Native Cooking

Is it me, or is every other phrase in the media about the ''environment'' or ''global warming?'' It's rather amusing that the current culture thinks they have discovered a new blight to be rid of by marketing it to death. ''Green'' is the catchword. Live green, eat green, buy green and be green. What are we, frogs? As Native people, most of us were raised to respect nature, not waste anything and live within our means.

It is rude to be pretentious; not sharing good fortune is less than acceptable. We know this and most of us try to live and ''walk in beauty,'' in balance with Mother Earth. My family was fond of pithy sayings like ''waste not, want not,'' or ''use it up, make it do, wear it out.'' As a young married woman, I still remember a friend confessing to me that she put her coffee grinds in foil and threw it out! She wasted the grinds (which should go on the blueberry bushes) and the foil (which should have been reused and recycled). She knew it was bad to do; that's why it was a guilty confession.

We all see ugly waste every day. I suppose we can only do what we can as individuals, and then there may be some hope. As the first stewards of the land, maybe it is time to teach what we know.


Cornbread Casserole

1 pound loose sausage (sweet or hot)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 16-oz. can tomatoes

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 12-oz. package corn muffin mix

1 cup American or mild Cheddar cheese, diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown and cook sausage through, then drain on paper towels. Brown the onion in sausage drippings. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, oregano and pepper and simmer for a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, prepare corn muffin mix as directed and stir in Parmesan cheese. Spread in a greased 2-quart baking dish. Put sausage and onion on the dough, then the tomato mixture as evenly as you can. Bake for 20 minutes. Now sprinkle with American or Cheddar cheese and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until bubbly.


Grilled Meats on Sticks (aka Shish Kabobs)

1/2 pound each (choose 3), cubed: buffalo, beef, lamb, pork or chicken

1/2 cup vinaigrette-type salad dressing

2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 large onion, cut in 1/4-inch slices

1 green bell pepper, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced

1/2 pound portabello mushrooms, cut in 1-inch slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate meats in salad dressing, salt, pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and portabellos overnight. The next day, remove meat from marinade. Place cubed meat and vegetables on skewers alternately, leaving space for meat to cook on all sides. Keep brushing meat with marinade as you grill it over charcoal or gas. (You can also use the oven broiler.) We like ours served with chutney.


Wild plant foods are abundant now. I have my favorites, although my foraging knowledge is far from scientific in any way. Most of us learned to forage from relatives who were patient enough to teach. My mother, grandmother and uncle all showed me various things at different times with a ''Here, eat this,'' not ''This is tropaeolum majus from the Latin ...'' Some of my personal favorites are dandelion, nasturtium, violets, pansies, mustards and cress. I was surprised to learn that cress of all kinds is part of the mustard family.

Watercress Soup

2 bunches watercress leaves (3 - 4 cups)

1 large sweet onion, chopped

6 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon parsley

1 pinch each: ground sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper

4 large potatoes, cubed

2 tablespoons butter

Saute the onion in the butter until golden. Put cubed potatoes in the chicken broth and simmer until cooked through. Add watercress, onion, parsley, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Simmer a few minutes to blend flavors together and serve.


Notes and Tips

-- If you use a charcoal grill, pour an inch of sand in the bottom. Let the coals sit on this and it will keep the bottom from wearing out for a long time.

-- If you have a running brook near on or your property, stick some watercress in a glass of water to root, then ''plant'' it in the stream or brook; it spreads like crazy, saving you money.