Navajo Fry Bread
One of the traditional foods of the Navajo Nation is fry bread. While many tribes of the American Southwest have adopted the food, its origins are Navajo. However, the history of the origin of fry bread is one of tragedy instead of triumph, but fry bread is still made and eaten by the Navajo people and visitors to their lands to this day.
The Origins of Fry Bread
When the pioneers first started settling the West, the Navajo people made an event to welcome them as long as their lands were not encroached. Just as they did with Spanish and Mexican settlers, as well as the Apache, Comanche, Pueblo and Hopi tribes, the Navajo peacefully traded with them. However, as more settlers went west, the United States Cavalry guided them and trouble soon followed.
After peace negotiations went badly, the U.S. Government tried to burn and starve the Navajo to get them to surrender and imprison them. As a result, thousands of Navajo were forced on 300-mile treks to an area of New Mexico called Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner. The treks, which were forced by gunpoint, became known as the “Long Walks.”
It was during their stay in the internment camps that fry bread was invented. Camps meant for 4,000 to 5,000 would be home to over 9,000 Navajo at times and the food supplies the government gave them were often rancid. These supplies, which included white flour, lard, salt, sugar, baking powder or yeast, as well as powdered milk, were used to create fry bread.
Modern Fry Bread
Traditionally, fry bread was made over campfires in skillets and the bread is essentially made the same way today, though on stoves in the kitchen. It is often used the base of Indian tacos with the toppings put on top of the bread. It can be served with honey and cinnamon too.
Fry bread is easy to make and consists of:
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered milk
1/2 cup water
All of the dry ingredients are sifted into a large bowl and the water is stirred in to form a dough. The dough shouldn’t be kneaded, just stirred until well combined. The dough can be cut into four portions with each portion patted out to form a disc of about seven inches round. They are fried in a skillet of hot vegetable oil.