Native Cooking

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It;s light at the end of the longhouse time. I think it's OK to feel a little spark of renewal and a smattering of springtime undertones.

I'm feeling it and even hearing it on certain mornings - early when the birds talk. Food was probably getting a little short for the Old Ones about now, so this must be why they concentrated on crafts and finishing up projects that were time-consuming.

They put the energy and the time there instead of into creative cooking, so the time passed more quickly.

Cycles are different now. Their lives were simple, therefore, rich. We get weighed down with lots of foolish things we think we need to do to keep current, contemporary and cool: how to remember the full name of that latte, pick up the clothes at the cleaners, buy cards, rotate tires, plot ways to survive at work in the office. Not to mention traffic! Good grief, what a world we deal with now.

I prefer bird talk, being outside early when there is no other sound at all, and drifting thoughts that wish for an ideal existence. Sometimes, that makes me want to make something warm and comforting. Cooking can be very elemental, soothing, and can straighten your head out very quickly as to what is important to your life. To cook from ''scratch'' once in a while is good for the soul. I wish you the time to do this as often as possible.

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Chili Powder from Scratch

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container. (I store mine in a strong plastic freezer bag and freeze.) You can double or triple this recipe and freeze as well.

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You might think it's crazy, but this is a great time to make some soup/chowders. I love clam chowder - the thick, creamy, rich New England type - but if you have any pumpkin, butternuts or dried corn hanging about, they are good to make use of now before they're ''gone.''

An Easy Pumpkin Soup

2 pounds raw pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

1 medium onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups hot milk

2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Cover the pumpkin with cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and puree; set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan and cook onions for 2 or 3 minutes. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and slowly add milk, chicken broth and pumpkin puree. Stir well and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

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Corn Chowder

1 cup dried corn

4 potatoes, unpeeled, cut in 1/2-inch dice

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

2 stalks celery

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

Put corn, potatoes, onion, celery, broth and water in a large soup pot and simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes. (Longer would not hurt.) Add some salt, parsley and a little black pepper. It's ready when thickened and aromatic. Sprinkle with bacon crumbs and serve.

Note: You can substitute a can of hominy, drained, for the dried corn and a tablespoon of cornmeal.

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Iroquois Fish Soup

1 pound white-fleshed fish

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 quart water

2 cans beef broth

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1 large onion, chopped

1 can large lima beans, drained

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon parsley

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Saute garlic, onion and fish in butter about 5 minutes or until fish starts to flake. Add water, broth, mushrooms, parsley, basil, pepper, cornmeal, salt and beans. Simmer all over low heat for 30 - 45 minutes.

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A Bannock Bread

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons bacon drippings

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients separately in a medium bowl. Add bacon drippings and water slowly. Heat oil in a cast-iron frying pan. When hot, spoon the batter into the oil. Cook until well browned on each side. For variety, use 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of cornmeal instead of 2 cups of flour.

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Notes and Tips

* There are lots of canned goods sales now: a chance to stock up on beans, corn, tomatoes and other items used frequently.