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Lois Ellen Frank Cooks by the Indian Medicine Wheel

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"American cuisine is a combination of immigrant cuisines in conjunction with Native American cooking," said Lois Ellen Frank, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based chef, author, Native foods historian and photographer, to the The Chicago Tribune.

Frank runs Red Mesa, LLC, a Native American catering and food company, and also published the James Beard Award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations (August 2002), according to the Red Mesa Web site.

She encourages people to integrate indigenous foods into their modern lives, and teaches cooking classes in Santa Fe about embracing the ancestral diet in combination with global foods. Frank recommends referencing the Indian medicine wheel, a symbol to her of cultural-fusion and the interplay of foods from around the world.

"One-quarter of the wheel is yellow, white, black, and red," she said. "Mix the colors together and it becomes speckled corn. Most of us are speckled corn," she told The Chicago Tribune.

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Corn is an apt analogy for Frank, who received her Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from University of New Mexico in May 1999, studying the importance of corn "as a common thread among Indigenous tribes throughout the Americas," reported the Tribune.

Frank also fits her description--she is half Kiowa from her mother's side, and half Sephardic Jew from her father. The chef grew up in Long Island City, New York.

Her goal is to help American Indian cuisine thrive. "Recipes only remain alive if people cook from them," she told the Tribune.