Thursday, July 12, 2012

Adventure Cuisine: Navajo Fry Bread (With a Dash of History!)

Prepare for a tasty (and informative) adventure, fellow adventurer!

A tasty treat for the culinary-minded adventurer is Navajo fry bread. When I was just a youngling, my mom would make it in the hopes that the grease would congeal in our bloodstream and slow us down. Believe me, fellow adventurer, it works!

The best part of making fry bread is the simplicity of it. The Navajo didn't have much, but as the stereotype goes, they used everything they had to its fullest extent. One of the reasons that the Navajo had so little was the rationing that the U.S. government subjected them to after herding them out of their ancestral lands by gunpoint. So sure, fry bread came from a dark time in American history. But the taste and the versatility of the bread make up for all that suffering!

Ooops! Guess I forgot to integrate these ingredients into one mass!

The first step to making fry bread is getting kicked out of your home by both the Spanish and the American governments. The first few miles of “The Long Walk of the Navajo” was probably pretty rough, but after a while, calluses (both physical and emotional) started to grow and everything got much better, so tough it out until then.

Once you get to the government sanctioned land, you’ll discover that your enemies, the Comanche and the Apache, are also there, bringing the land meant for 5,000 up to an angry 10,000 who still manage to mount constant raids on one another, regardless of the U.S. military nearby. Keep your head down and you’ll be just fine.

When the first rations show up, toss out the majority (since they’re rotten) and get to work. Get your flour, leavening (baking powder works), salt, and water. 

SUBSTITUTION TIP: Out of salt? The store’s too far away? You can use the sweat and tears of the Navajo people instead! If you don’t know any Navajo, head down to the area between the Four Corners and the Pecos River valley. The Navajo left loads of body salt.

This is all you need because this is all you have!

Mix one cup of flour, a quarter teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of leavening, and a half cup of water together in a small bowl. Is the bowl/land too small to fit the ingredients/people? Deal with it. That’s all the bowl that the U.S. government gave you, so you’d better make friends.

QUICK TIP: If your neighbors come by for a raid, offer to share some fry bread with them! Maybe they won't kill you.

Wow! It sure is a mess in that bowl/government designated land!

Now cover your hands in flour (or dirt, since it’s not going to do much to the taste of dough made from rotten ingredients) and make the dough into a ball. Now separate that ball into four balls (a good way to remember how many balls to separate each serving into is to remember the four sacred mountains that made the border of the Navajos ancestral lands). 

FUN FACT: If you live in the Four Corners area, you live near where the Navajo made their home for over 300 years before being driven out by gun point.

If you're Navajo, maybe you don't remember your ancestral lands

Put some lard in your frying pan and get it good and hot. If you put too much lard in the pan, you can scrape some off the top. For scraping reference, see the scalping of the beloved Navajo leader, Narbona, in 1849 by the U.S. Military.

Call it shortening if you want. It's still lard.

Once the lard is hot, drop in your fry bread. You’ll want to stretch each ball out thin to make a scone-like shape. Don’t worry about stretching it too thin, because it will become hardened by the constant heat and pressure! Let the bread brown on each side before pulling it out.

Don't get too close to the oil! It'll scorch you like the sun scorched
the backs of thousands of Navajo men, women, and children.

Let the fry bread cool and then slather it with butter and jam. If you don’t have butter and jam, I guess you can use more lard. If you have to conserve your lard, just eat it plain. If there isn’t enough for one piece each, break yours into pieces and share.

This is a great meal unless you have to eat it every day for an extended period of time because the government is taking forever to find a scrap of land to leave you in!

From my kitchen to yours, enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. You can make fry bread for me anytime - but I want mine sopapilla style with honey. Do you always give a concurrent history lesson while cooking?