Magazine article Sunset

Native Southwest

Magazine article Sunset

Native Southwest

Article excerpt

FOOD *ADVENTURES IN COOKING

Authentic pueblo flavors on the Santa Fe Trail

* When the Spanish marched into the Southwest more than four centuries ago, pueblo dwellers expanded their culinary repertoire to include ingredients that many of us assume are indigenous. Chilies, for example-the Spanish brought them up from Mexico along with Old World foods such as wheat, rice, lamb, and chicken. The tale of these foods' integration into pueblo culture was shared with me long ago by Helen Cordero and was later confirmed by Juanita Tiger Kavena, two fine Native American cooks.

In the Cochiti Pueblo of New Mexico, I lent a hand as the now-late Cordero, fabled potter, cooked for a feast day. Among the dishes was chicken and rice (arroz con pollo), which had a pleasant, subtle flavor that puzzled me. The chicken was seasoned with onions, mild chilies (fresh green and powdered red), and a wild herb (the mystery taste).

From Kavena, who married into the Hopi Pueblo and has studied and written about native and cultivated plants, I learned that the mysterious nuance was likely from a wild mint (Mentha arvensis). …

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