Native American Cuisine- What did the Natives eat?
Native American cuisine comes from a great variety of sources, and the influence of this cuisine has spread far and wide. The age-old customs and traditions of the Native American indigenous peoples of the Americas are still going strong today, and dishes like fry bread, cornbread, salsa, posole, mesquite meal, New Mexico chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts , pinion nuts, diced jalapenos, blue cornmeal, Albondigas Soup, Anasazi Bean Soup, Chico's Chili, Green Chile Stew, Posole Stew, Black Bean Soup, Mexican Rice, Tortilla Soup, Zuni Pot of Gold, Brew Bread Mix, Hopi Blue Corn Muffins with Pine Nuts, Jalapeno Corn Bread, Navajo Sage Bread, Pueblo Corn Bread, Indian Fry Bread, Arizona Griddle Cakes with Blueberries, Hopi Blue Dumplings, blue - red and rainbow popcorn, three sisters, Katsina Corn Dumplings, Black Bean Corn Salsa, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups.
Native American cuisine is characterized by the use of indigenous domesticated and wild ingredients in food. Ramps, wild ginger, miners' lettuce, and juniper are examples of the spices and flavorings used in this cuisine.
Corn, beans and squash, collectively known as the ‘Three Sisters’ because of their interdependent, simultaneous growth, were the staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Aboriginal Americans. Northwestern Native Americans also consumed salmon, seafood, meats like duck, rabbit and deer, and berries.
The food eaten by the Southern Native Americans was dominated with corn, and various preparations of corn, from cornbread, grits and whisky were made out of the corn. Later, potatoes were added to the staple diet, and used in various ways similar to corn. Game meats like venison, rabbits, squirrel, opossums and raccoons were eaten due to their abundance. Livestock was also kept, and the whole animal eaten, including the organ meats, liver, and intestines. Notable dishes of Southern Native American cuisine include corn bread, Pemmican, acorn bread, walrus flipper soup, buffalo stew, bird brain soup, Wojape and salted salmon.
The Circum-Caribbean Natives cultivated cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, beans, pineapples, penut ad peppers. The cooking methods of barbecuing and herk cooking originated from the Circum-Caribbean Native Americans. Now, this group is almost extinct, but their culinary traditions still run strong. Casabe, Jerk, Barbecoa are the notable dishes from this sub-cuisine.
The Native Americans from the Mayan and Aztec civilizations have majorly contributed to modern-day Mexican cuisine, with dishes like tacos, tortillas, chili, guacamole, mole, salsa and tepache (pineapple beer).
The contemporaries of the Andean cultures, or the Incas, as they are known today, specialized in grilled guinea pigs, ceviche, fried green tomatoes, alcoholic beverages with the generic name ‘Chicha’, and Pachamanca.
Modern-day Native American cuisine can cover as wide of range as the imagination of the chef who adopts or adapts this cuisine to present. North American Native Cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican Cuisine in its simplicity and directness of flavor. It is largely up to the chef to alter Native American cuisine as per his preferences and tastes. This said, Native American cuisine has had a profound influence over present-day American, Mexican and South-American cuisines, and to some extent even on the global scale, where some dishes that have originated from the Natives have gained universal acceptance and popularity, and their legacy will continue to live on.