The North Coast Nosh has always been about having a lively conversation with local food purveyors and tasting and discovering new (and old) flavors within the context of our newly branded North-ness. The most recent Nosh, however, reached a new level of interaction with food, culture and history, both across time and within our present moment. Curated by Sean Sherman (aka The Sioux Chef), and held at the Minnesota History Center, the sold-out event shined a light on indigenous food — the precolonial food of Native Americans, which is finally, slowly making its way back into our discussions and experiences of what local food truly means. Within the soaring halls of the museum, surrounded by Native American history and art, this Nosh offered up something special.
Arranged throughout the various levels and rotundas were local vendors with which many of us might be familiar — Common Roots, Birchwood Cafe, The Third Bird — and also many Native-American-owned businesses that were new discoveries to many, such as Tanka Bar, Wozupi Tribal Gardens, Dream of Wild Health’s farm, Little Earth Gardens, and more. It was fascinating to wander, taste, talk, and experience just how naturally the values of the local / organic food movement overlap with the rise of native food.
In our interview with Sherman, he explained that a culture without food is a lost culture. Lately, it seems as though he’s been doing all he can to bring Native American culture into the spotlight through its food — and people are catching on, judging by Sherman’s many local and national news appearances, and by the Nosh’s sold-out crowd. Sherman appears to be using his newfound fame not only to endorse his personal brand and mission, but to lift up indigenous food-focused purveyors everywhere. It was amazing to see so many of these purveyors concentrated in one event — we sampled bison jerky from Tanka Bar, wild rice pasta from Red Thunderbird Endeavors, a bison mini burger with local goat cheese on a wild rice bun from Fabulous Catering, and a lot more.
Between bites, attendees took in illuminating talks by local-food pioneer Lenny Russo (bottom right), Sean Sherman (top left), and author Heid Erdrich (bottom left), introduced by Heavy Table editor, James Norton (top right). All of the tasting and talking was woven in and around the museum’s exhibits, including a show of the powerful art of Native American modernist George Morrison. The event took on a celebratory, focused feel — the energy was electric, and the food, of course, delicious.
One standout taste was a clean and deceptively simple dish made by Sherman himself — beans, wild rice, braised turkey and a garnish of amaranth leaves came together in a bowl of rustic soup worthy of the subzero temperatures. This soup begged to be eaten in mass quantities in front of a crackling fire — earthy, slightly sweet, velvety and rich, it was pure comfort in a bowl, even if a disposable one. Another highlight was a fabulous smoked whitefish spread from Red Lake Nation Fishery — this stuff might the finest topping a Ritz cracker could aspire to.
By the end of the night, it was clear that indigenous food is having its coming-out party — even though its always been here. This latest incarnation of the North Coast Nosh gave us a tantalizing look at the future of truly local food, through the lens of the past.
The Heavy Table thanks Mississippi Market and the Hungry Turtle Institute for their underwriting support of this event, and the Minnesota History Center and Sean Sherman for their organizational partnership.