Thursday, January 9, 2014

A place in history

Pre-Reservation Western Apache Bands
This image is of pre-reservation Western Apache bands. We are cooking in the area known as Dziłgha’á on this map. The high mountains is where we have been working together for the past 5 years with me at the helm as head chef. This has been life changing for me as a chef.

The work that we have done in our community has taken time. Places like Cibecue or the group known as Dził T'aadn have taught lessons and created anchor points for our style of cooking by lending wisdom and opening portals to our Apache Universe through food. The harvesting of juniper berries, juniper, grasses, wild carrots, wild potatoes and other wild edibles that we preserved have provided us with an plethora of taste, flavor and texture. These ingredients we harvested our selves are now being used on our chefs table this winter season.

The Chefs Table at Sunrise Park Resort, which is located in the region of Dziłgha’á on the map here, is a very special occurrence in our history. This group of White Mountain Apaches, our crew has taken Western Apache food ideologies and adapted them to the world around us. As you read this, continue to look back and forth at the map because this is the land of our ancestors and our culinary work with Western Apache Food is decolonization in action. 

It has been the mountains and landscape that have given the most inspiration to our style of cooking. The Chef's Table has been where we utilize the foods from a Chef's perspective. 

Sublimation and "Freezer Burn" or Denaturing egg proteins
More importantly we have been able to share and Re-Member our wild foods with our Apache youth through Science and Cooking workshops where we delve into Western realizations of the natural world that are also articulated in Apache and Navajo. Photosynthesis and energy transfer for example are both described philosophically in life models that are cosmic. By integrating science and cooking with our Western Apache wild foods with youth and adults we get to explore energy transfer in the cooking process and understand the denaturing of proteins in cooking by applying energy on both sides of the spectrum, hot and and ice. 

Energy Transfer through metal, water and gas
By integrating Indigenous philosophy with science, we gain a understanding of our world that is empowering. We also begin to realize that much of Western Science is catching up to Indigenous models of life that integrate science in a natural way. These indigenous science and cooking workshops integrate wild foods and require a botanical knowledge, an Ancestral Knowledge that many of our community members possess. The application of heat/energy, minerals like salt/sugar, acid and smoke to our indigenous foods causes us to interact and revitalize the intimate relationship with our activates a relationship and interaction with our own Terrior. This is the remedy to violence and a movement toward using the vocabulary of affection in our homes and in our minds. The feeling of being "lost" or the despondency felt when identity is lost or not valued is remedied by finding identity through cultural and Ancestral Knowledge. It illustrates the keen intelligent nature of our ancestors and the keen intelligence we possess today. 

Our Western Apache Food and Identity System is cosmic

We also make our Ancestral Knowledge relevant for our generation. When too many people look at the black and white images of Native American history as ages ago, but in reality the black and white images of the past are a mere 3 generations back. Our living history begins to speak and the food is the anchor point in our lifetime, our shared history informs our practice and our shared resilience will ensure the future. 

Apache Elders at our Chef's Table

As a part of  Dziłgha’á, our culinary work is community based and focused on the empowerment of people through sensory experience and participant observation. The late anthropologist Keith Basso has a book titled, "Wisdom Sits in Places" and this is true. The lessons we learned only came from visiting the places where the wild food grew. The lessons came from visiting the landscape where the place-names originated. The anchor points for identity came from cultivating a relationship with self and our land. This Re-Membering of our food traditions inform our practice on the Chef's Table and we produce dishes that are world class, place-based and executed with humility. 

Western Apache 2014

This is one of our dishes Gah (or rabbit) with Onion, Root Vegetables and Sauce Nana. Plated with river stones from the Salt River Canyon. "The Land has Power", we capture this sentiment/fact by bringing in 
elements of the land to use them in our presentation.

Western Apache Food and Cooking

This is a Venison course with pickled onions from Dził T'aadn or Cibecue, dried squash and our crushed Apache Trail Mix. It is garnished with Wild Carrots also from Dził T'aadn. 

Grace inspired Western Apache Cuisine

This is a winter vegetable course inspired by Grace in Chicago where I went to be a stagier this year, two days after they were awarded two Michelin Stars. 

Winter root vegetables are the inspiration here, there is an animal power linked to root vegetables in our Apache universe that is also cosmic. Here we use Amaranth to honor the complex civilizations of all of the Americas.

Roasted Parsnip, Charred Turnip, Braised Radish, Braised Carrot, Charred Sweet Parsnip, Raw Brussels Sprouts with Acid, Raw Radish, Confit Tomato and Baby Kale. We liken being a stagier to an Apache Raiding Campaign in history, where we travel to access tools, technology, foods, gain intelligence and resources to bring them home, adapting them to our own ideals and making them our own. Thank you to Chef Curtis and the Grace team!

This image below is one way that we capture "Identity, Time and Place" in our cuisine. Pictured to the left is an image of the ribs of an Apache dwelling or wickiup. In the Apache language the wickiup is called Gowah or Home. To the right is a dish that evolved on our Chef's Table using pears.

Western Apache Cooking and Cuisine
This dish is translated to Masáána bik’os ndeezi bigową or "The Long-Neck Apple's House" in Apache. There is pears in various forms and a delicious pinon cloud, the spun sugar is the Gowah and 6 different cooking techniques are applied to the pear and served here. 

Joseph C. Ivans, 1899-1992
We chose pears, although not indigenous to the Americas, because my great-grandfather Joseph C. Ivans grew pears in his garden and as a kid, we used to climb those pear trees. My great-grandfather was born in 1899 at the end of the Apache world and on the brink of our Western Apache Revolution that created the world we exist in today. My grandpa Ivans was put on a train in Holbrook, Arizona as a child and sent across the United States to be a student at the Carlisle Indian School, which was the military model for all other boarding schools in the United States. My grandpa Joseph Ivans lived through the next assault on Indigenous existence in America which was a form of psychological warfare on entire generation of Native children under the guise of education in the boarding school system, children who had families then living as prisoners of war on "Reservations". My grandfather represents and embodies Indigenous Resiliency and it was his garden that first introduced me to agriculture and fresh food that he grew for his family in poverty. 

The black and white images are not so far away. This is our living history told through cooking and cuisine. We stand strong in our fields of shared resiliency honoring our culinary traditions while creating decolonial pathways toward solutions.  We are conscious of our place in culinary history and as a Chef, I watch other chefs activate similar forms of Ancestral Knowledge based on their own terrior and it is inspiring to see across the world as we enter an age of responsibility in food culture. Our shared recovery from colonialism is indeed gastronomic, scientific, biological, cosmic and spiritual. 

This is how we are activating Ancestral Knowledge in Western Apacheria. We are grateful that food has been the medium to communicate themes of empowerment, revitalization, decolonization and indigenous health to all people. In the sacred high mountains of Dziłgha’á or the Eastern White Mountains, the land is speaking and we are conduits for the messages in the plants, land, animals, waters...Land Advocates for our Western Apache terrior.