Brunswick stew, sweet potato cakes, blackberry cobbler, and maple popcorn are just a few of the dishes that members of the Catawba Indian Nation are busy preparing for visitors who will attend the 4th Annual Craft and Food Fair on Saturday, Nov. 18.
“People of the community bake and prepare dishes,” explains Tonya Rice, the Children’s Services Director for the community. She’s also a chef in her own right, and estimates it takes about 50 people to produce the event.
During the day there will be several ways to learn about Indian foods. The “tasting table” is sure to be a hive of activity. That’s where $1 buys you a taste of everything, along with a vote for your favorite pie, cake, chili, or pickles. “The proceeds from this table help fund a running program on the reservation called ‘Spirit Sprinters,’ for youth age 9 and up who train and participate in local marathons and running events,” says Rice.
Kids from the local 4-H chapter will prepare sweets ($1 each) and “native meal” combination plates ($7 each); those proceeds will help purchase Christmas gifts and fund after-school programs. Finish your meal with desserts from the Senior Bake Sale and help support the reservation’s senior center.
Several of the recipes being served have been adapted from Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. The interpretations represent multiple tribes, including Cherokee, Algonquin, Creek, and Hidatsa, but all use indigenous methods and ingredients. Home cooks who want to try their hand at making the dishes being showcased can pick up free recipe cards at the tables.
Then it’s time to shop for homemade squash and cucumber pickles, jams, relishes, and other canned goods. Pottery, beadwork, fiber arts, and other handmade crafts will be available for sale, too, in booths where visitors can meet and talk with the artisans.
DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren is glad for the opportunity to highlight native foods – but more importantly, to bring awareness to the challenges residents face in obtaining fresh foods when there are no grocery stores nearby. “Many stores are a ten- to fifteen-minute drive from the reservation. It poses a problem for housebound elders,” this horticulturist and language teacher explains. “We want to find a way to help households, long term.” Providing garden boxes to residents is one way to directly address the problem. Another is using traditional ingredients that can be easily sourced, such as acorn flour. (George-Warren hinted there may be some acorn-flour cookies to try for the first time at this year’s event.)
During the fair, other activities will include dance and drumming demonstrations, language and archaeology presentations, and a workshop on “Preserving Your Past.” For a full schedule of events, check out this info sheet.
The 4th Annual Craft and Food Fair will be held Saturday, Nov. 18, from 10 am to 3 pm. Admission is free. All activities are located at the Catawba Indian Nation Longhouse, 996 Avenue of the Nations, Rock Hill, SC 29730 (map and directions are here.) To learn more, visit the Catawba Indian Nation on the web.