By Jack Spaulding
While on vacation a few years ago, my wife and I stopped at a local restaurant in Chinle, Ariz., specializing in Navajo Cuisine. Scanning the menu, I quickly settled on a local favorite, a wonderful goat stew served with our favorite, fry bread. Chris opted for a delicious Navajo Taco which came with its ingredients wrapped in fry bread.
Fry bread originated in the mid 1860’s on the Navajo Reservation during some of the darkest days of our nation’s history. During a forced migration called “The Long Walk” of a brutal 300 miles, many sick and elderly Navajo died as they were forced onto a reservation. Food was to be provided to the tribe, but often the reservation commissary had no meat, and the people were given only lard and flour. Lacking conventional wood stoves or baking ovens, the Native people came up with a unique answer to offset starvation using only the flour and lard. Out of desperation, Indian fry bread was born.
Combining flour and water along with baking powder, the Native cooks would form a stiff dough into a ball and pat it out with their hands into a small patty. Punching a hole in the center of the patty, it would be fried in hot oil or lard until browned on both sides. A clean stick was used to flip the patty and inserted through the hole to lift the cooked fry bread from the oil. Hot, nutritious and quickly cooked, fry bread held off starvation during an unimaginable time of hardship.
One of the best fry bread recipes we have comes from retired conservation officer Tony Sanders. The ingredients are two cups of enriched flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tablespoons of shortening, 2/3 cup of water and vegetable oil.
Instructions are to mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening. Sprinkle in the water while tossing with a fork until the flour is moist and the dough almost cleans the bowl. Refrigerate and let rest for 30 minutes.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy pan to 400 degrees F. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll or pat each piece into a 6-inch circle, Let rest a few minutes. Make a ½ inch hole in the center of each circle and fry until puffy and golden, or about 1 minute on each side.
Topped with powdered sugar or drizzled with honey, fry bread makes an excellent desert. For a real treat, try fry bread complemented with Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly.
Fry bread makes a wonderful addition to campfire cookery. The patties can be made ahead of time and kept cooled on ice until fried. Better make plenty as this camp specialty gets gobbled up quickly.
Fry bread stands as a testimony to Native American ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Protect Indiana’s Eastern box turtle
Eastern box turtles are listed as a species of special concern in Indiana due to population declines involving habitat loss, road mortality and collection for pets. If you see one this summer, be sure to keep the following guidelines in mind:
• Eastern box turtles may not be collected from the wild; however, if you accidentally catch an Eastern box turtle from Indiana from the wild, please contact the Division of Fish & Wildlife at DFW@dnr.IN.gov; do not release it into the wild. Its chances of survival are low, and it could transmit diseases to other wild Eastern box turtles.
• Sick or injured Eastern box turtles should be left in the wild. Don’t fret – box turtles are surprisingly resilient to damage and disease. If left alone, they will likely heal on their own. If a box turtle appears severely injured, it can be given to a licensed rehabilitator or licensed veterinarian.
If you see a wild Eastern box turtle crossing a busy road, you can pick it up and move it to the other side of the road in the direction it was facing. DNR appreciates your efforts to conserve wildlife.
Spring Mill hosts Village Tasting
Spring Mill State Park will host its Village Tasting Experience from 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 10 in its Pioneer Village. Participating distilleries are: Spirits of French Lick, Luxco/Ross and Squibb Distillery from Lawrenceburg, Distillery 64 from New Albany, Old 55 Distillery from Newtown, Hard Truth Distilling Company, of Nashville, Donum Dei Distillery, of New Albany, Dusty Barn Distillery, of Mt. Vernon, and West Fork Whiskey Company, of Westfield.
In addition to the tasting, there will be appetizer pairings, music, interpretive programs, photo opportunities, and other activities. Products from the distilleries will be available for cash purchase.
The event is limited to the first 400 people age 21 and older. Cost is $35 per person if staying in the park’s campground and riding the shuttle, and $45 if not staying in the campground. Individuals not staying on site must have a designated driver who is 21 or older. The designated driver will not be charged and may participate in all events but the drink tasting. There will be no designated drivers from the campground; all campers must take the shuttle.
Advance registration is required and can be made by calling 812-849-3534 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Payment is required at the time of registration. There are no refunds. The event will take place rain or shine.
For information about the event, contact Coletta Prewitt, interpretive naturalist, at cprewitt@dnr.IN.gov, or 812-849-3534.
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Spaulding’s books, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” and his latest, “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from Amazon.com in paperback or as a Kindle download.