Make us your home page
Instagram

American Indian cuisine expert to speak at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

Lois Ellen Frank

Lois Ellen Frank

If you think you know something about American Indian cuisine, you might be surprised to find out what you don't know after listening to Lois Ellen Frank, one of the nation's foremost experts on the native foodways of the Southwest.

Frank, a college professor, historian and culinary instructor in Santa Fe, N.M., has been studying Southwest Indian food traditions since the 1980s. Her book Food of the Southwest Indian Nations (Ten Speed Press, 2002) won a James Beard Award. She dispels the myth that American Indians were the original locavores, eating only what they could grow and raise in immediate surroundings.

For instance, she says, the remnants of wild rice, abalone and cacao beans (chocolate) were found in Chaco Canyon, west of Santa Fe, indicating that people walked there 1,000 years ago.

"That means this area was a trade hub," she says. None of those foods are native to that area of the country.

Frank will lecture on the history of Southwest Indian cuisine and join chef Walter Whitehouse in preparing food for tasting at two programs at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg on Feb. 20 and 22. The Feb. 22 event is for children. The programs are offered by the museum in conjunction with its exhibit, "New Mexico and the Arts of Enchantment Featuring the Raymond James Financial Collection," which runs through May 11.

Frank, who is a descendent of the Kiowa Indians, and Whitehouse, who is a Navajo, will prepare blue corn cob bread with pinion chili beans and Navajo lamb stew along with sunflower cakes with peach honey sauce for the Feb. 20 program. The children will sample Three Sisters Tacos, made of corns, bean and squash, and Tesuque pumpkin cookies.

In a phone interview from Santa Fe, Frank says she thinks that interest in native cuisine has grown in recent years.

"People are curious," she says. "When we look at diversity in American cuisine, people are open to the new information about native food, wondering what it is and how it influenced us."

Frank notes that some people might think of the American Indian diet as unhealthy because of the traditional fry bread and Indian tacos, which rely heavily on lard. That, and other ingredients, she explains, were provided to the reservations by the federal government as subsidies.

"I call those 'sometimes' foods, like ice cream," she said. "And we know we can't eat heavy fat foods everyday. What we see now in native communities is a letting go of this food representing a difficult time."

Frank says that many American Indians are returning to their ancestral foods as a way to trace their history.

In her museum program, Frank will also talk about how native cuisine influenced the world. For instance, Italian explorers brought tomato seeds back to Italy.

"Tomatoes are woven into fabric of their (Italian) culture. You can't imagine Italian food without tomato; but that came from Americas," she says. Likewise, corn, chilies and potatoes.

While Frank is in Pinellas County, she will do a little exploring of her own. She spent many youthful summers in Treasure Island and Gulfport, where her grandmother lived.

"I'll be curious to see how it has changed," she says.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

.if you go

UNCHartED: Native American Southwest Cuisine

Cooking demonstration, two-course tasting, lecture, and book signing with Lois Ellen Frank and chef Walter Whitewater, 6-8 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE. $35, $20 members. Reservations required byMonday.

A children's Make & Eat event is 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 22 at the museum. $5 per person for ages 5 and older. MFA members free. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information and reservations, go to fine-arts.org or call (727) 896-2667, ext. 210.

American Indian cuisine expert to speak at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

02/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 6:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Plan your weekend: June 30-July 2: Vans Warped Tour, fireworks, corgi races, Guardian Con, Dan TDM

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Vans Warped Tour: The shirtless and inked-up masses will once again descend upon St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park on Saturday to mosh and thrash to dozens of bands across seven stages. This year brings the likes of Gwar, thrash group Municipal Waste, Southern metal band Valient …

    Corgi in the grass; Dog playing the the grass; iStockphoto.com
  2. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  3. Fourth of July celebrations firing off all around Hillsborough

    Events

    Apollo Beach

    Food Truck Festival celebrates fourth

  4. Channelside, downtown sight of holiday festivities

    News

    CHANNEL DISTRICT — The City of Tampa's largest Independence Day celebration, Light Up Tampa Bay, returns to Channelside Plaza on Tuesday with fireworks, live music, entertainment, face painting and food trucks.

    Fireworks explode over Channelside during last year’s July 4th celebration.
  5. YouTube's Minecraft sensation Dan TDM brings live show to Clearwater

    Events

    Dan Middleton's YouTube channel has had more than 10 billion views since 2012.

    Dan Middleton's Dan TDM live tour is set to stop in Clearwater on Sunday. [Photo by Emily Herogian]