It makes sense to cook with what grows, roams, and swims where you live—proximity equals freshness, and eating local foods is a way of eating more naturally.
Sean Sherman, chef and owner of Owamni by The Sioux Chef, has an approach that goes deeper: He strives to primarily use ingredients that are native to North America, particularly the upper Midwest. While Sherman’s cooking is sometimes called precolonial, at its heart his cuisine is about celebrating native (and Native) foodstuffs and not about shunning ingredients brought here from other continents.
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Sherman’s philosophy was inspiring. Editor in Chief Toni Tipton-Martin and Editorial Director Bryan Roof journeyed to Minneapolis to eat at the restaurant and get to know Sherman and his food better. Upon their return, we gathered our team to cook through his book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (2017), and to reflect on what researching and cooking his recipes meant to us. And then, we developed a small menu of Thanksgiving dishes that abide by chef Sherman’s principles of focusing on foods native to North America.
We created recipes for Cider-Braised Turkey, Hand-Harvested Wild Rice with Dried Mulberries, Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Maple Chile Crisp, and Watercress and Apple Salad with Maple-Hazelnut Vinaigrette, all crafted solely from ingredients that naturally evolved on this continent.
Thus, there is no wine in these dishes, no black pepper, no dairy, no pork, no cane sugar, no citrus. What we found was that omitting those ingredients didn’t limit us in the kitchen—it freed us to look at ingredients and flavors differently and to think about the origins of our food in a more profound way.
In The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sherman says that few Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving today because of the holiday’s complicated history. But, “Many do gather . . . in a ritual giving of thanks for the harvest and to honor their ancestors. Our family and friends cook a meal of squash, wild rice, and turkey all seasoned with indigenous flavors.”
However you approach the holiday, we hope that you celebrate the season with your loved ones—and these recipes.