Sunday, June 7, 2015

'Whisper upon the Water' Student Activities for the Classroom

This posted material is for Student use within the classroom.
copyright 1994 by Connie Vines.  "A Taste of American Culture"
(material can not be reproduced or posted to other Internet sites without the permission of the author).

Since toaster-pastries, microwave ovens, and snack foods were not an option in centuries past.  What might have Tay eaten during a family meal, or as a snack?

Do you see this snack on a grocery shelf today?

Would you like to try a new ‘food’?

So what exactly was a ‘taste treat’ in Apacharia in 1880?


3 lbs. rabbit/deer (or stew beef)
1 c. ground acorn meal
1 tsp. salt
2 qt. water
Cover the meat with water and bring to boil in a heavy pot. Simmer until done; add seasoning (I suggest adding chilies) simmer until done as the meat cooks tender.  Remove meat and chop on a flat stone until it splits in shreds. The meat broth continues to cook vigorously while the meat and acorn meal are mixed together.  Apaches stress their food is always well done; no instant cooking.  Broth, meat and meal simmer together until the broth bubbles creamy white with yellow flecks, pleasantly acorn scented and flavored.


1 c. white cornmeal                              ½ tsp. red pepper
1 c. yellow cornmeal                             1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. salt                                           ½ c. meat drippings (substitute bacon)
Green cornhusks.
Mix dry ingredients, add boiling water and bacon drippings.  Form into small rolls and wrap in green corn husks.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (vs. a covered skillet over a campfire).  Makes 12 individual breads.


The following recipe is my personal favorite.  I served this fry bread at the Title V and Red Nations Pow-wows.  In addition, I operated the fry bread booth the four years, as co-chair member P.A.C. Committee that I organized and facilitated Native American Day, middle school level, for San Bernardino County, California.
Students will only participate in prep and final presentation.  Adults ONLY will be working with the hot oil required during the frying of the bread dough.


Never prepare fry bread in advance.  The only way to enjoy it is sizzling hot from the skillet.  We like to drizzle its crusty golden skin with honey or dust it with powdered sugar for breakfast or serve plan as an addition to a soup or stew meal.  This hot fry bread also provides the foundation for a ‘Navajo Taco’.
2 ¼ c. flour                                         3 Tbsp. solid vegetable shortening
2 tsp. baking powder                           about ¾ c. warm water
1 tsp. salt                                           fat or oil for frying

Mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in 1 tablespoon of shortening.  Melt and cool remaining 2 tablespoons of shortening and set aside.  Add just enough water to flour mixture so dough holds together and can be handled easily.  Knead on a lightly floured board until smooth (30 seconds), adding only enough flour to work the dough.
Form dough into smooth 2-inch balls.  Brush each ball with cooled shortening and let stand 45 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, with the heel of your hand, flatten each ball out into a round circle about 6 inches in diameter.

In a deep skillet or deep fryer, heat fat to 360 degrees. Ease dough into deep fat. Dough will bob to the surface.  Cook until dough is a light brown (45 to 60 seconds). Turn and cook on the other side (45 to 60 seconds). Remove from fat immediately and drain on paper towels.  Makes 6 individual breads. 

(For a modern short cut used canned refrigerated biscuits.  Just poke a small hole in the center to avoid hot splattering of oil.)

Expedition Food

Dried venison/rabbit/small bird                                 parched corn
Dried berries: blueberries, elderberries                      sweet syrup (from native plant)
Blackberries (whatever is available)

All ingredients were pounded together with a stone wrapped in rawhide. The pounded ingredients were carried in a bag or gourd.

This food was eaten sparingly with water (when readily available).

Reservation Macaroni and Cheese
Government issued:
Macaroni                                             White flour
Cheese                                                Salt
Powdered Milk

Cook up 3 cups macaroon in pan.  Mix 4 cups milk from the powder and heat.  Add about 2 ½ cups of cheese and stir until it melts.  Mix in some flour with a little water to make paste. Thicken cheese mixture with pasta and add drained macaroni.  Salt. Pure into a dish and bake in an oven until it firms up.

Are you a culinary daredevil?

This would require a trek to the Pacific Northwest, but my friend and mentor, Jacques Condor (Maka-Tai-Meh), says this is the taste of his childhood.

Jellied Moose Nose

1 upper jawbone of moose                             1 onion, sliced
1 tsp. salt                                                     1 clove of garlic
¼ c. vinegar                                                 ½ tsp. pepper

Cut the upper jawbone of the moose below the eyes. Place in a large kettle of scalding water for 45 minutes. Remove and chill in cold water. Pull out all the hairs; these will have loosened by boiling and should come out easily (like plucking a chicken/ duck / turkey—yes, I have personal experience). Wash thoroughly until no hairs remain.

Place the nose in a kettle and cover with fresh water.  Add onion, garlic, spices and vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tender. Let cool overnight in the liquid. When cool, take the meat out of the broth and remove and discard the bones and cartilage.  You will have two types of meat.  White meat from the bulb of the nose and think strips of dark meat from along the bones and jowls.

Slice the meat thinly and alternate layers of white meat and dark meat in a loaf pan.  Reheat the broth to boiling, then pour the broth over the meat in the loaf pan. Let cool until jelly has set.  Slice and serve cold.

Native American Customs and Beliefs

As a tradition, foods are acquired with reverence and attention to its importance in the balance of nature.  Each animal, fish or plant has unique qualities and powers and are considered a relative to all life.  When these things are eaten, worn or used, these qualities become part of the person utilizing them.  Every utensil, weapon and tool are channels of spirit energy, this energy may be positive or negative, which can be passed to foods and material goods. The attitude of the person preparing the food is extremely important.  A happy, peaceful cook prepares healthy food, while anger or negative feelings can cause inferior foods of illness.

Harmony with nature is always important.  Food is stirred in a clockwise direction, as it is the direction in which water flows. To flow with nature is to survive. Survival also means all life, plant and animal, should be regarded as sacred.