By Lee Allen
That’s the premise of a Cooking Channel TV show in which a crew of hard-core New York foodies were introduced to traditional native cooking by Arizona’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SPRMIC).
SRPMIC is made up of desert peoples with two distinct backgrounds and cultures—the Pima (Akimel O’odham or River People) and the Maricopa (Xalychidom Piipaash or People Who Live Toward the Water). Current tribal members are believed to be related to the Hohokam (Those Who Have Gone), an ancient civilization that farmed the Salt River Valley as early as 300 B.C. These were farmers who could make the desert bloom, providing grain for the military and immigrants in the mid-1800s. And today, despite on-going water rights disputes, their descendants lead a farming economy responsible for a variety of crops from melons and onions to potatoes, broccoli, carrots and cotton.
What tribal farmers grew was what they ate and partly for that reason, Cher Thomas (Pima, Cocopah) was asked by The Cooking Channel to serve as Culinary Cultural Ambassador for an episode of a new show called Eden Eats, where hostess Eden Grinshpan—a Grande Diploma graduate of London’s Le Cordon Bleu—uses her TV time to explore international cuisines found in America’s backyard. The show is based on how communities reclaim their culture and customs through food.
Below: "TV show host Eden Grinshpan (L) and Cher Thomas (Pima, Cocopah) share in the making of the traditional bread (chumuth)." (Courtesy Cooking Channel)