May 17, 2009

The Desert Rain Café

Indigenous Café Combats DiabetesIn the heart of the Tohono O'odham Nation, where its inhabitants have the highest rate of Type 2 Diabetes in the world, Loretta Oden and a team of Tohono O'odham cooks gather in the kitchen of the Desert Rain Café.

They are preparing meals from traditional Tohono O'odham foods that they hope will stop the rising number of diabetics in the community.
And:Oden said the mission of the café has three parts. The first part is each dish has to contain at least one traditional food. The second part is the food is prepared as the Tohono O'odham people have prepared it for many generations, and sometimes in new ways. In either method, it is done with the utmost respect for the food that I'itoi, the Tohono O'odham creator, provided to sustain the people of the desert, Reader said.

"There isn't a deep fryer in the kitchen and everything is grilled, baked, roasted or sautéed," Oden said.
Some background on Oden and her previous venture, the Corn Dance Café in Santa Fe:Oden said she strictly used foods indigenous to America such as wild rice, bison, quail, corn, beans and squash. She did not serve chicken or meat and 90 percent of the time she used very little dairy. The café ended up landing Oden on Barbara Pool Fenzl's PBS series, "Savor the Southwest," Food Network's "Cooking Live" and "Cooking Live-Primetime" with Sara Moulton as well as on "In Food Today." She also has had numerous feature articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler.

In 2003, after 10 years, Oden closed the Corn Dance Café and hit the road to educate as many people as she could about cooking healthy traditional foods. She said she is blessed to be part of the Desert Rain Café and learns something new every day.
Comment:  For more on healthy Native cafés, see The E-Tanka Café.

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