Eau Claire eats

Fry bread: a popular food from the Indigenous people

Native Americans have prepared fry bread for generations.

Photo by Submitted

Native Americans have prepared fry bread for generations.

Advertisement

If you are sick of dining hall food, there is always the option to cook food yourself. Whether you live in the dorms, an apartment or a house there should be a kitchen nearby. Get your grocery list, go shopping and make some delicious homemade fry bread: a food my people have been making for generations.

This food means a lot to me. I grew up eating my grandma’s homemade fry bread and it never disappointed. This food is not only important to me, but it is important Native American people around the country. It is more than just food — it has a history. 

According to Smithsonian Magazine, 144 years ago the U.S. forced the Indigenous people living in Arizona to make the 300-mile journey known as the “Long Walk” to relocate to New Mexico. This land was difficult for them to grow the food they traditionally consumed. The U.S. government gave them canned foods, white flour, processed sugar and lard — some ingredients used in fry bread.

Fry bread is a food used in many reservations other than the Navajo. I come from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, a reservation about three hours north of Eau Claire, bordering Lake Superior. We use fry bread for many ceremonies, such as funerals, pow wows, weddings, parties — at really any celebration, there usually is fry bread. 

There are many different ways to make fry bread, but basically it is a flat dough bread, fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening or lard. Some people put in sugar, dried milk, dry commodity eggs or anything on hand. Fry bread can be used for sandwiches, Indian tacos or fry dogs. It can be eaten with soup or chili, or by itself. There is no right or wrong way to consume it. 

I have tasted many different kinds of fry bread, but my favorite is still my grandma’s recipe. 

Myrtle Gordon, my grandma, learned her recipe from her mother and her mother learned the recipe from her mother. The recipe has been passed down for generations. 

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of baking powder
  • 1 and a half cups of warm water or milk

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the liquid. Pat out a small amount of dough and put a hole in the middle. Add a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Use a hot skillet with oil to fry the bread. Fry about 3 minutes on each side. Take out the bread and let it cool. Serve how you like it!

Gordon said she always saw her mother seemingly throwing whatever ingredients available in a skillet and made the bread. As she grew up watching her mother make the bread, Gordon learned the recipe. 

“Back in the old days, none of us had cars,” Gordon said. “Since we couldn’t get to the store, we used ingredients we already had to make bread.” 

My grandma has passed the recipe down to the rest of the family. My aunties, uncles and cousins know this recipe well enough to make the bread for themselves and their families. My aunt Lorine even has a special fry bread dance. 

My grandma let me share this recipe so anyone can make the bread to share with friends and family. 

There are many different recipes for fry bread and ways to utilize it, so feel fry to try different things out and see what you like best. Maybe you will even create your own recipe to pass down. 

Armagost can be reached at [email protected].