NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING (FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN NATIONS) by Lois Ellen Frank, was published in 1991 by Clarkson Potter, Publishers, and is surely one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have ever seen. That it is so beautiful is not happenstance—Lois Ellen Frank is a professional photographer as well as cookbook author. In this case she is both cookbook author and photographer, whose work has appeared in major magazines and newspapers, such as L.A. Style, New Mexico Magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

To get a better understanding of the book, let’s read what Ms. Frank had to say, in the introduction to NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING:

“When I graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara,” she writes, “I was asked to give a speech at the commencement. With this special opportunity, I wanted to reach out to every person there and explain my feelings about photography—how the images we produce should be positive and productive and, if possible, influence generations to come…”

After Lois Frank gave her speech, the renowned photographer Ernst Haas also gave a speech, and Lois was greatly moved by his words. As she and Ernest became friends, he encouraged Lois to share her visions with him.

Ernst believe that in order to express your visions through an art form, you must allow your childlike, uninhibited feelings to surface.

“Quite often” he explained to Lois with distaste, “I see people photographing things they don’t necessarily care about, just to make money, and then when they finally reach a point in their lives when they have time to be creative, they have forgotten what it is they wanted to express in the first place”.

And so, Lois began to search for the message she wanted to convey through her photography. She knew she had to look within herself, and she began to have dreams—-dreams of herself doing simple things, like grinding corn and making baskets and planting seeds. She says she has always tried to be in touch with the earth and has always been interested in people who are; she also notes that her grandfather was a Kiowa Indian and that she has always been interested in Native American culture.

As a result, Lois Frank spent several years visiting and living on many of the southwestern Indian reservations. She learned from the elders where to find, how to harvest, and how to prepare Native American foods. And-—they gave her permissions to photograph their food rituals – a rare privilege, she notes.

In September of 1986, while Lois was on her first trip to the Hopi reservation, her dear friend, Ernst, died of a stroke. Though his death left her with a great feeling of emptiness, she knows his spirit lives within her.

In the introduction to NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING you will learn a bit about the beliefs and culture of the Native Americans of the Southwest, whose people have always lived in close harmony with the natural world: their religions are based on a belief that the gods are embodied in the forces of nature and in all living things. Consequently, every food, whether plant or animal is considered sacred.

“To offer an overall picture of the region,” Lois explains, “I have chosen not to separate the recipes by tribe. Thus you’ll find a variety of influences throughout the book: recipes that derive from the sophisticated farming techniques of the Hopi and other Pueblo tribes; recipes that include fish, from the tribes that settled along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico; recipes that reflect the hunting-and-gathering diets of the Navajo and Apache tribes; recipes featuring cactus, a special staple of the Pima and Papago peoples…”

All of these recipes, of course, have been adapted to the modern kitchen and whenever possible, Lois has given advice on how to find special ingredients and, when appropriate, has suggested more common ingredients you can use as substitutes.

You will surely be as pleased as I was over the beautiful photography which illustrates the recipes, and if you enjoy southwestern cuisine at ALL, you are going to love this book. There are a wide variety of recipes from which to choose, ranging from Blue Corn Dumplings in Potato Nests with Red Chile Sauce, to Indian Fry Bread.

Also included is a source guide, so that no matter where you live you can order special ingredients and feast on Native American cuisine to your heart’s content.

NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING, subtitled FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN NATIONS by Lois Ellen Frank, was published in 1991 by Clarkson Potter. It is available on, reasonably priced at $9.98 for a new copy, $5.75 for a collectible copy and starting at one cent for a pre owned copy. (It originally sold for $27.50 when it was first published).

I also found FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN TRIBES, published by Lois in August 2002. That one is available at $23.79 for a hardbound copy or $7.86 for a pre-owned one. A third listing on that I am wrestling with myself (to buy, or not to buy, that is the question) is titled TACO TABLE and it’s available at $8.96 for a new copy or $2.98 for a pre-owned one.

Lois Ellen Frank also lent her expertise as a photographer to a number of other cookbooks—if you type in her name on with “photographer” you will see an amazing list of cookbooks featuring her photography.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

Sandy’s Cooknote: I have been enchanted with the southwestern states – and southwestern cuisine–for quite some time and have reviewed some SW junior league cookbooks in the past…consider this a lead-in – I’ve acquired several more cookbooks featuring New Mexico’s tantalizing cuisine—and will be featuring them on my blog as soon as I can get them read-and-reviewed. – Sandy 9/6/2013


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