I have been reading a lot of different traditional food blogs recently, especially since my departure from the dieting world. I’m mainly reading blogs that focus on my heritage (Native American/Alaskan, Norwegian, and Irish), alongside cultures that were a big part of my upbringing (Filipino, Japanese, and Polynesian). On each of these blogs, there’s a lot of posts that show their grandmother’s recipes. When I read those posts, I do feel a twinge of jealousy.
That feeling isn’t new to me. It’s the same thinh I felt when my fellow Native classmates would have their grandmothers come in to show off mukluks and other regalia that they were making for their grandbabies. It was in these moments that I felt disconnected from my culture, a culture in which elders are so important to the passing down of knowledge.
Because the thing is, I never got to know my grandma. At least, not my Native grandmother, my kuka. And you would think that someone I never met would have no bearing on my life, but in fact, her absence has had a huge impact in how I am able to relate to my own community. It has also had an influence on how I learned to cook our traditional foods.
For instance, because I never got direct instruction from her and no recipe was ever passed down, fry bread was a mystery to me. There aren’t many resources on the internet to make it Alaskan style. I didn’t have “grandma’s recipe” for it. So, I schmoozed up to everyone else’s grandma and asked them to show me how to do it. Between an elderly professor, a work supervisor, and many others over the years, I was able to piece together what I needed for it.
So, in a sense, this is everybody’s grandmother’s fry bread.
And here’s how to make it.
Crisco or Canola Oil, For frying
1/4 Cup Dry Milk
1 Cup Warm WAter (Not hot)
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour, Plus More For Flouring Hands
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Sugar
In a large, deep skillet, fill with two inches of oil. Place on medium heat.
In a small bowl, mix dry milk and water, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Mix in milk mixture until dough is sticky. With floured hands, grab chunks of the dough and flatten, adding small bits of flour to the outside to keep it from sticking. Stretch the dough into a 1/4-inch thin circle without breaking (I say 1/4-inch, but honestly, just make it relatively thin and you’ll be okay).
Do this to the rest of the dough, making the pieces as big or as small as you want. When they are ready, add them to the hot oil and stand back while the grease pops. Since the pieces are thin, they don’t take very long to cook through. Just look for them to be browned on the outside, then flip. It takes about 3-5 minutes total.
Put a paper napkin on a plate and load on the fresh fry bread, making sure that all of them get some time on the towel to release the excess oils.
Let cool, then serve with jam, butter, or honey.
As you can see in the photos, I chose to serve my fry bread with a honey butter mixture (just combine 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons honey, and a dash of cinnamon, then whisk until soft). However, I also love this recipe served with fireweed jam or just honey on its own. Obviously, I prefer to make it sweet.
I hope that this recipe helps any other Native people who have had to figure out their culture without their grandmother. The internet wasn’t much help for me on this topic when I was younger, but I hope that that is changing now.
Until next time, call your grandma and ask her what she’s cooking.