The diversity of cultures in the Southwest gives way to inspired culinary creations, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center wants to educate explorers about how this region’s cultures and landscapes have shaped nutrition.
The organization’s Wild Food Adventure is a six-day seminar hosted by Crow Canyon, a Cortez-based nonprofit focused on “making the human past accessible and relevant through archaeological research, experiential education and America Indian knowledge,” according to its website. This specific program allows participants to connect with scholars and attend interactive workshops to learn new skills.
From Aug. 6-11, participants will visit urban and rural communities near Santa Fe and Chimayo, New Mexico. During the weeklong event, participants will become students, taking part in mountain and garden tours to forage wild foods and using those ingredients in hands-on workshops where cultural specialists will explain techniques and traditions.
Crow Canyon Director of Cultural Explorations Sarah Payne said this seminar is based on a program piloted last year in partnership with Norma and Hutch Naranjo, owners of The Feasting Place in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. It covered topics such as traditional, wild and cultivated foods, as well as how these ingredients have been essential to Pueblos both past and present.
“We’re really excited about this program because it is an expansion of something we tried last year,” Payne said. “That program was successful, and we wanted to build on this idea where we could bring multiple perspectives together, which is why on the Wild Food Adventure we have many different scholars and cultural specialists involved.”
The people guiding lessons and demonstrations include the Naranjos, who also teach horno baking lessons from their home; Durango author and educator Katrina Blair; Santa Fe-based chefs Lois Frank and Walter Whitewater; founder of Taste of Native Cuisine Karlos Baca; and culinary master at Arroyo Vino, Colin Shane.
Blair said guests will learn how to identify more than 15 wild plants, used by local cultures for nutrition and medicine, including chokecherries, sumac, currants, pine nuts and prickly pears, and incorporate the foraged ingredients into meals. A larger part of the program includes understanding how European colonization affected food sources and preparation, and, in turn, health.
Frank said students will also learn about ways to forage without depleting the area. Her session will conclude with students and scholars enjoying a meal prepared by herself and Whitewater at Red Mesa Cuisine.
“It’s not all working with the food,” Norma Naranjo said. “We also talk about how we plant and grow things in our region. I’m going to be talking about how our diet and lifestyle changed when the Spaniards came and conquered the Pueblos.”
From session to session, guests will gain more knowledge of people and place, and expand their technical skills.
“When I participated in this workshop last year with Norma, it was amazing to learn how many different ways you can prepare these central ingredients of corn beans and squash,” Payne said. “You have so much to learn – not just from the scholars but from each other, too.”
Wild Food Adventure is for people interested in a contemporary culinary experience with traditional twists. Payne said though the program’s goal is to teach important lessons about food sources and sustainable health, it also helps connect people with similar interests.
“There are so many varied audiences, like nutritionists, teachers and nurses,” Payne said. “The beauty of a program like this is it brings together participants who come from all over the globe with diverse backgrounds and cultural roots.”
Interested individuals must register online at crowcanyon.org or call Crow Canyon Archaeological Center at (800) 422-8975, ext. 457. The cost of the program is $2,095 for Crow Canyon members, and $2,220 for non-members. The fee covers the cost of most meals, lodging, transportation and admission to cultural sites.
“It’s really fun. and the educators bring such enthusiasm and passion into their work,” Payne said. “They are engaged in public outreach programs to help our contemporary communities understand how food can improve your life in so many ways.”