An indigenous foods cookbook invites a fresh way of eating— and seeing
The Sioux Chef ’s Indigenous Kitchen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) is a must-have cookbook for anyone interested in indigenous foods and traditions, wild plants and game, or—as Chef Sean Sherman, along with writer Beth Dooley, put it—a “hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uberhealthy” diet free of processed foods, sugar, wheat, or dairy.
Chef Sherman’s interest in indigenous foods didn’t come from a desire to appeal to diet trends, though. It began, instead, with a simple question: “What did my ancestors eat before the Europeans arrived on our lands?” As part of answering that question, Sherman went to Red Lodge, Montana, where he “spent a summer on the Lazy EL ranch, cooking, being outdoors, reading books, gardening, foraging, and planning.” Then he founded The Sioux Chef in Minneapolis—an enterprise that now includes a catering business, a food truck, and, soon, a restaurant.
The cookbook is a combination of Sherman’s stories of growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, insights about indigenous ingredients and celebrations, and, of course, recipes. Sherman’s recipes are as simple and inviting as his way of introducing them: “Please taste as you go; trust yourself and make substitutions based on what’s in season and what is growing close to your kitchen.” Maple syrup, sumac, corn, sunflower seeds and oil, berries, beans, game, and squash are just some of the ingredients his recipes call for. Some recipes provide particularly delightful surprises— Braised Sunflowers, for example (the flavor, he explains, “is close to that of an artichoke”).
Enticing recipes aside, the real magic of The Sioux Chef ’s Indigenous Kitchen is the way it will change the way a reader sees: No longer are dandelions mere “weeds.” Rather, the natural world is revealed for the bountiful—and delicious— source of nourishment that it is.