Foreword recently announced the results of the 2017 INDIES Book of the Year Awards. In addition to the exalted list of Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal winners, Foreword Reviews’ editorial team pored through more than 950 nonfiction entries before awarding The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen the Editor’s Choice Prize for Nonfiction. Written by Sean Sherman and published by the University of Minnesota Press, the book helps preserve America’s indigenous food history through innovative recipes, interviews with tribal elders, and painstaking research.
Eric Patterson, a nationally recognized chef himself, reviewed the book in the September/October 2017 issue of Foreword Reviews (see the review below) and also interviewed Chef Sherman for a Foreword Face Off earlier this year—-their conversation is one for the ages.
The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley, University of Minnesota Press, Hardcover, $34.95, (256pp), 978-0-8166-9979-7
There are cookbooks from which one simply cooks the recipes, and cookbooks like Chef Sherman’s, from which one learns how and why to cook.
Chef Sean Sherman’s The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen is the culmination of years of research, professional development, and passion. It is a springboard from which a new and exciting field of cooking is developing—under Chef Sherman’s leadership and that of a handful of other chefs. The stories of those chefs are here too, along with their recipes.
One of the book’s best features are the informative sidebars scattered throughout. They cover topics ranging from the difference between locavore and trade-a-vore, to the centrality of beans in the indigenous diet, to the noble way to hunt.
Chapters are organized to reflect where ingredients are gathered. Chapters like “Nature’s Sweets, Teas, and Refreshing Drinks” remain true to indigenous roots—working without white flour, sugar, and dairy, and relying on traditional ingredients instead.
In “(Not) Fry Bread,” Chef Sherman lays out his vision for reclaiming indigenous food, observing the difficulty of culinary symbols that connect back to painful historical narratives. He suggests updating the story and returning to the healthy traditional foods of indigenous people
… and [to] the promise that we can stand up to the foods that have destroyed our health, the forces that have compromised our culture.
This is exciting work, from a professional perspective and otherwise. It showcases food as a focal point, bringing people together.
There are cookbooks from which one simply cooks the recipes, and cookbooks from which one learns how and why to cook. Chef Sherman’s book is in the latter. It is a cookbook meant to be studied, one where the recipes are not its most important feature, but rather a part of an overall call to reclaim the history and culture of indigenous peoples, beginning with a reclamation of their traditional foods.
Chef Sherman observes that controlling food is a means of controlling power. With this cookbook, he is taking that power and giving it back to its rightful owners.
Reviewed by Eric Patterson