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October 10, 2010

::photos taken by the amazing Sabrina Brant of SAB photography, who also happens to be my friend and trades me photo shoots for herb starts and help shoveling rabbit poop::

Today is Columbus Day, which is a back-handed holiday fraught with regret and sorrow. So much was lost by America being “found.”

Col, who is enchanted by Indian life and is currently wearing two buckskin capes, asked recently “are we white men?” Oof.

Perhaps we can not-celebrate Columbus Day by learning, reviving and practicing some of the ways of the natives who came first.

On Sunday, we bundled up the children and brought them to 10,600 feet to dig a family-sized amount of osha root, a native plant which is our preferred respiratory tonic and anti-viral. Tonight we’ll cook buttercup squash soup for dinner, celebrating one of the three most important agricultural crops (The three sisters: corn, beans and squash) coaxed out of this high altitude soil by the Anasazi Indians, long before Christopher Columbus sailed across an ocean blue.

What were the foods, medicines, practices indigenous to your region? Do you follow any of the traditions of the native peoples? What is your favorite way to eat winter squash?

Read about our devotion to winter squash here at this week’s San Juan Table column (and see some really cute pictures of Rose modeling different varieties of squash we grew).


15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2010 8:17 am

    we’re standing right next to you, rachel, in this not-celebration today. we will light a candle tonight and send a silent prayer for remembering.

  2. October 11, 2010 8:20 am

    lol, i think were gonna have some rabbit poop explaining to do:<)

  3. October 11, 2010 9:31 am

    My two favorite butternut squash recipes:

    1. Butternut squash quesadillas: steam the squash until really soft and then mash and saute’ with chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic. Spread onto tortillas with some cheese, melt and enjoy! These are also awesome if you roast some of the seeds and sprinkle on top. Could also make these into tostadas.

    2. Butternut squash with sage and pasta: I peel and cube the squash and cook on the grill wrapped in foil with some fresh sage inside. Such an easy way to cook it. Then I mix it with pasta and pecorino cheese and top with fresh sage that has been fried in a bit of oil. Easy and delish!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 11, 2010 2:22 pm

      Thanks for the ideas Courtney. How do you peel the winter squash and does it make you swear?

      • 6512 and growing permalink*
        October 11, 2010 2:37 pm

        Coutney’s reply via e-mail (in case you too were wondering about peeling squash):

        Yes, it makes me swear! Especially when I have to peel it twice to get all the “green” skin off. Do you know what I mean? I usually just use a vegetable peeler and keep myself upbeat by listening to fun music. Sometimes I just cut the skin off with a knife whilst trying not to waste too much of the “meat”.

  4. Ami permalink
    October 11, 2010 10:52 am

    I love shadymama’s idea, and yours for that matter. At the very least, today is a good day to remember and educate our kids about what really happened. Traditional ways around here? Well, fortunately, many local indians are still practicing some of them! As for me, I’ve sort of set up my own, like a big nettle harvest in late winter, and blackberries in the fall. I think I should dig up some red root… it grows everywhere around here.. great idea!
    As for my favorite way to eat winter squash.. hmmmm, there are SO many! But honestly, my favorite is just roasted in the oven with a little salt and olive oil…. Mmmmm!

  5. October 11, 2010 11:35 am

    Thank you for the food for thought.

  6. abozza permalink
    October 11, 2010 12:32 pm

    Could have used some of your osha root today, as I headed to the ER for a scary pregnancy asthma attack!

    Love the idea of the non-celebration and couldn’t agree more. It does sting to hear the question of the innocent “Are we the white man?” I’d like to think we’ve learned our lessons, but on the whole, I am not so sure.

  7. October 11, 2010 1:11 pm

    such GREAT photos. and thank you for “not” celebrating.

    you are a former bay arean, so you know this time of year here in california is all about the indigenous uses of oak acorns. i’m looking forward to trying a new method for acorn mush this season…previous years were…unpalatable. also, i’ve enjoyed going to the indigenous peoples solidarity day on alcatraz, to greet the sunrise with modern day tribe members.

    and it’s so simple, but i love delicata squash, baked with cinnamon and eaten with wild rice.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 11, 2010 2:34 pm


      I know those California acorns are way bigger than our little Gamble Oak acorns here, but we’ve had great success with roasting (in shell), cracking and grinding (in coffee grinder – sure beats the mano and matate) and then using as flour in muffins/pancakes. It turns out so rich and nutty and flavorful.

  8. October 11, 2010 3:02 pm

    Ahhh, yes. We are grateful that America was “found” because we like it here and I do try to encourage our kids to judge the past on rules of that day, not ours….. this began when I had a 6 year old, sobbing because SHE was a “whiteman” …. oof is right! We aren’t even pilgrim lineage for goodness sakes!! Anyways, a fabulous kid friendly history book we’ve been reading is Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States. It rocks. Let’s just say my kids aren’t going to be singing any cute songs about Christopher Columbus! Another benefit of homeschool! haha, just had to through that in there ;)

  9. October 11, 2010 3:03 pm

    PS – There are far more pictures of Col with chicken in hand, than not. I love it ;)

  10. October 12, 2010 12:05 pm

    We are not big squash fans in our home (I know, how very un-New England of us), so I generally disguise, I mean, serve it in soup. I like it steamed and I like spaghetti squash, but it would require a crowbar to get steamed squash into my kids (and I’ve never liked it with sugar and cinnamon, so I wouldn’t even try cooking it that way to tempt them…or maybe I should and just leave one savory for myself). We tried growing red Kurie squashes, but they’re the size of baseballs and all seed and not much flesh.

  11. October 12, 2010 4:05 pm

    Columbus Day? Almost forgot…haven’t had the day off for years as a public school counselor. Did take the opportunity to talk to give any of my kids (students) who would listen a teeny true history lesson.

    As for squash…oh boy. With this pregnancy I am celebrating the Butternut Squash. I ate an entire one roasted in the oven with a little unsalted butter by myself last night. My husband stared at me and said, “well, I guess we’ve moved on from Grapefruit!”

  12. October 13, 2010 11:46 pm

    As a halfbreed, I would like to thank you for speaking truth and for honoring indigenous folks without co-opting our rituals or spiritual practices (‘cuz folks do that allllllll the time, as if appropriating a sacred ritual is any different than stealing land). It’s a rare combo and I thank ya!

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