Bingo 15: Bird
There’s really only two birds in New Native Kitchen, and it’s the three places duck gets mentioned and a handful of chicken recipes. I would also say that the phrase “birds of a feather” applies here because it is intended to introduce people to Indigenous cultures from across the country (sort of ironic but not in a bad way), and there’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of community, which given that this is a cookbook, is not that surprising.
Although this cookbook has a lot of interesting information and recipes, I won’t be able to do a lot of them as intended because getting my hands things like fresh fiddleheads or cactus paddles is not all that possible given my actual location. There’s a major emphasis in this book on the most local and seasonal things, which makes sense, but at the same time, with very little option for substitution, how is a set of recipes that spans the country geographically and looks at peoples from widely different Native cultures supposed to work without a lot of travel? I try to avoid Amazon for basics in general and don’t really trust it for fresh things, especially off the specialty variety.
New Native Kitchen is as the title suggests focused on foods from various Native American cultures, sometimes with a modern update. More often then not, after a culture is introduced in a recipe, then next page or two will be a brief introduction to the culture that might relate somehow to the recipe, either by the ingredients or time of year or possibly even the chef/author’s own experiences (he’s Navajo and runs/ran Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe in the Smithsonian).
This feels more like the kind of cookbook you read rather than one you use for actual cooing; it’s not just the challenge with ingredients or seasonality. The instructions for preparing recipes are presented in single paragraph form, not step by step; for someone unfamiliar with the preparation that makes it harder to follow.
I was and wasn’t surprised by the prevalence of vegetable centered dishes; the reliance of a lot of Indigenous cultures on agricultural things is something I’ve known about for a long time, but the chapter on salads is what kind of surprised me. Granted grain salads and the veggie-starch chapters could almost be interchangeable and things like Manoomin Rice Salad with Apple-Honey Vinaigrette seems surprisingly familiar. Granted, I’m from MN so I quite familiar with wild rice and the salad with carrot, dried cranberry, green onion, and pine nuts is not exactly the surprise. The surprising part is that this more familiar option is right next to something like Amaranth with White Wine Vinaigrette. The main elements themselves, the grain, bell pepper, celery, and a pretty standard dressing are not the interesting part; that would be the inclusion of 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. That seems like it’s either brilliant or the worst idea ever. I’m honestly not sure which.
The bird recipes are actually not that interesting since things like roast chicken, chicken tamales, and grilled duck are all somewhat familiar even if you consider the addition of things like chokecherry sauce or juniper berries. Maybe it’s me and my familiarity with the northern central Midwest (I’ve picked chokecherries wild off the side of a country highway as a small child with my grandmother) but none of these are that interesting to me.
Bread and corn puddings dominate the dessert chapter, but I’m ok with that. I like those things and there’ some interesting variations. Toasted Blue Cornmeal with Mixed Berries and Agave can, as the author notes, work for breakfast, dessert, or anything in between.