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A Taste of Heritage
Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines
By Alma Hogan Snell
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright © 2006
University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.
A Taste of Heritage Foods
* * *
A Vision of Cooking
Food is something I seem destined to care about. In fact, my gift with
food came to me after my grandmother Pretty Shield had a vision
about it when I was very young.
In her dream there was a young woman in the middle of a stream.
Then an older woman appeared on the side of the stream, and she told
Pretty Shield that these were gifts: beading and cooking. She should
give them to her granddaughters. Pretty Shield had already decided to
give the gifts to Cerise, my oldest sister, and me. Since she was the oldest,
Cerise got to choose first. She chose beading, so I got cooking.
All my life I've ended up around the food, cooking. I didn't always
start there. In the hospital I started as an aide, but then I was helping
out in the kitchen, and they saw what I could do there, so they had me
stay. Later I worked in restaurants. Then, at Pine Ridge, I was the supervisor
of food service. No matter where I've been, I've been around
food. That's my gift.
Cerise is a great beader. The best. If you ever see a piece of beadwork
done by Cerise Stewart, pay whatever they're asking. It's worth
it.She truly has a gift.
But, I've always been kind of glad that she chose beading. That left
the food for me.
Even though I have had years of experience in food service (in fact
I completed the Indian Health Food Service Supervisor course at the
head of my class), I have written this book from a lodgekeeper's standpoint.
The lodgekeeper, or homemaker, has always been a very important
role in Crow society. The size of my family is always changing.
Sometimes it is just my husband and me; sometimes one of my twelve
grandchildren will come by; sometimes it is the whole tribe at a celebration
or feed; and sometimes I feel that the whole of humanity is
my family as I try to teach the world through my programs. However
big my family is, I am happy to cook for them. Providing family members
with food is more than just giving them nutrients-it is creating
a home for them, keeping the lodge.
So these recipes are not formally tested in spotless lab kitchens in
big cities. They are recipes that I have served as a lodgekeeper for my
family. You'll want to try them out with yours.
* Buffaloberry Meat Sauce
Crush buffaloberries until they look like raw hamburger. Serve on
cooked beef or buffalo. You may want to add a bit of sugar to cut the
bitter taste. We never used to use sugar, of course, but when it came
along it was used by many.
* Buffaloberry Jelly
3 pounds of cleaned buffaloberries
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 package pectin
Cook the buffaloberries in the water. Add the sugar and cook 20 minutes
more. Cool. Squeeze the fruit and liquid through a cloth. Put the
juice back on the stove on medium heat for another 20 minutes along
with the pectin. Follow the instructions on the pectin box. Fill three or
four sterilized pint jars. Cover with lids and rings, sealing and sterilizing
* Buffaloberry Cream Cheese Spread
This spread is not a traditional recipe at all. I just came up with it while working on
this book, but the results are really tasty. I think buffaloberry spread is really good
wrapped in a crunchy leaf of romaine lettuce. My editor, Lisa, thinks that it tastes
better with fresh coal cakes (little flatbreads) for breakfast. She would like to try it on
bagels some morning. Bill suggests that we should strain the seeds out, but Lisa and
I think they make a nice contrast to the smooth cream cheese.
1 pint buffaloberries
2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces (or more) cream cheese
Place the berries and sugar in a saucepan and add water to just cover
the berries. Cook over medium heat until the berries are soft. Let the
mixture cool. Stir in the cream cheese until everything is well mixed
and smooth. If the spread is too runny, add more cream cheese.
* Buffaloberry Ice Cream and Snow Cones
Sometimes when I was growing up, we would crush buffaloberries,
mix canned milk with them, and put the container in the freezer. Before
it was completely frozen we'd take it out and eat it. We'd call it ice
cream, bullberry ice cream. Sometimes we made this ice cream with
the buffaloberries and milk, but we would add snow and a little sugar
You can also mix just snow and sweetened berries for snow cones.
Place the frosty mixture in cups and scoop it out with spoons.
Of course apples don't grow wild in Crow country, but they were already
a favorite fruit by the time I was growing up. Bill has four apple
trees that bear fruit. We have to watch out that bears and deer don't
waste them. Back in the 1940s, baking an apple pie for your husband
seemed to be a great way to show him you cared. Actually, it probably
still is a pretty good way.
Apple Hollow Pie
When I was first married, living with Bill up at Fort Belknap, Montana,
I really wanted to impress him, and I thought I was a pretty good cook.
We had some dried apple rings that I had never seen before. I had plenty
of experience with dried wild foods, so instead of telling Lena, Bill's
aunt, that I didn't know what to do with them, I just pretended I knew
and put them in a pie.
I made a real nice-looking pie and baked it until the top crust was
all puffed up and a beautiful golden brown. I proudly placed it on the
table, and as soon as Bill came in from a hard day's work, he smelled
it, and I told him that we had apple pie for dessert. After the rest of
the meal, he told me that he was ready for some pie. I cut him a slice
and it was empty! All those dried apples were mushed together in a
thin layer on the bottom.
Bill asked, "What is this, apple hollow pie?"
His family laughed a lot about that pie, but I didn't think it was funny
at the time.
Fortunately, Bill ate it anyway. "It's crusty, but it's nice," he said.
Soon Lena taught me how to use dried apples to make a good, full
pie, but I have never forgotten that hollow one.
Beverages, Sweeteners, Thickeners, and Seasonings
Reading about drinks, sweeteners, thickeners, and flavorings, you'll
see how Crow cuisine has changed over time.
Water has always been the main drink of the Crow people. Elders tell
us that rivers are like the veins of the world. They teach us to respect
the waterways and to be thankful to the Creator every time we take
Clear, cool water from these creeks is good for a body. Nowadays,
of course, Crow people drink pop, juice, milk, coffee, tea, and everything
else just like everyone else, but I still think that plain, cool water
is the best beverage for us.
Setting the Stage for Telling Tales
Plain water may be best for your health, but if you want a Crow person
to tell you a story, I think you need to have hot drinks.
A while back, my grandson called and told me, "If you put on a really
big pot of coffee, and get out some peaches and crackers, then I
will come over and tell you some stories." The peaches and the crackers
must be traditional; I know they are part of the Tobacco Ceremony.
I'm not sure what they used in the old days before we had peaches-probably
If you want me to tell stories, give me a cup of Earl Grey tea. It really
calms me. If you want to hear real stories, don't let anyone interrupt
or let the phone ring.
Excerpted from A Taste of Heritage
by Alma Hogan Snell
Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press .
Excerpted by permission.
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