Chef Lois Ellen Frank, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist, chef and food educator, activist, and self-described “mixed corn” amalgam of many different peoples and cultures.
Raised on Long Island by a mother from the Kiowah tribe and a Jewish father (and a much more complex lineage than that describes), Frank was taught to accept and honor all parts of herself so that she could be a whole human being.
Interested in food and cooking from a young age, Frank studied to be a chef but found the classical European tradition stultifying, and oppressively gender-based. (Men got to be chefs; women had to settle for being “cooks.”) She rebelled against the wastefulness inherent in making the same dish over and over until the client was satisfied, and throwing out all the “failed” attempts.
Next Frank turned to food photography, and set up a successful commercial practice. But again, after tossing gallons of pancake mix and hundreds of perfectly good pizzas while trying to get the perfect corporate photo, she realized that making money photographing unhealthy, unsustainable, and highly processed industrials foods was not her calling.
Always connected to her Native American heritage, Frank began cooking, teaching, and writing about Native American cuisine – to the consternation of food publishing houses and academics who insisted there was no such thing.
Her book, Native American Cooking: Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, was published in 1991, followed in 2002 by Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations: Native American Recipes, and Taco Table in 2009.
Frank cooks and eats plant-based, and has partnered with the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to create the Native Power Plate program to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes among the Native American population through ancestral foods.
We talked about her childhood, and how her upbringing influenced her views on growing and preparing food.
We spoke about the life of a professional food photographer, and the training to become a chef in the classical French Escoffier tradition.
Frank explained the four stages of Native American life and cuisine: pre-contact (whole foods, mostly plants); first contact (introduction of domesticated animal agriculture); colonialism (oppression and rations of lard and white flour, which gave rise to survivals foods such as fry-bread), and the current “New Native” reclaiming of traditional ways and diets.
We talked at length about identity, and the elements that create it. And how our identities can support our personal and communal health once we embrace our traditional cuisine and “foodscape.”
And we spoke about how TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) held by indigenous peoples around the world can restore balance and honor the interconnectedness of all people.
Native Power Plate program with PCRM
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New Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
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It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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