While visiting a friend in Highlands Ranch, Colorado I discovered that Denver now has a restaurant that serves Indian style bread. No, not Naan. That bread is baked by dot heads from the Far East. It’s good too, but the bread I speak of is that sinfully greasy kind made by North American Indians who enjoy a good greasy piece of bread top with various, and equally greasy (or sugary & spicy) ingredients like honey and powdered sugar, choke cherry preserves, roasted buffalo meat, green chilies and pinto beans to name but a few. The Denver Westword had a lengthy review of the restaurant with a cultural overview of Indian style fry bread.
Reading this rhapsodic review (written by a white dude, of course) I had flash backs to my first piece of fry bread. It truly is one of those food experiences that sticks in your memory as much as it does to your ass or thighs. You never forget your first time. My first time occurred in 1998. I was visiting a friend who lived in Tempe, Arizona. We decided to drive down to Tuscon to visit her childhood friend and check out an old Catholic Mission that was built on one of the Indian Reservations. She knew I was really into Ecclesiastical Art especially the baroque bloodiness of Catholic missions with all their crazy statuary and white candles.
When we arrived at the mission we were pretty much drunk. And hungry. Fortunately there was a taco stand set up just right of the mission gift shop (of course there was a gift shop!). I sauntered over thinking the old guy sitting under the awning was a Mexican who’d set me up with some Tacos Arabes drenched in sirrachi sauce. I was wrong. It was an ancient looking Indian guy who didn’t budge from his folding chair when I approached. In fact he didn’t even look at me. Instead a strikingly tall man/woman (I couldn’t figure which and still don’t know) popped out from behind a Ford truck parked behind the makeshift stand to ask me how I wanted my fry bread. It actually whispered the question. I had to ask several times to repeat his/her question, “How would you like your fry bread?”
“Fry Bread? What the hell is fry bread? I thought this was a taco stand?”
S/he didn’t respond to my query merely slapped the dough onto the hubcap/grill removing it once it had puffed into a golden halo of yumminess. Holding it aloft on a paper napkin s/he gestured to a shaker of powdered sugar. Not understanding I had options (the meats and chilies hidden from view behind the plywood counter) I nodded “Yes.” She doused that fucker good. I gave her my buck fifty and walked off to see the gory alters inside the iglesia.
Holy fuck! That church was beautiful. A visual feast for the senses but that fry bread was orgasmic. My taste buds were having multiple orgasms. I’m positive I was drooling. I had to have more. And, I did. I’m greedy like that. When something is that mind blowingly good – one is never enough. So I had four more. One with chokecherry jelly. One with honey. One with pintos and green chillies and another with powered sugar. Then I started to feel sick. The Dude-Lady seemed amused by my fry bread fixation knowing full well too much of a good thing has it’s consequences, like diabetes, or diarrhea, but s/he did not refuse me service.
I actually went back for the fifth go round but the Indians had vanished. I never had fry bread again – until recently. After a spring snowstorm kept me inside three of my seven day visit to the Denver area I ventured out to find the new American Indian eatery. My friends and I arrived ten minutes before it opened. We, and a growing group of other fry bread enthusiasts, hung around the front entrance impatiently. Once the door was opened we shuffled to the front counter, set up cafeteria style, where you select the freshly made ingredients to be added to your fresh piece of fry bread.
As many of you know fry bread can be eaten in many different ways: as a dessert, as a main course a la pizza, as a sandwich, etc. I started with a traditional taco topped with black beans, buffalo meat, tomatoes and this excellent Osage style salsa. For those who have never had an “Indian Taco” it really is a hand and gullet full. I can’t imagine eating more than one but that didn’t stop me from ordering one as a dessert topped with honey and powdered sugar. Thankfully my companions helped me eat it; gone are the days when I could eat four at a time! Though no new experience is ever as good as the first the fry bread at Tocabe did not disappoint. So if you’re ever in the Denver Metro area stop in and support this Native owned establishment.
Check out this video to see how Ben Jacobs and Matt Chandra make their bread; then visit Tocabe’s website here: Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery.
All images and video copyright: Maria Colon
Posted in Profiles & Interviews & Reviews
~ You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0
You can leave a response
, or trackback
from your own site.