by Margaret Dubin and Sara-Larus Tolley, Heyday Books, 2008, 144 pages, $21.95
Less a cookbook than a cultural anthropological study, Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider is a fascinating look at food and the relationship between California Indian tribes and the lands and ecosystems of Northern California. Family anecdotes and cooking methods give the reader insights into California Indian culture and how native people have approached their food–fish, shellfish, seaweed, meat, vegetables, berries, fruits, flowers, nuts, seeds, and the ubiquitous acorn–with care and reverence. Photographs, both recent and historic, depict the sense of honor and celebration associated with the act of preparing food.
To many native peoples, food is not something that should be packaged in plastic, disembodied from the land, but rather something that should be thanked for giving up its own life to feed those who needed the nourishment. “The food of my people is important to me,” says artist Kathleen Rose Smith (Yoletamal/Bodega Miwok and Mihilakawna/Dry Creek Pomo). “It has sustained us both physically and spiritually since the beginning of time.”
In addition to documenting ceremonies that involve food, Dubin and Tolley present tribal lore and mythology in the words of native people. You’ll learn, for example, that Eel lost her bones gambling. But you can also use this as a cookbook, with recipes for fare such as sunflower bread, barbecued clams, and roasted meat with bay and sage. For a fascinating read and recipes steeped in history, this book is not to be missed.