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cultural power and controversy...

Fry bread is the most widely recognized food associated with Native American culture, but it is a relatively modern and often controversial addition to our dinner tables. Before the colonization of North America, our ancestors were healthy and strong because they were active and subsisted on a diet of corn, beans, squash, wild foraged berries, greens, wild rice, fruits, nuts, seeds and game that provided complete and balanced nutrition. With the arrival of European colonizers and the eventual Westward expansion of settlers, the crops, wild plants and animals that had sustained our people for generations were systematically destroyed by warfare, modern ranching and development. Tribes were forced from their ancestral homelands onto reservations, often far removed from their traditional hunting and foraging grounds. This resulted in a massive loss of culture and access to that healthy and balanced traditional diet and lifestyle, and created a dependence on government assistance for sustenance in the form of commodity foods like refined flour, sugar, and lard. Our ancestors took these ingredients and created fry bread to sustain our people through times of starvation and desperation. Over the many years since, fry bread has become a staple in Native American homes. At many of our traditional events and gatherings it would be unthinkable to serve a meal without it! The best fry bread is both light and heavy; a crispy, airy, comforting piece of home that also bears the weight of our oppression. A reminder of the suffering our ancestors endured that we might live and thrive today, and a celebration of the continued survival of our people in spite of tremendous adversity.


Making fry bread with OsiyoTV


3 C self-rising flour, plus excess for forming breads
1 C buttermilk
1 ½ C hot water

Place the flour in a medium sized bowl and make a well in the center. Add buttermilk and hot water all at once, and use hands to stir until all flour is evenly incorporated and a very loose dough/batter comes together. Let dough rest at least 30 minutes. 

Fill a large heavy cast iron skillet or dutch oven about 3/4 full with vegetable oil, place over medium high heat. Heat the oil until it reaches about 350°F. Have a clean platter or bowl ready with 2-3 cups of flour, for portioning the breads. Portion the dough into about 1/3 cup portions, one by one, and place into the pile of loose flour. Dust all sides of each dough ball with flour, and use hands to pat the dough out into a 1" thick patty, being careful not to overwork the dough. Carefully place the dough into the hot oil and allow to cook until golden brown on the underside. Use tongs to flip the bread over and cook until golden brown on the reverse side. Transfer the cooked bread to a tray lined with paper towels or a clean linen to absorb any excess grease. Repeat with the remaining dough.


Monie Horsechief's award-winning fry bread at the Pawnee Nation roundhouse in Pawnee, Oklahoma. 

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