Sunday, August 2, 2009

pow wow at home

Before I start I should warn you- this may very well be the longest post known to blogging man or woman ;). My wisdom teeth are coming out at 8:30 tomorrow morning (eek! please wish me luck) so I figured since I probably won't be around Monday and while the rest of the early week days are up in the air, I should probably keep you sufficiently entertained for the wait.
This past week, in addition to other events I attended on behalf of Fitness, I also was lucky enough to have been invited and go to the Superfoods Rx lunch at the Westin Times Square.
Dr. Pratt and Westin hotels and resorts have been working together for the past couple of years in the development of a healthier menu for their buffets and catering options. These plates were created for optimum taste and nutrition and it was such a treat to sample them all. After I was satisfied with the delectable little plates I chatted with Dr. Pratt about his nutrition philosophy. We talked about how he formulated the 25 easily accessible, health-generating, and life-sustaining SuperFoods from the top naturally-occurring nutrients.Our conversation then evolved into the Native American diet.
It's a very fitting discussion as well considering that a few days later, yesterday afternoon, I crossed the Hudson River to celebrate the original cultures of the Americas at the annual Pow Wow.

I have mixed feelings about events like this because I don't feel as though the beauty of these people and their lives can be represented in an annual spectacle as such but I hope that the recognition is worthwhile for them and appreciated by the public.

Anyway, let me step down from my soap box to share what I've learned since the SuperFoods Rx lunch.
For many American Native people the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) were dietary staples.

"An interesting fact about this Food trio is that they are all interdependent on one another. Beans grow up the corn stalks and add nutrients to the soil that the others need to grow. Squash is planted in between them to keep the weeds out."

With these and other natural foods, the Native Americans lived healthfully before European invasions.
Today, "Southwestern nations, like the Navajo and Hopis, use the ancient irrigation methods of their ancestors to grow colorful a colorful collection of Corn. These Natives harvest Cactus, Plant Vegetables and Chilies."

On the other hand, "historically, California Natives were unlike most others" and didn't grow a thing.

"The state was [naturally] rich in nutritious Wild Roots, Bulbs and Insects and thousands of California Natives lived very well on the multitude of Fruits, Wild Game, Nuts, Roots and Berries."

"Several Southern Nations like the Seminoles of Florida and the Mississippi band of Choctaws, raise cattle and grow a variety of food crops."

"Some tribes in Minnesota harvest Wild Rice and other related food products both to share with their own people" and to sell."

Natives in Northern Plains states... are raising cattle, while... tapping into the renewable energy market with wind turbines and solar power."

"The Northwest Nations of Washington and Oregon raise Salmon and grow Berries and Grapes." It's worth noting that they also have geothermal potential.
"The New England Nations have a wide variety of Shellfish, Corn, Maple Syrup and wonderful varieties of Apples, Pears, Grapes, Berries, including and abundance of Cranberries in Massachusetts."
Unfortunate was the Pow Wow culinary selection, they offered nothing but nutritionally-void fried foods. What I did try was a poignant healing drink made from three berries and a flower. It was tart and yummy :).
With the few resources that I referenced it was interesting, yet not entirely surprising, to see the wide range of domesticated and wild food ingredients in Native American food and cuisine.
North American Native cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican cuisine in its simplicity and directness of flavor.
In the Southeastern United States, for example, many of the foods we recognize as soul food were derived from the Native Americans: hominy, grits (formerly sofkee), cornbread, boiled beans and field peas, and cured and smoked meats.
Of lesser recognition, though very impressive in my eyes, is acorn flour, ground acorns that made up about 75% of the traditional California American Native diet.

Jerky, jerk meats, and barbeque evolved from Caribbean natives and their flavorful cuisine.

And finally there are the extensive culinary delights from the pre-Columbian populations in Central and South America.

I'm especially grateful to the Mayans, in particular, for the food of the gods, chocolate :).
So, there you have it. What a coincidence that a conversation Dr. Pratt and a visit to the Native American celebration fell within the same few days. I know that many staples in my diet, guacamole for instance (a summer obsession of many it seems), is native to the Americas, how about yours? Still, I realize that I don't exactly eat the ideally nutritious diet of our ancestors so I am considering taking these dietary supplements that I got in the Superfoods Rx lunch gift bag and I'm looking forward to using the face cream, a girl can never have enough products ;). As for his book, I now have two copies! I sense my first giveaway perhaps, would any like a new summer read?

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