Indigenous Foods of the Southwest – Original Native American Cuisine
"We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and the winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild'. Only to the white man was nature a 'wilderness' and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with blessings of the Great Mystery." ~ Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Oglala band of Sioux
It seems that when we talk about the history of food in the United States we often look to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia for the ingredients and techniques that are used extensively in our cuisine. On my recent travels to Southern Arizona I wanted to rediscover the foods of the original settlers, the Native Americans, to understand how these people survived and how their heirloom ingredients are used today.
I expected to find numerous sources and places to experience our country’s original indigenous foods, considering we were in the Southwest and in the Sonoran Desert where many Native American tribes have existed for thousands of years. Instead, what I found is the lack of this type of cuisine. Few people still forage wild ingredients or cultivate and harvest native heirloom ingredients and that even fewer people and chefs use these ingredients in their kitchens today. Up until recently there has been a genuine lack of interest in preserving the cuisine of the Native American culture.