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Native Cooking

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Sometimes I feel sad for those who lived long ago and never tasted all the
foods that Native America had to offer. For example, if you lived in the
Southwest and enjoyed blue corn tortillas, it was highly unlikely that you
could enjoy some littleneck clams on-the-half-shell with your tortillas.
The foods of each region: Northeast, Southeast, Plains, Southwest and
Northwest, were distinct, they used local ingredients, prepared
traditionally.

This all started to change about 200 years ago as people moved about and
shared food and ideas. That was a good thing because it led to innovation.
Innovation takes something old, alters it, and creates something new,
something original. Even though new combinations of the old worked, a lot
of traditional dishes remained the same because they are best that way.
People who know that leave it alone.

Growing up in the Northeast, my family had access to then abundant seafood.
Codfish was always available and plentiful. Mussels, clams and scallops
were, too. Lobster has always been expensive, now more than ever because
there is less of it. Cod and other fish are being over harvested. Forty or
50 years ago a few, not enough, insightful people saw this coming. Seafood
farming is still in its infancy.

Clam Cakes

2 quahogs, open, save juice and mince or use one can of minced clams, juice
and all

1-1/2 cups flour

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

1 egg white

Pinch of each: salt, white pepper, sugar

Mix all together into a stiff batter and drop into very hot oil, about
1-inch deep (use a 10-inch cast iron skillet for best results). Cook until
golden all around. Don't go away while they are cooking, turn constantly
with long metal tongs. Drain on paper towels, salt if needed and devour.

Bluefish Cakes

(Bluefish is rich, yet a bit oily. You can easily substitute any
white-fleshed cooked fillet for this recipe)

1 bluefish (or other) fillet, cooked

4 - 6 potatoes

1/2 cup mayonnaise, or low-fat substitute

2 onions, chopped

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

A little oil or butter to fry cakes (You can use a sprinkle or two of Old
Bay or other seafood sea sonings sold commercially)

Cook and mash potatoes, set aside to cool. Saute the onions until they turn
translucent, put them in with the potatoes to cool. When the potatoes and
onions are nearly room temperature, mix fish, eggs, mayo, salt, pepper and
seafood seasoning into them. Fry in light oil or butter until brown on each
side.

Long before the Europeans landed on these shores, Native people were using
shells as their trading medium. It is called "Wampumpeak" or "Wampum."
"Peak" was the white portion of the shell, "wampum" was the purple part of
the shell and was considered twice as valuable as the white because there
was often very little of it on the shell, sometimes, none at all.

Wampum was shaped like tubes, each piece less than one inch long and
one-eighth of an inch in diameter. They were drilled by hand and strung on
a string. That was measured in "cubits" the distance from the tip of the
little finger to the elbow, regardless of the size of the person. Shells
were used in other ways. Sometimes as plates to eat from, digging tools,
cutting tools and ornamentation.

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Quahogs are large, hard-shelled clams. Most are used for either chowder or
recipes like this one.

Stuffed Quahogs

6 quahogs, opened carefully, saving both juice and shells

1 cup ground crackers (Ritz are good)

1 large onion, minced

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons butter, melted Paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set juice aside, grind or mince quahogs. Mix
all ingredients, except paprika, and moisten with the juice. Add more
crackers or bread crumbs if you think it is necessary. Stuff into shells,
rounding the top and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Scallop Saute (for two)

1/2 pound sea scallops

1 cup white corn meal

1 tablespoon Cajun hot seasoning

1 teaspoon parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

Put corn meal, seasoning and parsley in a pie tin or shallow dish. Put the
oil and butter together in a cast-iron pan and preheat while you coat each
end of the scallop with the cornmeal mixture. Saute until crispy golden on
each coated side. Drain on paper towel.

Notes & Tips

Shellfish should always be purchased live, keep refrigerated, cook and
consume the same day.

Shellfish and seafood are heart-healthy foods. Plenty of Omega-3s which
strengthen the heart muscle, keep cholesterol in check and help lower blood
pressure.

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to
NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what
YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books, "New Native American Cooking,"
(temporarily out of print) "Native New England Cooking" and "A Dreamcatcher
Book."

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT
06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.