I saw something funny in the Deseret News this morning. Valerie Phillips' food column listed the 50 spiciest cities in the U.S. The information was courtesy of the McCormick Spice folks, who ought to know what they're talking about. The common "super-spices" referred to were black pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, red peppers (including paprika), rosemary, thyme and turmeric. That's a pretty standard list, as far as I could tell. The top five cities were no real surprise: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio/Corpus Christi, Texas. Oh, let's throw in Houston at number six. (Texas ranked high, and that's a no-brainer to me.) I was surprised to see New Orleans as far down as number eleven, but McCormick ought to know.
My personal chuckle: Nowhere - and I mean nowhere - was there a single city from North Dakota. None from Minnesota or South Dakota, either, but I understand this. I spent 12 fine years in Nodak and still miss it, but there is no cuisine in North Dakota. Oh, the Germans from Russia who populate the Golden Triangle of the state would likely disagree with me, but I'll stand by my statement. North Dakotans will tolerate salt and pepper, but they're a bit suspicious of ketchup. Anything beyond that is a strange new world.
And yet. And yet. One of my favorite recipes from North Dakota is one I got from Marilyn Hudson, a Mandan/Hidatsa lady who runs the Three Tribes Museum in New Town, ND. Marilyn's recipe is called 1,000 Year-old Stew, and it is superb. I know it's an approximation of a really old Plains Indian recipe, because I've had a similar stew on the Fort Peck Rez in Montana.
Here it is: It helps to use bison roast, if you can find one, but beef roast will do.
1 lb. buffalo roast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (more is better)
1 c. sunflower seeds, roasted
2 c. cooked pinto beans, or naby, great northern, lima or red
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. homegrown sage, if you have it
1 6 oz. package of Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice
1/2 onion, diced
1 can hominy, drained and rinsed
Use a slow cooker. Add all ingredients and cook on high, covered, for 3 1/2 hours, then turn down to low and cook for 3 more hours. You might add some broth, if you think it needs some. Delicious.
Nope, there's no cuisine in North Dakota, but I think of Marilyn's stew more often than I ever think of something fancy from New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
It's no mistake that Dr. Joe McGeshick, who teaches at Fort Peck Community College, says that the real name of the school is FPCC, but it stands for "Feed People Community College." It seems someone in the office is always throwing a potluck event. But that's the way Indians are.
Fort Peck is a Sioux/Assiniboine reservation. A few years back when I rangered at Fort Union Trading Post NHS on the Montana/Nodak border, Loren Yellow Bird and I were in charge of one of the Indian Showcase events. I asked Joe to demonstrate "stone boiling." Assiniboine means "stone boiler," and you probably all remember in elementary school about reading of Indians boiling food in buffalo bladders, using stones. I had never seen it done, and figured that our visitors at Fort Union hadn't, either.
Joe stone-boiled for us and the visitors and it was beyond cool. He just used a metal pot, but the stones were lava rock, and heated in a campfire. He would drop in a few at a time, and the water would just explode with heat. As he talked, he'd take out stones and add more hot ones. Everyone who saw that demonstration enjoyed it. Did it work? You betcha.
Joe's name intrigued me, since I have Scottish ancestors. I told him I had never heard of a Scottish name like that, and he laughed. McGeshick is a white man's interpretation in English of (I think) a Cree or Ojibwe word meaning eagle flying. Joe has a PhD in ethnology and I recall him now with real fondness. I may have to send him an e-mail - you know, one Fergusson to one McGeshick.
Well, toodleoo until next time.