Linda Grover: Lessons learned from frybread
Boozhoo! This month's column is an excerpt from a novel I am writing, "The Power of Frybread": The Dijon sisters sugared their tea and coffee, then let it go cold, ignoring it to watch closely as Margie worked -- intending once and for all to dis...
Boozhoo! This month's column is an excerpt from a novel I am writing, "The Power of Frybread":
The Dijon sisters sugared their tea and coffee, then let it go cold, ignoring it to watch closely as Margie worked -- intending once and for all to discover what was the secret ingredient in the dough that she mixed and handled. They saw nothing unusual, just the mixing of the ingredients that could be found in most kitchen cupboards. What sleight of hand was Margie using? What motions did she make that were quicker than the eye?
The frybread was, as always, delectable, perhaps even more than usual, perhaps too good to even dunk.
Yvonne had a lot of pride but humbled herself to ask if Margie could write down the recipe. Here is what Margie wrote:
Almost two cups of flour.
Almost a tablespoon of b.p.
Pretty good-size pinch of salt.
A little sugar, maybe a teaspoon (this is up to you if you want it).
Mix this in a good-size bowl, and then make a little river, in a circle. Add warm water to make the dough nice and soft. Give it a little rest after you mix.
Fry it like doughnuts. Good with butter, or honey, or jelly, or syrup. Or plain.
This makes a good lugallette, too. For lug, bake it in a pan. Cut it up.
But grease the pan first.
Away from the spell of Margie's cooking, the demeanor of the Dijon girls returned to its norm. In the front seat, Yvonne and Annette argued over the radio, one and then the other punching the selection button every few minutes to switch from country western to oldies, oldies to country western. In the back seat Cecile fidgeted until her mother told her to sit still, she was making her carsick.
"Well, that's the way we always make it, anyway, just the same way Margie did," Annette complained. "Next time we'll use yeast instead of baking power, or else soda. Maybe that's what she's doing. Maybe she's been using all three."
Yvonne wondered if it was Margie's stove. "Notice she never makes it anyplace else but at her own house?"
Cecile grumbled, "She snuck something in there when we weren't looking. She's just a stingy-gut, that Margie, to keep her stupid secret to herself."
"Well, she can just have it, then!" Annette expressed this huffily; the car swerved slightly, and in the back seat Cecile squealed.
"Sister, watch your driving, there; you want to go right off the road?" she snapped. The car righted, she tossed her head.
Mindemooye Dijon told her girls that Margie had made the frybread as she always had, with the same results, and that perhaps it was jealousy that was causing their bread to toughen and shrink.
Jealousy? Jealousy! Without speaking aloud, the sisters agreed to silence in the car for the remainder of the ride back to the Dijon allotment, and Annette turned up Garth Brooks.
Here is part of Margie's secret: A gentle hand with the dough. Unrequited love. And not too much sugar when you add that little bit. But without a
little help from her dreams, the three would have remained unconnected, as would have the ingredients that went into Margie's mixing bowl and came out frybread -- and as would as the ingredients that went into her existence and came out life.
Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Grover writes once a month.