Native peoples everywhere view themselves as part of nature and the environment. They subsist by harvesting whatever nature provides, and hunt, or fish. Seasons are measured with changing weather, blooming of plants and fauna, and the growth of naturally seeding plants.
Women’s encyclopaedic accumulated knowledge of plants, herbs and animas is passed down from generation to generation. Before the arrival of colonizers and conquistadors in the 16 to 18th centuries, native peoples survived by adapting to nature and thrived.
They knew of fire (fire’s cooking “power” was discovered between 300 000 – 1.8 million years ago), and Neanderthal human erectus used controlled fire anywhere between 300 – to 400 000 according to archaeologists. By the time colonizers arrived in Australia, the Americas, and South Africa some of the natives had evolved into agricultural societies, but were still hunting to satisfy their protein needs.
Colonizers considered native agricultural knowledge and culinary prowess poor, therefore set out to “teach” them animal domestication, animal husbandry, and farming. At least in Canada and the U.S.A., natives ended up teaching colonizers how to grow corn and other indigenous produce to survive harsh winters.
One thing must be recognized – food presentation, plates, cutlery, cooking utensils and vessels were not known by natives. They consumed food and meat that were minimally processed. In Australia, “settlers” arrived in 1788 to find that people were already living there for more than 60 000 years. They never knew about strong alcoholic beverages, and very few contagious disease bacteria existed, i.e small pox, cholera, typhus and measles.
In Austrlai, kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles and seafood constituted protein sources. Vitamins and minerals came from wild fruits, roots and vegetables. In Canada, according to the 1996 census, 800 000 registered as First nation members, 210 000 metis (mixture of First Nations and settlers) and 4000 Inuit. Because of the large landmass, Canadian tribes on three coasts (east, west and north) had developed different cooking styles and used a variety of seafoods. Inuit enjoyed, and still enjoy, raw walrus, whale, and caribou, while Prairie natives’ hunted buffalo and other wild animals. They had pemmican (two recipes provided) and ate corn, including other vegetables (squash was very popular) and herbs.
Cattle were brought over from Europe and thrived on the Prairies, and Corn Belt in the U.S.A. In Central America Aztecs, Mayans, and Olmecs favoured guacamole, mole, pozole, salsas, tacos, corn tortillas, pupusas, and chillies. Andean cultures (Quenchua, Aymara, Nazca) were, and are still fond of ceviche, quinoa, papa a la Huancaina (potatoes cooked in the style of Hunacaina), iguanas, manatees, squirrels, and wild turkeys. A range of cooking techniques was used, including earth ovens, which were dug in the soil, boiling, roasting on sticks, and marinating, to render their food easier to chew, and faster to digest. Settlers took to growing tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and many other vegetables that were introduced from Europe.
Indigenous foods and recipes have been ignored for too long and deserve to be updated, used more, and widely promoted. Modern young tourists want to try the specialties of the country they visit or plan to visit.
Restaurateurs, cooks, tourism officials in all tourism-promoting countries should encourage researching old aboriginal recipes (elders, old cookbooks) and feature same.
Few modern tourists would want to eat spaghetti with meatballs or hamburgers in Kathmandu, Nepal, or in Inuvik, Canada.
4 cups lean meat, (deer, beef, caribou, moose)
3 cups dried fruits
2 cups rendered fat
Unsalted nuts to taste
30 – 45 ml honey
Spread meat thinly on a cookie sheet and dry at 80 C (180F) for a minimum of eight hours. Grind or pound the meat to a powder consistency. Grind fruits to a coarse consistency. Heat the fat to liquefy and add to meat, fruit, nuts and honey. Kneed well. Cool and portion to store. This can keep for months in a cool and dry place.
2 cups dates
3 cups tofu jerky
2 cups raisins
Honey to taste
2 cups unsalted nuts
Grind all ingredients eexcept honey. Add honey, little by little, and knead well. Pour into pan in a 2 cm. thick layer. Refrigerate, and cut into bars. Note: in cold climates, you can substitute honey with rendered fat.