I know that food is a wonderful way for people to express their culture and traditions, and for others to appreciate them. It’s something I really enjoy. Last year I heard part of an interview with chef Sean Sherman on the radio. He fascinated me so much that I looked him up online.
Something that really stood out to me was Mr. Sherman’s commitment to “decolonizing food” – that is, using only ingredients available to indigenous peoples before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. Which of course means no beef, no wheat, and no dairy. No white rice, no cane sugar, no pork, no chicken. without preserves anything. Staples at almost every other restaurant in the United States. Could make a person wonder, what’s left? Turns out it’s a great deal.
During the interview, Mr. Sherman explained that while he exclusively uses native ingredients, his restaurant does not offer a recreation of the dishes Native Americans ate before colonization. It’s not a trip back in time to the centuries before 1492. It’s a unique and contemporary celebration of the healthy and delicious foods that have been a part of Native American cultures since day one.
Mr. Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Growing up, he saw firsthand the effects that government products, highly processed convenience foods, and ordinary American cuisine can have on Native Americans. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more. He saw the devastating effects of erasing an entire culture by replacing the foods, an essential part of any culture, traditionally eaten by Native Americans with the foods of the colonizers. Not to mention the suppression of traditional methods of growing and harvesting indigenous foods. He has been absolutely tragic.
Mr. Sherman has worked in the restaurant business most of his life, from waiting tables to executive chef. A year spent in Mexico living among the Huichols was a turning point for him. Observing how they lived, what they ate, everything about his daily life pointed to a kind of disconnect between him and his own cultural heritage. It inspired him to dive deep into the past and imagine ways to bring that heritage into the present. Both traditional and fresh, creative and contemporary as anyone could wish for. The result is the company he founded with his partner Dana Thompson, called The Sioux Chef. Offering catering and a full service restaurant in Minneapolis called Owamni. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from indigenous food growers, Owamni was named America’s Best New Restaurant of 2022 by the James Beard Foundation. If I’m ever in Minnesota, I’m making reservations.
To learn more about Mr. Sherman, his mission, his non-profit organization, and his restaurant/catering business, check out these links:
Oh, and he has a cookbook! www.upress.umn.edu/… (This won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook in 2018)
Thank you for reading. This is an open thread, all topics are welcome.