Essays

Lammas Bread

Note: Yes, Lammas was a couple weeks ago.  It’s been a little nutty here, with new nursing staff and prep for the start of school, and a couple new projects on the horizon.  Still, I wanted to talk a bit about bread…..

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Sometimes, the thing that most connects us to our beloved dead is bread – the bread they ate then and the bread we eat now links us directly through culture and tradition.

Funny, then, that neither of my grandmothers eat breads common to their childhood and culture, even as I love those breads today.

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My paternal grandmother was born just before the start of the depression. Her parents were farmers, and I get the impression that they weren’t that well off to begin with. She talks about eating only corn bread for dinner for months on end. They had pigs, but pigs were worth so much money at the time that the pig they butchered in the fall was sold to pay taxes and buy new shoes and clothes and other household goods for the whole year.

She virtually never eats cornbread these days, having had her fill of it as a child.

Our cornbread recipe these days has been tweaked quite a bit from wherever I originally got it, but we do like it a lot (no boxed mixes here, which is how I made it growing up):

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

1/3 cup melted butter.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the center. Combine liquid ingredients, pour into well. Stir quickly, don’t over mix, it will be  lumpy. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch round pan and bake 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.

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My maternal grandmother grew up on an Indian reservation. Family members tell me that her “sister” (a cousin raised by her parents) made frybread from scratch, without measuring anything. Frybread then was made with commodity staples – flour, powdered milk, and the like, without yeast. But my grandmother doesn’t cook that many things, and doesn’t make frybread…her mother passed away when she was in elementary school, and her stepmother refused to teach her many traditional things, as a way of protecting her from discrimination.

I don’t make frybread very often, but if we go to a powwow, it’s one thing I insist we get.

The Manataka American Indian Council has a whole page of frybread recipes – I have made most of them at one time or another, but the pumpkin fry bread is one of my favorites in the fall, with wojapi on top.  The Blackfeet recipe sounds like the sort of thing my family describes making.

And if you’ve never had Indian Tacos (frybread, with taco-like toppings), I highly suggest trying some the next time you go to a powwow – some make them with taco-seasoned meat, some with a beef and beans sort of chili,  but The Pioneer Woman gives a good rundown of the whole process, though as at least one commenter notes, she left out the cheese, and they almost always have cheese at a powwow.

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