During the days of American colonization, many aspects of life before the European invasion vanished from the land. People were driven off their homelands, often into territory strange and frightening to them. Since these peoples were dependent on the bounty of the land of their ancestors for such things as clothing, medicine, art, and tool making, many traditional activities had to be dramatically altered or abandoned altogether.
Fortunately for foodies all over the country, many of the American Indian food traditions have remained. In fact, some of the foods the original Americans were eating when the Europeans arrived are still eaten today. Many of them are even considered traditional modern American foods.
Many of today’s American Indians have a harsh opinion of the beloved tradition of Thanksgiving that our country celebrates as a nation every November. Turkey, cranberries, and cornbread are dishes many modern American families couldn’t do without for this all-day dining extravaganza and it was the American Indians who taught the first settlers how to cook them. By the standards of many, this knowledge alone is reason enough to be giving thanks on a regular basis.
Other foods that were once considered Indian food but now are enjoyed on dinner tables across America are succotash, stew, chili, tortillas, tamales, and tacos. Many of today’s food crops are fruits, vegetables, and grains the American Indian was eating for centuries. Beans, squash, tomatoes, chile and bell peppers, sunflowers, rice, peanuts, and avocados are among some of these long-time favorites.
The most popular meats eaten in America today – beef, pork, chicken, and lamb – come from animals imported by the European settlers so they were not a part of American Indian food until relatively recently. In addition to the turkey already mentioned, the American Indian ate deer, antelope, elk, moose, bison, rabbit, and bear. Squirrels, sloths, and the oppossum were eaten, too, and so were the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon until they became extinct.
American Indian food was fun, too. The dessert table of America today wouldn’t be the same without vanilla, pecans, walnuts, blueberries, honey, and maple syrup. All these foods are indigenous to the United States and have been enjoyed throughout the ages.
Mmmmmmmm! All this wonderful food and not a drive-through burger joint in sight.