Name: Freddie Bitsoie
Location: Gallup, NM
Education/background: Scottsdale Culinary Institute
Business name: F J Bits
What led to your passion for indigenous foods?
That is a loaded question because it was an unplanned journey in my anthropology studies. Back in 2007-08 I came across the term, “native American cuisine”. It did not make sense to me, but it was one that was very generic and fit the part for that time. I felt as if I needed to explore more so I left university and went to culinary school.
This also was a time when the cooking world was thriving everywhere. I grew up with family who had farms and who cooked the Navajo way, and I have always enjoyed the food. It was nice to know that Native people do have a very strong voice in the culinary scene. I just needed to help that voice be louder.
Why do you think it’s important to make traditional foods accessible for Natives?
Most ingredients are expensive. The best way to save money on these products is growing and picking the products yourself. However, in this busy world we live in, it takes a lot of time to do such a thing. Buying more of these foods will help bring the cost down for everyone
It also allows younger generations to learn how to cultivate, forage, and prepare these foods, and gain a sense of appreciation in themselves and in their culture.
What is the importance of an indigenous diet for a healthy lifestyle?
Native food has always been associated with health. However, everything should be done in moderation. Of course I am talking about foods that have been cultivated and gathered prior to Iberian arrival. It is important to understand that foods that are fried or processed may be a part of “native fare”, however they were added to the cuisine via infusion.
What other ways (besides your business) are you involved in the education, restoration and accessibility of traditional Native foods?
Prior to my employment at the National Museum of the American Indian. I volunteered and led in-person cooking demonstrations on reservations. I also buy products from local farms and make visits regularly.
How can community members be involved and support the cause of restoring and protecting indigenous food systems?
I would have to say that first, community members have to have a willingness to learn. There has to be a group willing to learn and also a group willing to teach. In my experience, I have seen a lot of that from grandparents and parents teaching traditions to their kids and grandkids. It could be something as small as donating seeds to schools or community centers that have seed programs, or even asking around to see if any local farmers need help.