Friday, December 4, 2009
When I confessed to the students in my ASU jewelry workshop that I'd never tried fry bread, they took it upon themselves to remedy the oversight. Bless/curse them for it.
Fry bread is pretty much what it sounds like: a generous disc of leavened dough deep fried until golden. While it can be wrapped around meat, beans, and veggies (a"Navajo taco"), mine was covered with powdered sugar and honey. I went outside to eat it so no one would see me gnawing, crunching, and licking the honey off my knuckles.
Like so many historical sweets, fry bread also has its unsavory side. While it is known as a "traditional" Native American food, the prominent use of refined flour and shortening dates to a particular--and painful--point in First Nations history. An article from the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Nancy Games, a Puyallup and Tulalip who lives in Yelm, WA: "In the concentration camps called reservations, the agents would give you flour, and that's what you used to make fry bread." Weighing in at 700 calories and 27 grams of fat per serving, fry bread was a sort of proto-Powerbar, a fantastic source of energy during lean times that resulted from Native Americans being cut off from their lands and livelihoods. Today, times may tough but they are hardly "lean"; fry bread has been characterized as a key contributor to the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease among Native Americans.