Monday, March 2, 2009

Cook like a Native American!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 3:39 PM

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Charles Ferruzza Collection

I have this friend -- no, it's not Pitch theater reviewer and inveterate collector-of-weirdness Alan Scherstuhl -- who is constantly bringing me cookbooks that she finds at junk stores, flea markets, estate sales. Her theory is this: Charles likes to cook and read books, thus Charles must love cookbooks.

I do like cookbooks, but I've got plenty. That hasn't stopped my friend from loading me down with all manner of eccentric culinary ephemera. "You never know when you're going to be looking for a certain recipe," she likes to say to me, handing me a copy of some bizarre treasure like Indian Cookin by Frances L. Whisler (1973, Nowega Press). "And you won't be able to find it because you don't have this."

And she's right. Some dark and stormy night, I might be looking for a recipe for Yellow Jacket Soup and would be utterly lost if I didn't have Indian Cookin (that's right, without a final apostrophe) to tell me how to turn a mess o' swarmin', stingin' little bees into a hot, hearty pot o' soup.

The recipe for Yellow Jacket Soup is on page 33 of this 64-page pamphlet, and explains how one "gathers ground-dwelling yellowjackets... early in the morning." It doesn't suggest gloves, but common sense might tell you otherwise. Once you've got the comb full of bees in your hands, take it to the kitchen and "place over heat right side up to loosen grubs. Remove grubs. Remove and pick out the yellow jackets and brown in oven. Make soup by boiling in water and season with grease and salt."

I do have a nest of yellow jackets in back of my garage. Maybe this spring I'll get industrious and whip up a pot of soup for my neighbors, along with another dish from this book: parboiled toads.

The book, which features a watercolor cover illustration of a beautiful (and apparently topless) Indian maiden grinding corn, has recipes that are more familiar, including pound cake, fried apple rings, huckleberry pie and peppermint tea. It's also filled with nutritional advice, like the warning not too eat too much opposum because it's greasy.

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