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Do Breakfast Indian Style: Buffalo Sausage

We are in the heart of Pebon, the Abenaki word for winter season. We have just passed Alamikos, the greeting moon of January. We are still in the early stages of the new year, and with beginnings come many days that start with breakfast.

How nice, I thought, to write about various traditional breakfasts. A good idea—until I remembered there are 565 federally recognized tribes, not counting the many thriving Indian communities not acknowledged as sovereign nations by the U.S. government. Each indigenous society has its own ways of cooking and eating.

The Native population tallies in at 2,932,248, but if you include those of mixed race—Native and other—we number 5,220,579! With more than 5 million Natives having breakfast each day, it is easier to generalize breakfast preferences by region.

When trying to recall my most memorable breakfast experiences, I immediately thought of the huevos rancheros I had in Taos, New Mexico once. Northwest mornings make me think of smoked salmon.

While many cultures may do breakfast in their own unique way, many folks just grab something quick and run. Personally, I like cornbread on-the-go. After you wake up, it's important to eat. Breakfast gives us power and energy for the rest of the day—plus, it can help increase metabolism. My mother would not let me out of the house without a “decent” breakfast; I imposed the same rule on our four kids.

I have a new daughter-in-law who made breakfast food the theme of her evening wedding to our son by the beach. Everyone loved the choices, among them: eggs and omelets made-to-order, hash browns, ham, bacon, sausages and a steamboat round. The reception also offered all manner of rolls, toast, waffles, pancakes, biscuits, French toast, quiche and stratas, plus everything in between. Delightful drinks were served, like fruit juices, coffees, teas, cocoa and champagne-based specialties. It was a delicious treat and beautiful occasion.

Regularly having a big brunch is not the best idea. With the cholesterol, sugar and fat "police" in full-force in the media, we’re all being more conscious about our food choices, trying to eat healthy and locally sourced produce and meat. A Lakota friend once told me her healthy diet secret: She eats only fresh fruit until noon, then pretty much anything else she wants later. I tried it and I did feel better before one day I ruined the whole idea by adding yogurt, walnuts and a wee drizzle of honey to the fruit. This preparation is a far cry from our ancestors, hunter-gatherers who ate small game, shellfish, seeds, nuts, roots and berries—a nutritious primal diet. Then along came the Woodland period and agriculture was added to the mix.

It's important to remember your roots and question: how did we go from subsisting off the land to regulalry consuming white flour, white sugar, fast food—and suffering from rampant diabetes? 

Buffalo Sausage

2 pounds ground buffalo

½ pound ground pork

2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons ground sage

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl thoroughly. Then form the meat into a roll about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and chill overnight. Cut the chilled roll into ½-inch slices and sauté over medium heat until browned on both sides.

Breakfast Burritos

3-4 eggs (or substitute)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon green bell pepper, finely chopped

1-1/2 tablespoons chopped green chiles

1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped

¼ cup grated cheddar cheese

¼ cup Monterey jack cheese

4 burrito-size flour tortillas warmed in a 170 degree oven

Salsa homemade or your favorite commercial brand

Saute the pepper and onion in a little butter. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add the pepper and onion to the eggs, then the chiles and cheese. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and when it sizzles add the egg mixture. Either gently scramble or turn over once until cooked to your liking and fill tortillas and fold like an envelope.

Serve ASAP with salsa.

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.