Thursday, April 23, 2009

Indian Tacos and Thanks, SquirrelQueen!

Day 133 - Indian Taco
Originally uploaded by Terrawoods

Many thanks to SquirrelQueen for a bit of inspiration for today’s blog. To answer her question, yes, in fact, I was a Girl Scout! Well, a Brownie, anyway. My own experience with scouting wasn’t very outdoor-oriented, in fact most of the activities we did involved indoor crafts and volunteering at the local nursing homes. It was a great experience, nonetheless.

I’ve always loved spending time in the woods and outdoors. I learned most of my outdoor survival skills from my father, and added to those during my time spent at an outdoor survival camp for delinquent girls. I learned a ton more while living with tribal members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, in Central MN. I have camped outdoors in all types of weather, even at temperatures of 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero. I can build my own shelter and survive on berries and plants if I have to. I could give you a recipe for wild rice cooked with onions and wild mushrooms; or I could ramble on about how the root of the cattail is edible, once peeled and boiled like a potato. However, many wild mushrooms that look edible can kill you, and cattail does not really taste like potato, unless you like your potatoes grown in a mucky, fishy swamp, with the taste to match. Venison is great, but if you don’t hunt or know someone who does, it can be hard to find in your typical grocery store. I may eventually get to a recipe or two for that in the fall, though – we had some venison sausage last night for dinner and it was wonderful! Not to mention that I have a recipe for the world’s best venison crock-pot stew. I will have to share that with you some other time, though!

First of all, I need to explain that when I say Indian, I am referring to Native American. None of the Natives I personally know take offense to it, which is why I use that term. Some people of the younger generation would rather be called Native, and I use that term too. Though I myself am not Native American, my father was born on the White Earth Indian Reservation, and my nephew is Native (I just love him to pieces!). I would never purposely insult him or anyone else by using a derogatory racial slur. I know some people are rather sensitive to this issue, so if you are, it is not intended to be insulting.

When I lived at the ranch in Onamia, very near the Mille Lacs Reservation, there were always lots of people around; mostly kids, often there were plenty adults there, too. My friends that owned the ranch had at least 40 horses, and during the summer they gave guided trail rides and would allow people to camp on their land. That is how we met. Every weekend I was camping up there and riding horses. Eventually, with the guidance of my friend, I bought a horse at auction and boarded her there. When I moved from Minneapolis to the Mille Lacs area, I lived with my friends on the ranch for about 4 months while looking for a farm of my own to purchase. In exchange for room & board, I took care of animals and did daycare on the side for other friends who had to work “real” jobs. Each morning started around 5:00am. I would roll out of bed and pull on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and then my crappy little canvas tennies without socks. The big pasture where my horse was to be found was about 80 acres, so it would be a long walk through wet grass to find her. Before catching my horse I fed and watered the chickens and turkeys, gave the cow some grain and alfalfa and fed the donkey, if he wasn’t out in the pasture with the horses. Sometimes there were other horses that were kept in a pen closer to the house and the barn, so those would get some grain, too. On my way out to the big pasture, I would drag the hose along and start the two big troughs at the near corner of the pasture filling while I went out with a rope and halter to catch Penny. I usually had time for an hour’s ride before everyone else was up and moving. During the summer months, trail rides were usually scheduled as early as 9 or 10 am, which allowed plenty of time to get showered and put on clean clothes after chores & riding. On the weekends, when most everyone was around, we could have as many as 20 people or so for breakfast. My girlfriend and her husband had recently had twins, so I would cook for everyone and handle general cleanup afterward. Weekend breakfast was always a big affair, and the older kids would often help with cracking eggs, peeling potatoes and chopping peppers. Hash browns with chopped onions, green pepper and cheese would be started first, along with the bacon or sausage. Scrambled eggs and toast were the last two items to start, since they don’t take as long to make. When making scrambled eggs, I would always count two or three eggs per person (plus one for the pan), and add a shot of whole milk or cream to the mix before adding to the pan. Breakfast would usually be a really filling meal, since lunch was typically something quick and light, like sandwiches. With people coming and going all the time, it was always a guess when it came to planning on how many to cook for. When the grill was started up, I think people could smell it for miles; lots of people would drop by at dinnertime, we never ran out of food, though.

One of my favorite Indian foods has got to be Indian Tacos. It’s very easy to make, and a great way to serve a crowd. The best part of those tacos is the fry bread. It might not be the healthiest thing on the menu, but it’s a wonderful treat. My friend’s mother, Shirley, makes the BEST fry bread, bar none. The first time I tried making it, to be honest with you, my fry bread turned out more like hockey pucks. Shirley laughed about that one. One of the elders writes about fry bread, along with a simple recipe for it, on the Mille Lacs Band website:

And, if you are interested in learning more about the Mille Lacs Band, please stop by their main page:

If you ever happen to pass through the area, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum is well worth a visit. It is filled with artifacts and beautiful art; when I found my visit there very interesting since I know many of the people whose ancestors are in the old photos on exhibit, and some of the people who have created some of the costumes and art. If you do go, try to get the guided tour. The dry wit of an elder may cause you to think twice, and will definitely leave you with a smile.

To make Indian Tacos, you will need fry bread (1 piece per serving), and whatever other taco fixings you like. At our house, that’s usually taco meat (prepared with the packaged seasoning) or sliced grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeno peppers and salsa or green chili sauce.

To assemble, layer all of your toppings on the fry bread, like an open-face sandwich. If you want to be really polite, eat with a knife and fork. Otherwise, just dig in and make a huge mess – that’s what we do around the campfire, and the dogs are quick to snap up the fallen crumbs!

The picture in this post is from another talented Flickr poster, Terrawoods. Please be sure to stop by her Flickr page, for more beautiful photographs!


  1. My Mother makes Navajo Tacos- which she learned strait from an Indian- and they are freaking amazing! mmmmm.....

  2. My Grandmother used to make the best fry bread ever, I have made it but not in a long time and not nearly as well. Maybe I will drag out her recipe this weekend. Indian tacos does sound good.
    Really enjoyed the story. Have a great weekend,


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