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Frybread Wishes MAG
My mom is hanging up “Happy Birthday!” flags on the window near our dinner table.
“Dad, can I make the frybread with you?” I ask, hopefully. I didn’t actually think that he’d let me help him. After all, it is New Year’s Eve and my fourteenth birthday.
“Sure,” my dad says with a small smile. What a great birthday present, indeed!
Frybread – an essential ingredient for Indian tacos – is a Native American food. It’s a tan, unpredictably shaped, delicious kind of bread. Before this, I had no knowledge of how to make this traditional food.
But, with the help of my dad, this crackling, burning ember of our culture adds to the strong, golden ribbons of flame of our native traditions.
From the entryway of the kitchen, I glance over at the cardinal painting that’s hanging in the living room. I notice the small, ruby-colored bodies of the cardinals as they perch on a silver bench in the middle of a beautiful, snowy landscape. Everything in that picture brings up memories. A gorgeous ebony lamppost stands tall beside the wonderful, stunningly painted bench. Everything in that picture seems perfect. That’s because it is. Cardinals represent grandmothers and grandfathers in our culture.
“Take out the baking powder, milk, measuring cups, and flour,” my dad instructs, his voice yanking me out of my thoughts.
“Will do,” I answer back, taking the ingredients out. He gets the rest of them and together, we start pouring the ingredients into the bowl. I can’t remember what the measurements are for each ingredient; everything’s moving so fast, slipping past us like sand through fingertips. But I love making frybread with my dad.
Every good chef needs an apron. I read the words in his eyes as he hands me one silently. I grab a crimson-colored hair elastic and quickly put up my long, blonde hair, not even bothering to use a hairbrush.
He grins again, pinning a “Cat Lover” pin onto my apron. I hear the three kittens, lined up in a row on the pin, clinking together softly.
“Cover the bowl up, please, with the dish towel.” My dad motions to the towel that is draped along the handle of the oven.
I can’t help but smile as we leave the stirred, now-sticky dough out to settle.
When I come back from the living room, my dad is already heating up some oil in a pan. Little did I know that I would be doing the part that I like most: flipping the bread!
My dad calls me in from the living room. My mom continues setting things out for my birthday.
“We need the tongs from the camper …” my dad says. Instead, he pulls out some rubbery-looking ones. “I just hope that these don’t get ruined.”
My dad hands the tongs to me, along with the opportunity to cook with him. He brings out the big glass bowl full of the sticky dough and sets it atop the oven. He gets a glass plate as well and sets it on the oven. He sprinkles flour on it.
Meanwhile, I line a big aluminum pan with flour. It’s the pan my mom uses to cook the Christmas ham. Tonight it will be used to collect our finished breads. I take the tongs, watching in fascination as my dad uncovers the bowl and takes a tiny piece of the settling dough.
He stretches it out, but not before plopping it onto the flour-dashed plate. He then takes both hands, places them near the top of the stretched dough piece, and quickly lays it over the oil and jerks his hands back. He will repeat these actions many times.
He doesn’t want the oil to burn him, of course.
“Flip them when they stop bubbling,” my dad informs me kindly. “Okay,” I respond, setting the tongs down. I shift my gaze to the oven’s digital clock with glowing green numbers. After a while, I notice that the bubbles have slowed.
I flip the first frybread, but the side that’s now facing up isn’t tan like it’s supposed to be!
“The first frybread pieces usually don’t have color,” my dad interrupts my worries, extinguishing them with this information.
“Oh, okay,” I answer.
“Ow!” I suddenly wince in pain. I was burned by the oil! I speed-rub my sore, reddening wrist, hoping that my dad didn’t see. But with the smile that threatens to form on his lips, I know that he’s probably trying not to laugh.
I keep flipping different pieces until, one by one, the aluminum container is filled. That’s also when – what a coincidence! – we run out of dough.
“Hey, Dad,” I say as he puts his arm around me. “I’m going to write about this and send it to Teen Ink. If, and when I get in, that’s when people will know about your famous Indian tacos.”
I hold up my new birthday wine glass that is filled with sparkling apple cider, and my dad holds the big container full of frybread. He is right next to me, and we pose as my mom takes a picture.