WHAT’S IN YOUR KITCHEN PANTRY? If you answered quinoa, green beans, or potatoes, you have, perhaps unbeknownst to you, been eating Native American heritage. “They might not know they have indigenous foods in their cupboard: might be canned corn, canned beans, squash,” says Brian Yazzie, a Twin Cities-based chef and food activist from the Navajo Nation, of his YouTube channel’s at-home viewers. But thanks to the ingenuity of indigenous farmers, who domesticated these crops over millennia, much of the world relies on Native American staples when times get lean.
Like most American chefs, Yazzie canceled his in-person engagements for March and April. So he is bringing Native food directly into community homes. Yazzie has moved much of his operation online, offering how-to videos and one-on-one remote classes for home cooks looking to learn about indigenous American cuisine while turning their pantry staples into a feast. And he’s teamed up with the staff of the Minneapolis American Indian Center’s Gatherings Cafe to make and deliver meals to Native elders in the Twin Cities area. “Being an indigenous chef and being able to use my skills and network to help those who are in need in this time is keeping me sane,” Yazzie says.