By: Taylor Notah & Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst
By: Taylor Notah
Tribal affiliation: Diné
Throughout all of the chaos and disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought in 2020, the one constant for me has been reflection. As I shelter in place on O’odham lands trying to keep my mind occupied with routines and structure, my thoughts often take me back to cherished childhood moments on Dinétah. I recall jump roping with my Grandma Irene, a skilled weaver whose náneeskaadi (tortilla) still remains the best bread I’ve ever tasted. I remember picking corn from the field with my Nalílady Alice, who shared stories of making dolls out of corn silk when she was young. Growing up in a big family, I always enjoyed family gatherings because I knew there would be deer, elk or mutton on the menu, and my absolute favorite: steamed corn stew.
Food has always been a main staple for my family. Whether we raised and nourished it, hunted or butchered it, or simply picked it up at the store, we’ve always said blessings for the food for nourishing and bringing us together. Over the dinner table was where we shared stories and laughter with one another.
Reflecting on home now comes with a heartache as I know our people are hurting from this pandemic. As much as I painstakingly yearn to return home and hug my family during this time of stress and heartbreak, I know it is safer to stay put. For the time being, I find myself still connecting with home through prayer and cooking. Living in the time of a pandemic has reminded me of the power of food: not only do they nourish us, but contained within them are memories, stories, meaning and intent that are sparked alive with our senses. As I hold the dried steamed corn in my hands, watch and smell as they cook on the stovetop, I reflect on generations of kin before me who lovingly made it for their families and enjoyed it together. I reflect that they, too, endured disruptions in their own lifetimes that I cannot fathom, yet here I am — a descendant of theirs sharing the same meal with my own family that I hope one day my children will share with their grandchildren. As I cook meals of nourishment, I ensure that I do what my grandparents taught me: to share stories.
Although many of us cannot return home for the time being, don’t forget that home can never leave us. Nurture yourself through this difficult time with reflections on dishes that remind you of home. Write down the recipe of your cherished dish, hang it on your fridge, and share the story of what it means to you with Native Sun Devils on social media by using the hashtag #ATasteofHome.
By: Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst
Tribal affiliation: Húŋkpapȟa & Diné
Study: PhD in Justice Studies
My favorite taste of home is a food item that I have fond memories of and that was important to my family: banana bread. My memories of making banana bread with my mother, Greta, and how delicious this bread is, are a source of comfort in a time of uncertainty and physical separation due to the current pandemic.
As a child, I would watch her mix the ingredients together. She would scoop flour from the big fabric bag of Bluebird flour. She would let me pack the brown sugar into a measuring cup. I would watch as she would use a hand mixer to cream the butter and brown sugar together. When she mixed the wet and dry ingredients together, a little cloud of flour would puff from the top of the bowl.
Occasionally she would bake banana bread all day and our kitchen table would be covered with big loaves, small loaves, loaves with walnuts, and loaves without walnuts. The following week, I would accompany her from tribal office to tribal office and watch as she sold banana bread. Sometimes she would leave an office with less than a handful of loaves left and at the next office workers would be sad there wasn’t enough banana bread for them to buy. People welcomed her to return with more banana bread in the following weeks.
I am thankful my mom gave me this opportunity to watch her make and sell banana bread. It is a reminder of how resilient we are and that when we need to, we find ways to support ourselves and loved ones. These memories are also important for me during the pandemic, to feel close to her, as we live in different states. While we can’t be together right now, I have her recipe box and her banana bread recipe that my own kids have been using to make “grandma’s banana bread” with some modifications from time to time by adding oats or zucchini, or replacing eggs with applesauce, pinions instead of walnuts.