Probably one of the most misunderstood and underrepresented cuisines in the United States today is Native American cuisine. It is the area’s oldest cuisine, one both rich in flavor and diverse in origin, that Native Americans developed long before contact with any Europeans.
Why it’s so underrepresented is a great question without an easy answer. Part of the problem is how the country’s history is told, which isn’t from a Native American perspective. But it’s also because many of the contributions that Native Americans have made to the foods eaten everyday around the U.S. are not acknowledged as part of the history taught in schools, so now most Americans don’t know that many of these foods were given to the world by Native Americans.
Native American cuisine includes indigenous and wild plant and animal ingredients, but it also includes cultivated plant ingredients found in various tribes throughout the Americas. The “Magic Eight” — corn, beans, squash, chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, and cacao — are eight plants that Native people gave to the world and are now woven into almost every cuisine.
Like many cuisines, Native American cuisine is not static. There are four distinct historical periods that comprise it: the Pre-Contact Period (dating back from approximately 10,000 BC to 1492 AD), the First Contact Period (from 1492 AD to the 1800s), the Government Issue Period (beginning in the middle- to late-1800s during the Native American relocation period), and the New Native American Cuisine Period (where we are now). Continue reading from OpenTable