Get me to the powwow — frybread recipe

    “Get me to the powwow.”

    That’s a line that always draws chuckles from my friends when we watch Dreamkeeper, a wonderful family film about Native legends and the preservation of Native culture. I recommended the DVD a couple months back both for adults and for kids. It’s perhaps the best film I’ve ever seen about the need to preserve Native stories and culture, bringing to life the legends and history of many Indian nations as a grandfather attempts to help his troubled teenage grandson.

    Grandfather is a traditional storyteller, an elder who keeps the dreams of his Lakota people. His grandson, Nathan, has gotten himself into trouble with a rez gang and doesn’t want to drive his grandfather to the All Nations Powwow far away. But, of course, Grandpa gets his way, and Nathan’s life is forever changed.

    If the Indian aspects of Naked Edge interested you, I can’t recommend Dreamkeeper highly enough. Get it through Netflix, borrow it from your library or buy it from Amazon. It is absolutely 110 percent worth it. The ending brings me to tears every single time, and it’s wonderful watching Native people acting out their own stories. Plus, the actor who plays the leader of the rez gang is a friend of ours who got his start in acting in Dances With Wolves.

    Speaking of powwows, today is the culmination of the Denver March Powwow, an annual event that draws thousands. Denver lies in the heart of Indian Country, sitting between the reservations to the north and those to the south. So it’s a natural meeting place.

    Those of you who've read Naked Edge might remember that the heroine, Kat, met Grandpa Red Crow, a Lakota holy man, at the Denver March Powwow, where she’d gone in search of decent frybread (though I suspect she makes good frybread herself). The real Kat is there now, along with other friends. I have chosen stay home, in part because I need to write and in part because Benjy left this morning and I'm moping. But back to frybread...

    At the recent spoiler chat, someone asked for a frybread recipe. In honor of Kat’s search for frybread — and the deep friendship that she discovers with Grandpa Red Crow — I thought today would be the perfect day to share what I found.

    Navajo frybread

    What you’ll need:
    • Crisco, oil or lard for frying melted to about 1/2-inch depth
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 T baking powder
    • 2 T salt
    • 2-1/2 cups warm milk
    In a heavy frying pan, melt lard or shortening and heat to 356 degrees F. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and mix well. Kneed a bit. When the dough has pulled together, divide it into balls that roughly fill your hand. Flatten these into tortilla-shaped rounds. Place one at a time into the hot oil. When the rounds bubble up, test with fork to see if you can flip them. Flip and cook until golden. Set aside on power towels. Serve hot.

    If you want to watch the process before you try it, there are many frybread videos on YouTube. This one includes some tips on turning the frybread and shows some different ways of stretching the balls of dough. This one is fun because it shows a group of women making frybread on the rez over a communal fire at a community event. The guy in the background goes back and forth between speaking English and Diné, so you get a chance to hear that. Plus, one of the women is turning her frybread with a very basic cooking tool — a long stick.

    So what do you do with frybread once you make it? You can eat it with a meal or as a snack. You can put seasoned ground chicken, bison, beef, elk or whatever meat you like on top a piece of frybread, add black, pinto or refried beans, shredded lettuce, shredded jack cheese and salsa for what’s commonly called an “Indian taco.” Yum! I also like to eat it with warm honey as a kind of dessert. Powdered sugar probably works nicely, too. Maple syrup? Could be tasty.

    However you choose to eat it, eat it all, because by morning your luscious frybread will have become cold, greasy, doughy discs. I have tested this theory myself, having taken a bunch of frybread and honey camping with me in the desert on the rez. I thought I had breakfast all ready and waiting for me. Instead, I had a mouthful of ewwww.


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