My dear friend, Carole, gifted me, her Indigenous friend, a wonderful book of stories about my Indigenous ancestors and traditional recipes using ingredients of the hunter/gatherer culture that marked their existence. The recipes, some of which I remember from my grandmothers, include wild game, such as venison; which is the only meat in my freezer next to lamb; and juniper berries; used to tame the “wild flavor” when deer have to resort to lichens and sage for food during the long winters of Colorado and depleted fresh browse.
The author, Chef Sean Sherman (Lakota), who grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation, empowers the gentle reader, and would-be cook, to explore his or her own backyard to see what’s there. I remember my Grandma Margaret (May she Rest In Peace) using purslane, a delicious, succulent-type green that grows in gardens and along sidewalks. She would fry it with squash and corn to serve with pinto beans. We call that trio, The Three Sisters. Sherman says that purslane packs more vitamin E than spinach. Here’s the book:
Don’t you love his play on the French word, “sous” meaning “under” and often referring to the chef working with or “under” the master chef. In Sherman’s case, he’s referring to his lineage of Lakota Sioux. I love the book because he combines food history, or the concept of “food sovereignty” (Eating as our ancestors rather than the government commodities given to us when we were removed from our lands and put onto reservations) along with recipes. We eat quite delicious food! My friend, Nancy says when I prepare “Grandma’s food, which features the Three Sisters, she could likely “sell tickets” to the event, because of the “great food”!
Speaking of Nancy, I paid her a visit this past weekend, armed with lamb, mushrooms, green onions (wrong time of year to gather wild onions), and Colorado juniper berries. I cooked the Hunter’s Stew from the book. Don’t think of the famous Italian Hunter’s Stew made with chicken. Not this. This recipe calls for bison, a very lean meat. I’ll get to that later. Here’s some background. Sherman tells the story of the bison hunt of the his people Indigenous to the Central High Plains of the American Midwest. The women processed an entire bison, about 1800 pounds ( ~816 kg). Bison provided food, clothing, tools, other household items, and shelter. One could say it was a “keystone” species for the Indigenous peoples of the Plains. In the U. S. Government’s efforts to annihilate Indigenous people (called “Indians”) it chose to wipeout their source of life: the bison. Bison appear to be making a small comeback: most on ranches, and they run free at Yellowstone National Park.
Okay. Let’s get back to the recipe for Hunter’s Stew. Notice the wonderful ingredients in the list.
I didn’t have sumac or bison stock, so I used a little beef stock and omitted the sumac. I made corn meal mush the previous night so that I had firm corn “cakes” to brown in butter. The corn cakes provided the base for the stew, per Sherman’s suggestion, the stew be served over the corn cakes. I made and served bread to round out the meal. Nancy’ s son, Landon joined us, a handsome young lad who loves my cooking!
I love to cook, and I love to share a meal with good friends. Here, our meal:
I took the picture with an app called “foodie”, and I’m not sure it did the meal justice, but it was delicious, and Landon ate three to four servings. I love it when people eat my creations with hearty appetites! You can see the corn cake peeking out from under the stew. Next time, I will salt the corn meal cooking water just a little more. As usual, experiment with your cooking. As the author of this cookbook says, ” Cookbooks are suggestions “. Create, experiment, have fun, and share with friends.
Thank you for reading.