In tough times, people always rely on familiar, basic foods to get them through. Trends in the restaurant industry so far in 2009 have borne out this truism. For Native Americans, the equivalent of chicken soup and hamburgers is Indian fry bread, a staple in their diets for 150 years, dating back to the days when they had little else to eat as they were driven from their lands by settlers.
A local restaurant, though not in Boulder, is the subject of this Spotlight article because Native American cuisine is such a unique and relatively rare phenomenon. Tocabe restaurant, located in Denver, has taken Indian fry bread and built an entire menu around this simple, but tasty traditional food. There are fry bread soft tacos, pizzas with fry bread dough, and powdered fry bread for dessert.
What is Native fry bread? The traditional blend included flour, salt, lard, and water cooked in oil. Tocabe has updated the recipe and addressed health concerns by substituting canola oil for lard and flash frying rather than deep frying the bread. The result is a lighter, sweet bread that has greatly reduced trans fats.
There has been some controversy within the Native American community over the celebration of fry bread. After all, it was the only food American Indians had left after losing everything to the expanding American nation, and it was given to them by their oppressors to boot. To young Natives like the owners of Tocabe restaurant, however, fry bread’s place in the history of their people is firmly entrenched, and whether it got there as a result of good or evil is beside the point.
To sample Tocabe fry bread, visit them at 44th and Lowell in Denver, CO.