Going out to eat tonight? What’s to going to be – Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Italian – or how about Native American?

Well, watchers of the food industry say that restaurant themes and cuisines based on Native American cooking could be the next big thing. Just as traditional Mexican, Chinese and other cultural food styles have been well-integrated into American restaurant culture, Native American inspired food could find its way into the mainstream.

It will be a huge challenge, of course. One of the difficulties in mainstreaming Native cooking is that most recipes and cooking lore has always been handed down by word of mouth. Few written recipes means few road maps.

Ingredients are another factor. For example, traditional Native American diets are rich in venison and buffalo, and also food stuffs that tend not to be mass produced and only available seasonably, such as acorns, wild rice, chokecherries, juneberries and morels.

On the other hand, many classic Native American foods are common and plentiful year-round, such as corn, squash, potatoes and beans. There’s also freshwater delicacies, such as walleye, perch, northern pike, salmon, crayfish and more.

But for a dish to be authentically Native, it should also avoid such Old World staples as wheat flour, white refined sugar and even dairy. Sweetening Native style is accomplished with honey or maple syrup.

Still, the idea of Native American themed restaurants is exciting for many. A “slow movement” toward “indigenous cuisine” may even be gathering, said Sean Sherman, an Oglala Sioux and cook in North Dakota.

Sherman plans to open a Native-themed restaurant in Minneapolis next year.

Categories: Native American Culture, Native American Food, Traditional Native American Diets

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