusing site to watch. It became a crusade to have the dining cars with its engine on the proper siding at the proper time. After dealing with this for years I finally approached the problem with resolve if not a cool head. With a truckload of food trying to find our train in a maze of tracks and assorted cars and engines became an adventure every departure day. We would park and send out scouting parties to pinpoint our train only to have our truck race there and find the train was no longer. Moved and lost again. Have you chefs ever lost your kitchen three times in one afternoon?

Getting it all on board in one piece.

Once we corralled our cars we off loaded the prepped food. Inventoried it twice. Sent the truck rushing back for what we forgot. Dumped blocked ice down the chutes to chill the iceboxes. Lit off our wood fired range, taking about an hour to get up heat for oven, hotel top and steam. Two chefs would start the fix menu preparation including canapés, salad, entrée, and dessert. Six stewards would start setting up the dining rooms. Usually just about the time the bud vases and glasses were set they would decide the consist had to be moved a few feet. There was one engineer that had a gentle hand on the throttle. When he was on board everything was smooth and calm. Two other engineers were nightmares in training.

The food prepared was historically correct dining fare from past train service. We used original chef manuals from each passenger rail service. Each run featured a menu and food from a particular passenger line. The actual menus were reproductions of those originally used. For example:

Garden Salad Bowl With Southern Pacific Dressing

4 Ea Medium Tomatoes
2 Ea Medium Lettuce Heads
1 Ea Cucumber; Scored And Sliced
4 Ea Radish; Sliced
1/2 Ea Green Pepper; Cut In Strips
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Pinch Salt
1/3 C Southern Pacific Dressing

Peel tomatoes and cut into quarters and set aside to cool. Break lettuce
into bite size pieces. Pare the cucumber, score all sides lengthwise with
tines of a fork, and slice thin. In salad bowl arrange bed of lettuce. Toss
lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and green peppers, sugar, salt and dressing
put in salad bowl and top with tomato wedges.

Contributor: Southern Pacific
Yield: 6 servings
Preparation Time: 0:30

Southern Pacific Dressing

1 Tbsp English mustard
1 Tbsp Salt
1/4 C Vinegar White
1/2 C Currant Jelly
2 C Mayonnaises
1 C Catsup

Stir mustard and salt into vinegar until dissolved. Add jelly until smooth.
Add mayonnaise and catsup and mix thoroughly.
Contributor: Southern Pacific
Yield: 6 servings
Preparation Time: 0:15

Explaining the 1930 dishes to our guests was a chore my youngest son did well. One dish was always fun to see people react to. It was Southern Pacific Baked Potato Surprise. A filet baked and served in a super large potato.

Learning to cook commercially on a wood stove and an oil-fired range was quite an experience. Each oven had its own hot and cool spots that you either learned or burned. The nightmare of being halfway to Mexico and burning, spilling or otherwise ruining a segment of the dinner was always our fear. We had little if any backup. In ten years we never lost a chop or shrimp. We lost a steward though. We stopped for a passenger smoke and photo op and he didn't make it back on board. We picked up one scared kid on the way back. After that you couldn't coax him off at a stop.

On board weddings was always a challenge. Tiered cakes just did not do well with our engineers. Trying to get brides and their moms to forsake big elaborate cakes was an ordeal I always assigned to one of my sons and hid out. There was one mother who in mid ride decided she wanted the cake moved from the dining room to the lounge. Her husband and one groom wore it well. And yes of course she wanted a refund for the cost of the cake. I think she said something like "the train was moving to much sideways".

Probably the hardest and most sensitive was the plating. Space to lie out plates was not available. The Perry kitchen was a one-man space and with me in it the other was also. To serve seventy covers all at once going in two different directions was a ballet dance done by a hippo. I never threw a plate at a steward and with the dining rooms a few feet away couldn't even cuss. But I sure cultivated some mean looking stares.

When it was all over we let our collective breath out, smiled and lied to our guests about how easy it was and relished the compliments.


I did graduate into a new consist with a full kitchen car that had gas and eclectic and we increased our capacity up to 150 guests. The new kitchen car had a compliment of two chefs a cook and helper. Unfortunately while it was coupled to a tank car it was bumped by a yard engine and rolled down the tracks to it's doom and my retirement.