Annie’s eyes widened as she walked into the kitchen. “What is all this?”
LJ smiled, “this, my lovely are ingredients to create a feast based on crops grown by the First People of North America. The homeless shelter board decided we would prepare this month’s meals using these foods for several good reasons. The first one is November is Indigenous Heritage Month, and I do not think that fact gets enough publicity. Second, these foods are native to this part of the world, making them earth-friendly and sustainable. And third, they are all delicious, healthy, and easy to grow and cook.”
“I love the idea LJ, you know, the tradition of Thanksgiving was practiced by the First People of this continent thousands of years before others arrived. The Indigenous People gathered in the fall at a community feast to give thanks for a successful harvest. They offered prayers of gratitude for abundant Mother Earth along with other prayers recognizing their shared responsibility to treat her with respect.
Historians describe how the First People grew and domesticated crops that flourished in the six distinctly different geographic regions of this continent and
“It is estimated that about 60% of the current world food supply originated in North America. When Europeans arrived, the Native Americans had already developed new varieties of corn, beans, and squashes and had an abundant supply of nutritious food. The foods of the Native Americans are widely consumed and their culinary skills still enrich the diets of nearly all people of the world today. – Native American foods: History, culture, and influence on modern diets
“So, what do you have here?”
“Indigenous history is important to know, Annie. One of the ways we can show respect for the First People and their past is never to miss an opportunity, to tell the truth, and give credit where credit is due. How about I start that process by taking you on a food tour of the six regions and what was grown, caught, and eaten in each?
In the Eastern region, the First People grew “the three sisters” corn, beans, and squash and harvested maple syrup, clams, and other shellfish. They gathered cranberries, blueberries, wild greens, chestnuts, walnuts, and beechnuts.
In the Southern region, the Indigenous people grew corn, squash, pumpkin, sassafras, beans, tomatoes, and hickory nuts. Corn was so important to their diet they created a process known as nixtamalization to produce hominy, also known as grits. They gathered blackberries and raspberries.
The Great Plains People gathered prairie turnips, blueberries, strawberries, and buffalo berries. They grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkin, plums, and wild rice. Bison was central to their diet. They used every part of the animal, including its meat and fat mixed with berries, to create pemmican, the first energy bar; they were easy to carry and lasted for months.
In the Great Pacific Northwest, the First People were primarily hunter-gatherers, so their diet consisted of salmon, oysters, mussels, and clams. They gathered mushrooms, berries, and acorns and hunted deer, duck, and rabbit.
The Southwestern Indigenous people developed subsistence agriculture by growing corn, beans, squash, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts. Elk and deer were meat sources, and cutthroat and rainbow trout from the Rio Grande was another protein source.
Alaska’s Inuit’s cuisine was nutrient-dense out of necessity. It included seals, walrus, bear, moose, salmon, fish, ptarmigan, bird eggs, and huckleberries. They had the ultimate high-fat and protein, low-carb diet.”
Annie paused, “there is an Arapaho saying, All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us, and if we listen, we can hear them.”
“I hadn’t heard that one,” said LJ. “Here’s another one from the Arapaho, “Before eating,
always take time to thank the food.”
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.