[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s cultural flavors and ingredients continue to find their way into American households, people are starting to look locally to a new flavor palate: Native American. Native American culture is becoming something of a focal point for exploration as the Indian Nations slowly modernize as a way to reassert their independence. At the forefront of the new consumer exchange is, of course, food.
Native American cuisine holds a wealth of knowledge, and Americans have been adopting (probably unwittingly, for the most part) its practices for years. Farm to Table? Yep. Whole Hog? Yep. For centuries, the original Americans have practiced much of what we consider a return to form for clean, healthy eating. Only now are we exploring the vast distinctions of their regional flavors and ingredients, as well as their cultural practices for raising and eating food.
One thing that American food has arguably always lacked is identity. If you travel abroad and step into a grocery store, generally the American Food section is pretty dismal; it mostly consists of overly processed junk food and condiments. When you think of American food, you probably picture hamburgers, hot dogs and pie. Where is the cultural flavor? Where is our heritage in these dishes? We’re still a fairly new country compared to the many cultures we adopt and hybridize to make our cuisine more interesting, but America’s heritage is older and richer than most people realize. Our food heritage goes beyond that of the United States. So what does authentic American food look like? How do we define it?
One man leading the charge to define what that food might be is Shawn Sherman, the Sioux Chef. He created Tatanka Truck, a Minneapolis based food truck that serves up what he considers true American food. Sherman focuses on using ingredients that could be found living or growing locally before the arrival of European settlers–things like wheat flour, beef, chicken or pork are out, while bison, turkey and rabbit are in. Customers can wash it down with refreshing maple water, as well.
As consumers rediscover and embrace what American food can be, we just might learn more about ourselves–and discover a national culinary identity–in the back of a food truck.