Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Native American Cooking by Anna Carew-Miller: Book Review

Native American Cooking 
“Native American Life” (series)
Author: Anna Carew-Miller
Publisher: Mason Crest, 2014

Age: 10 up, Middle Grade nonfiction
Pages: 64

 One half of all food crops grown today were developed from the wild by Native Americans, according to Carew-Miller. Some crops can be traced back eight thousand years. Corn, squash and beans were the three main staples developed by the agricultural tribes, and became known as the “three sisters.” In some tribes only the men grew and tended crops, while in others only the women did. 

Non-agricultural tribes, more affected by the climate and habitat, relied more on hunting, fishing and the gathering of berries, roots and other foods (non crops) in the wild. All of the tribes, therefore, had their own brand of cooking methods and recipes. When Europeans began arriving and settling native land, they adopted many Native American foods, while also sharing the foods and animals brought with them. For instance, the Navaho learned how to herd sheep and the settlers learned to eat corn bread. 

However, the settlers often depleted traditional food sources by over hunting and forcing Native Americans to relocate. Large numbers were ordered by the U.S. government to leave the land for reservations, where many suffered poor health from the lack of traditional foods. To compensate, they learned how to cook with new ingredients, using wheat flour, for instance, and creating new recipes (such as “fry bread”). Native Americans prepare traditional foods to this day, some during special ceremonies demonstrating the spiritual connection to food. Other foods are quite common, such as tortillas, beef jerky, steamed shellfish, smoked salmon, succotash, hominy, and chocolate.

Carew-Miller discusses six Native American groups: 1) Northeastern U.S. and Canada, 2) Southeastern U.S., 3) U.S. Southwest and West, Mexico, 4) Central and South America, and the Caribbean, 5) North Central and Western U.S. and Canada, and 6) the Far North. Photos are provided throughout, as are a glossary, chronology and list of resources. Plenty of detail on every page.

Personally, I would have liked a few recipes, but that's just me. Native American Cooking is geared toward fifth graders and older kids studying Native American culture and wishing to learn more about Indians on a human level, other than the century-old conflict we all know existed between native peoples and whites. I think it adds balance to the discussion. 

Copyright 2014 © Sharon M. Himsl


  1. Hi Sharon - it does sound interesting and adults referring to these sorts of books can add more background to their knowledge .. I think I inherited a Reference book on the Native Americans that my uncle had - which intrigued me .. though I too .. love having recipes included ... the kids could try and make one or two ..

    Cheers Hilary

  2. How interesting about what happened which i knew but it is always sad to learn from every avenue how the native Americans were treated and dealt with. I am glad they have their own cookbook and once can learn from them

  3. Hi, thanks for stopping by Hilary and Birgit. I have always been interested in Native American history and culture. It really would be fun to try some of the recipes if available, but then I guess a lot really are if you include foods like tortillas and beef jerky.


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