For its third annual event, Indigenous Comic Con in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is adding a special dinner with Yazzie The Chef and the Toasted Sister podcast.
Native American chefs, farmers, scholars, food producers, scientists, and journalists are doing some of the most important work in the cuisines of the American West, specifically, and American foodways, in general. Among the notable individuals working in the field are Brian Yazzie, Sean Sherman, Andi Murphy, and the members of the I-Collective. They are spotlighting an area of food knowledge we had almost lost, as they were either marginalized or close to erasure: the original American cuisines.
These folks’ work is now extending into the community of fan conventions, beginning with Indigenous Comic Con at the Isleta Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Now in its third year, the Indigenous Comic Con fan convention brings together “all of these incredible Native folks in one location to talk about their work as pop culture Indigenerds,” says founder Lee Francis (Laguna). “It’s a huge opportunity to celebrate all the incredible work being done by Native folks in comics, games, film, and genre literature.”
This year’s highlights include an appearance by WWE legendary wrestler Tatanka (Lumbee) — with live wrestling — and a conversation with actor Jonathon Joss (Comanche/Apache), who has played roles in Parks & Recreation, The Magnificent Seven, and True Grit, as well as a screening of the Navajo-dubbed Star Wars. Actor Eugene Brave Rock (Wonder Woman); Hugo and Nebula awards-winning writer Rebecca Roanhorse (Ohkay Owingeh/African American); Tongva-Scottish illustrator Weshoyot Alvitre of Sixkiller; Super Indian creator Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), among so many others will also be at I-Con. There will even be an Indigenous Futurism fashion show.
Then there’s the new culinary component featuring Chef Brian Yazzie (Navajo) and Andi Murphy (Navajo) of Toasted Sister, an Albuquerque-based podcast focused on Indigenous chefs, farmers, producers, foodways, and food sovereignty. Beyond having their own booths at the I-Con, Yazzie and Murphy will be collaborating on a cooking demonstration and a special dinner. Murphy will also be selling her 2019 Native American Foods calendar, from which the photo of Navajo kneel down bread above is taken.
I am a big fan of theirs. I’m a faithful listener to Toasted Sister, I read Murphy’s journalism, and I’ve been following Yazzie’s work, with The Sioux Chef and as Yazzie The Chef, for the last few years. You can take a look at some of the C&I coverage featuring Yazzie and The Sioux Chef here and here, with more below.
Recently, I asked Murphy, Francis, and Yazzie to talk about I-Con and the event’s multi-course meal.
Cowboys & Indians: How did the partnership between Indigenous Comic Con, Yazzie the Chef, and Toasted Sister come about?
Lee Francis: Last year, we had played with the idea of getting a chef out to the comic con. Since we are touching on all aspects of pop culture, food, and food culture is a huge part of that. We weren’t able to work out some of the coordination for 2017. But several months ago, Brian reached out and we were able to partner with a few folks in Albuquerque (Toasted Sister Podcast and 3 Sisters Kitchen) to make it happen. It’s very exciting and we are looking forward to having Brian with us this year!
Brian Yazzie: The idea of serving indigenous food at a convention focused on inspiring the next generation with artistic creativity is only right to do.
Andi Murphy: I think it was just a natural fit. Lee Francis and I are both located in Albuquerque, we run into each other plenty of times and he’s come to our studio at Koahnic/Native America Calling many times. I would like to think he’s involving Toasted Sister because he knows it’s is the one and only podcast of its kind.
C&I: What will Toasted Sister bring to the event?
Murphy: Aside from Brian’s booth at the con, I’ll be bringing some knowledge of Indigenous food as well. I’m sure many people attending Indigenous Comic Con will be surprised to learn a little more about Indigenous food, even if it’s just a three-minute conversation as they weave through the booths. I’m happy to share that kind of information with strangers, because this topic is very important to me.
C&I: Will the dinner and tasting be podcasted?
Murphy: If Brian and I are giving a presentation on Indigenous food, yes, I’ll be recording. I intend to turn Indigenous Comic Con into a full episode like I did last year.
C&I: Brian, you are a proponent of Indigenous food sovereignty and decolonizing foodways. How will your dinner and demo reflect that?
Yazzie: I will focus on introducing indigenous flavors and ingredients in depth: where every ingredient came from, how they were prepped, cooked, and the ancestral stories they each carry.
C&I: Can you give us an idea of what readers and attendees can expect?
Yazzie: I will be utilizing ingredients from across North America, in general. I will not just focus on one tribal region’s food culture. For example, some of the ingredients I will be using are tepary beans and various heirloom corn from Ramona Farms on the Gila River Reservation in Arizona, wild rice and wild harvested fruits from Red Lake Nation Foods in Minnesota, maple vinegar from Gun Lake Tribe in Michigan, dehydrated sea beans from the Ohlone homeland of the Bay Area in California, and salt from the back side of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.
We will be serving a four-course meal. Elena Terry, an Indigenous chef of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, will be helping me with the dinner.
C&I: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I might have missed?
Yazzie: My partner HoonMana Polk (Diné/San Carlos Apache/Quechan) and I will have a booth set up for the duration of the convention at the Electric Chaco area. We will have information about Yazzie The Chef and promo materials from tribal farms and vendors I utilize ingredients from.
I would also like to mention when we gather and celebrate our cultural existence. We tend to overlook and forget about our ancestral foods. As tribal leaders and community organizers, we need to reach out to our indigenous chefs/cooks and include their knowledge of serving real North American food and by doing that, we come to a full circle with a ripple effect of supporting our farmers, seedkeepers, foragers, and hunters.
Francis: Just to let everyone out there know that this is not a Native Americans-only event. Everyone Is Welcome. As we have always shared our homes and good hearts, we also share our celebrations with any and every one who wants to see all the awesome things Native and Indigenous folks are creating.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. For more information on Indigenous Comic Con and to purchase tickets, visit the event’s website. For more information about Yazzie The Chef, visit the chef’s website, and for more information about Toasted Sister, visit the podcast’s website. Photography: Indigenous Comic Con/FB, Brian Yazzie.
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