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A Primal Palate

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As each season comes around I like to imagine how First Man and First Woman would feel. Each day, they trusted their instincts to guide them, and these instincts told them what was right and what was wrong. They arguably faced far fewer distractions and temptations than we do today. They dealt with hardships and challenges but they made decisions based on natural impulses, genetic memory and common sense.

We need to trust this part of ourselves. We need to dissolve our distractions. What better time to start than early in the New Year to renew our spirits, improve our bodies with healthier habits, and motivate ourselves and others?

Personally, cooking calms my mind and reconnects me with the Earth and my primal instincts. During the winter, I like to enjoy a hearty stew.

Warming Winter Stew

2 pounds boneless meat (either beef or bison chuck roast)
2 slices bacon, cut in small bits
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 pounds potatoes, peel on, cut in chunks
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ cup red wine to deglaze pan
2 cups beef or vegetable broth
8 ounces canned whole tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Season with ½ teaspoon each: thyme, sage, savory, juniper berries

Cook the carrots and potatoes together in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Cook the cut-up bacon on the stove in a Dutch oven—a large, generally cast-iron pot, intended for use on the stove top or in the oven. When ready, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the Dutch oven with the bacon drippings, brown the meat, garlic and onion on the stove top. Once browned, deglaze the Dutch oven with a little wine, scraping frequently. Next, add the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and broth to the Dutch oven. Cover and simmer all for two to three hours, stirring every half hour or so.

Wampanoag Sobaheg (Stew)
2 16 ounces cans great northern beans, drained
½ cup grits (samp); if you can’t find grits, substitute 1 can of white hominy
1 pound of meat (venison, rabbit or chicken) cut up into small pieces
2 cups winter squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup sunchokes (optional), peeled and cubed
? cup ground (fine) chestnuts or walnuts
Water or broth
1 teaspoon salt

Use a heavy pot like a cast-iron Dutch oven. You can brown the meat, but it isn’t necessary. Put all ingredients in the pan with enough water or broth to keep from sticking. Keep the mixture on simmer, check and stir often, adding more water or broth if needed.

If you prefer your squash and/or sunchokes more firm, wait to add them until the last 45 or 30 minutes of cooking time.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.