I (Donnie) have had the privilege and honor to have emceed every Would Jesus Eat Frybread conference since its start. The first WJEF was held at Fort Defiance, NM near the capital of the Navajo Nation in 2012. Being on Navajo land made me one of the hosts. We got to host people from all over the country. Even our friends from Kake, Alaska came to help us butcher a sheep for the first-night welcome dinner.
Our friends from Kake never butchered sheep before, but are quite skilled at butchering moose and seals. It was not hard for them to pick up how to butcher a sheep. Our picture even became a meme on Facebook. The caption read something to the effect of When I think 5 guys this is what I imagine.
Mark Charles, Navajo, was the one who brought Nations and Native Intervarsity together. [He’s the one holding the legs in the picture above]. It was Mark who noticed Nations and Native IV held its own student conference. Coming together meant combining their respective skills, creative talent, recruiting, and resources. This partnership continues to flourish.
One of the first jokes I wrote and have used at almost every WJEF is If Jesus did eat frybread, whose frybread would he prefer? As a Navajo, I am a little biased towards Navajo frybread so I would say Navajo frybread of course. The audiences have not always agreed.
What I have learned about frybread is that the further North you go the sweeter the frybread becomes. Here in the Southwest, most Pueblo and Navajo recipes are pretty plain. The dough is made from Blue Bird* Flour, baking powder, water, and maybe some salt. When I went to a powwow in Montana a few years ago I asked the vendor what they put into their dough. The lady mentioned the dough contained some evaporated milk. This made the frybread sweet.
For many summers I and my family have gone up to Alaska and eaten their frybread which is quite sweeter. One family even confided in me that they sometimes use donut mix for their frybread. I assume the further North a person lives the more calories they need to survive in their colder climate.
This year I have a new take on Whose Frybread Would Jesus Prefer? I think that if Jesus would eat frybread (not to say he would, but that’s another question worth asking) he would choose grandma’s.
When we eat with Renee’s grandma, Hotda, she takes her time. Not only when she eats, but when preparing food. In our fast-paced society, the art of patience is lost. Grandmas have not succumbed to McDonaldizing their way of life. They know how to take their time, and it shows. Hotda would always say (in Zuni) to take care, in the preparation of food, so the people will enjoy it.
Jesus would prefer grandma’s frybread, and if he didn’t choose to eat frybread with us, then he would have to answer to grandma.
*Blue Bird Flour is considered the sacred element of Southwest frybread.
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