Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Frybread and Navajo Burgers

With an Indian reservation just 20 or so miles north of here, I have come to appreciate Navajo cuisine. And we're talking here mainly about frybread.

Frybread is nothing more than flour dough flattened into a circle and fried in oil. But lard is better. It can be a little crispy, which is best when eating it by itself.

The other day we went to the annual fall festival in Socorro called (guess what) Socorrofest. There was a wide variety of bands playing in the gazebo and dozens of art, crafts and food vendors throughout and bordering the plaza. Also a wine and beer tent featuring New Mexico brewers and wineries. Incidentally, for my money the wines coming from the Tularosa valley are as good as the best anywhere. And so is the Monk's Ale brewed by Benedictine monks at Abbey Beverage Company at the Monastery of Christ of the Desert in Abiquii. 

But I digress.

Vanessa and I found a frybread vendor near the wine and beer tent, staffed by AISES students from New Mexico Tech - that's American Indian Science and Engineering Society. It was a fundraiser for the club, so how could we not partake of their board of fare?

Anyway, I hadn't had a Navajo Burger for much too long a time. Navajo Burgers are one my ultimate comfort foods; two hamburger patties, chopped green chile, and lettuce and other stuff that you'd expect with a burger, all folded into that delicious fried dough. And just five dollars.

What a meal. It lasted me well into the evening.

I first discovered Navajo frybread while we were vacationing in New Mexico before we eventually moved here. It has been a traditional food since the 1860s, when the government deemed it necessary to round up all Navajos and relocate them to the Bosque Redondo reservation in eastern New Mexico.

From northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico they were forced by Kit Carson and the U.S. Cavalry to walk hundreds of miles across the state, known now as the "Long Walk." Men, women, children, and elderly suffered the months-long forced march (there were actually several) and an untold number of family members perished along the way. Food was in short supply as well, and what was eaten had to be easily prepared, and thus the first frybread was born.

Today frybread is still a staple not only in the Navajo Nation, but also with Mescalero Apache and in most other reservations across the western states. It has provided not only sustenance, but is also a symbol of their struggles and perseverance. It is part of the sense of identity to the Navajo people.

Anyone can make frybread - it's a no-brainer - but nothing beats the way it's cooked over an open grill by a Navajo lady.

Like we get it here in New Mexico. 

No comments:

Post a Comment