Essays, Personal

Grounded

For the 3rd time in a month, I found my hands in a mix of flour and water.  This time, it’s nixtamalized corn meal (corn is treated with lye to make it store better, and to prevent pellagra) for making corn tortillas.

Mixing cornmeal for tortillas
Mixing cornmeal for tortillas

 

And before that it was fry bread (Native American bread, made from the sorts of things that came in commodity food boxes in the early reservation years. Before that, it was Roti, an Indian flatbread made from wheat flour.

Mixing fry bread dough
Mixing fry bread dough

 

Cooking has always been a source of grounding for me – a thing to do when I’m overwhelmed. Because the repetitive acts of cooking – chopping, stirring, kneading – are like a moving meditation.

Cooking tortillas
Cooking tortillas

But there are spiritual aspects beyond that meditation. I’ve been exploring the foods of my ancestors, and expanding our menu here a bit. While my Native ancestors weren’t farmers, they likely knew of corn from others….and it’s definitely native to North America.

Golden frybread
Golden frybread

While there are groups out there promoting only eating what our ancestors ate for our own health…more than half of my ancestors are, we believe, from Europe (I guess I’ll know soon – 23&Me is running a study on mental health and genetics, and by getting into the study, I get my DNA done for free). They had wheat, milk, and domesticated animals. So I don’t think we’ll be cutting any foods completely out of our diets anytime soon.

Tacos with chicken and cheese
Tacos with chicken and cheese

But there’s something to be said for making connections with the earth and our ancestors via food – most families have those recipes handed down from parent to child. There’s magic in cooking from scratch – turning random things into a totally different dish.

Classic Indian Taco
Classic Indian Taco

Next up, I’m trying out some traditional dishes involving “wild rice”  (Native American wild rice isn’t really rice, it’s a grain from another type of plant) and corn soup. Good fall dishes for celebrating all the harvest festivals.

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