Native American cuisine

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Frybread is a staple food of Native American cuisine.[1]

Native American cuisine includes all food practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Modern-day native peoples retain a rich culture of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings (for example, frybread). Foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity.

Modern-day Native American cuisine is varied.[2] The use of indigenous domesticated and wild food ingredients can represent Native American food and cuisine.[3] North American Native Cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican Cuisine in its simplicity and directness of flavor. The use of ramps, wild ginger, miners' lettuce, and Juniper berry can impart subtle flavours to various dishes. Native American food is one of living flavours and ideas.[citation needed] Different ingredients can change the whole meaning of Native American cuisine. A chef preparing a Native American dish can adopt, create, and alter as his or her imagination dictates.[4]

Native American cuisine of North America[edit]

A 19th-century illustration, "Sugar-Making Among the Indians in the North". Aboriginal peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first people known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar

The essential staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Aboriginal Americans were maize (also called "corn"), beans, and squash. These were called the "Three Sisters" because they were planted interdependently: the beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the three plants and provided protection and support for the root systems. A number of other domesticated crops were also popular during some time periods in the Eastern Woodlands, including a local version of quinoa, a variety of amaranth, sumpweed/marsh elder, little barley, maygrass, and sunflower.

In the Northwest of what is now the United States, Native Americans used salmon and other fish, seafood, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. Rum was popular, having first been introduced to the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus.[5] In contrast to the Easterners, the Northwestern aboriginal peoples were principally hunter-gatherers. The generally mild climate meant they did not need to develop an economy based upon agriculture but instead could rely year-round on the abundant food supplies of their region. In what is now California, acorns were ground into a flour that was the principal foodstuff for about seventy-five percent of the population,[6] and dried meats were prepared during the season when drying was possible.[7]

Southeastern Native American cuisine[edit]

Southeastern Native American culture has formed the cornerstone of Southern cuisine from its origins till the present day. From Southeastern Native American culture came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy, using a Native American technology known as nixtamalization.[8] Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey, which were important trade items. Though a lesser staple, potatoes were also adopted from Native American cuisine and were used in many ways similar to corn. Native Americans introduced the first non-Native American Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar on southern tables. Squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes (though Europeans initially considered them poisonous), many types of peppers, and sassafras all came to the settlers via the native tribes.

Many fruits are available in this region. Muscadines, blackberries, raspberries, and many other wild berries were part of Southern Native Americans' diet.

Southeastern Native Americans also supplemented their diets with meats derived from the hunting of native game. Venison was an important meat staple, due to the abundance of white-tailed deer in the area. They also hunted rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons. Livestock, adopted from Europeans, in the form of hogs and cattle, were kept. Aside from the meat, it was not uncommon for them to eat organ meats such as liver, brains, and intestines. This tradition remains today in hallmark dishes like chitterlings, commonly called chitlins, which are the fried large intestines of hogs; livermush, a common dish in the Carolinas made from hog liver; and pork brains and eggs. The fat of the animals, particularly of hogs, was rendered and used for cooking and frying. Many of the early settlers were taught Southeastern Native American cooking methods.

Dishes[edit]

Native American cuisine of the Circum-Caribbean[edit]

Jerk chicken with plaintains, rice and honey biscuit

This region comprises the cultures of the Arawaks, the Caribs, and the Ciboney. The Taíno of the Greater Antilles were the first New World people to encounter Columbus. Prior to European contact, these groups foraged, hunted, and fished. The Taíno cultivated cassava, sweet potato, maize, beans, squash, pineapple, peanut, and peppers. Today these groups have mostly vanished, but their culinary legacy lives on.

Native American cuisine of Mesoamerica[edit]

Tamales
Pupusas
Main articles: Aztec cuisine and Maya cuisine

The pre-conquest cuisine of the Native Americans of Mesoamerica made a major contribution to shaping modern-day Mexican cuisine, Honduran cuisine, Guatemalan cuisine, El Salvador cuisine. The cultures involved included the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and many more (see the List of pre-Columbian civilizations).

Some known dishes[edit]

Native American cuisine of South America[edit]

Roast guinea pig (cuy)
Cheese-filled arepa
Chipa, cheese bread

Andean cultures[edit]

Main article: Inca cuisine

This currently includes recipes known from the Quechua, Aymara and Nazca of the Andes.

Other South American cultures[edit]

Cooking utensils[edit]

Metate and mano

The earliest utensils, including knives, spoons, grinders, and griddles, were made from all kinds of organic materials, such as rock and animal bone. Gourds were also initially cultivated, hollowed, and dried to be used as bowls, spoons, ladles, and storage containers. Many Native American cultures also developed elaborate weaving and pottery traditions for making bowls, cooking pots, and containers. Nobility in the Andean and Mesoamerican civilizations were even known to have utensils and vessels smelted from gold, silver, copper, or other minerals.

Crops and ingredients[edit]

A Russet potato with sprouts
The bean pods of the mesquite (above) can be dried and ground into flour, adding a sweet, nutty taste to breads
Several large pumpkins
Acorns of Sessile Oak. The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives (genera Quercus and Lithocarpus, in the family Fagaceae).

Maize, beans and squash were known as the three sisters for their symbiotic relationship when grown together by the North American and Meso-American natives. If the South Americans had similar methods of what is known as companion planting it is lost to us today.

Non-animal foodstuffs[edit]

Hunted or livestock[edit]

Bison cow and calf

See also[edit]


References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]