Long time ago, the daughter of a chief was warned by her elders to be careful as she went to pick berries, because many bears were around. She went out anyway, and as she drew near the berry bushes, she stepped into bear dung.
Upset, she cursed the bears, as she tried to clean herself. Bear people emerged from the woods and abducted her. Inside their cave, she sat sadly in a corner, until a tiny thin voice spoke to her and she looked into the bright wise eyes of Grandmother Mouse.
“Tell them they must take you out to relieve yourself–and that as a proper person, you must do this in privacy.” Then Grandmother Mouse touched the gleaming copper bracelets that the young woman wore, indicating her high-class status. “Take off your bracelets and break them into small pieces and leave them on the ground.” Traditionally, copper was very valued by Native people…it is the one of the only metals that can be used directly from the ground without smelting.
When the young woman did as she was instructed, the Bear people inspected where she had gone to relieve herself and whispered to one another. “No wonder she complains of our dung. She is so high-class that she shits copper!”
—A Traditional Twana legend, retold by CoyoteCooks
There are many variations of this story throughout the Pacific Northwest, and a number of artists seem to take a great deal of enjoyment depicting the Bear Chief’s wife breast feeding her children, always shown in the form of cubs. There’s an obvious concern about what happens when her babies start cutting their teeth… Here’s an example from the great Bill Reid. For those of you not that familiar with a number of Native traditions, during the time of legends, physical forms were more fluid than they are today, and individuals could often switch back and forth between an animal shape and a more human one. For this reasons, it’s said the Bear People wore robes of bear skin, and upon removing them, looked like human people. Some stories say that when the twin sons of the Bear Chief and his wife grew up, they put aside their bear skin robes and became famous hunters.
I had a request to do my “standard” acorn squash—which in my household means slicing one in half, scooping out the seeds and pulp, then plopping the halves like green bowls inside a shallow baking dish. A pat of butter in each, then a sprinkle of garlic powder, ground pepper and a pinch of salt—and all I need is an hour or so in the oven at 400 degrees. I should warn readers that after moving into a new condo and confronting a very old oven…I hesitate giving an exact time and temperature. I mean, in my years of cooking experience, I really don’t think a chicken should take more than 3 hours at 400 degrees to roast the way it went last Sunday. I’m happy to report I have a new gas oven in the kitchen now, making things much more predictable.
I’ve written before about squash being Native American in origin–but I enjoy introducing Native foods to “new comers” to Turtle Island. For example the gabanzo bean, or the chickpea…is thought to have originated many thousands of years ago in Turkey. “According to recent studies, the domesticated form of chickpea contains nearly twice the tryptophan of the wild form, an amino acid that has been connected with higher brain serotonin concentrations and higher birth rates and accelerated growth in humans and animals.” http://archaeology.about.com/od/domestications/qt/chickpeas.htm
So–a healthy addition to the acorn squash…
But frankly, I sometimes get bored doing the basics, so I thought I’d try something a bit different. I took garbanzo beans, straight from the can. I placed them into a plastic baggie and poured in enough olive oil to coat them, along with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. I then spread them out on a cookie sheet (well, on top of aluminum foil on the cookie sheet, making clean up a lot easier), and topped them off with pepper and salt, putting them into the 400 degree oven for at least 30 minutes. If your oven is better than my old one, you’ll know they’re done when they’re nice and crunchy. When the acorn squash was ready to be served, I then added the roasted garbanzo beans in the acorn half. I felt the spicy crispness of the garbanzo beans gave a good texture contrast to the savory softness of the squash. I’m also thinking about doing another batch of the roasted garbanzo beans and tossing them into a salad for some extra crunch.