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Driving Cross-Country For A Tiwa Taco

Reprinted by permission from Indian Country Today

By Brenda Norrell
Indian Country Today Correspondent

Photo of Burt Wilson

Chef Burt Wilson at the Pueblo
Harvest Cafe
(Photo courtesy of Indian Pueblo
Cultural Center)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- When the doors flung open at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center restaurant, a tourist rushed in and exclaimed, "I've driven all the way from Minnesota for this food!"

Tourists, however, aren't the only ones driving cross-country for the Tiwa tacos, blue corn enchiladas, bread pudding and new line of low-carb, mouth-watering entrees at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.

Burt Wilson, Navajo head cook and assistant manager, said he learned to cook in Gallup, N.M. "They wanted their mutton and blue corn meal mush," Wilson said of the Navajo elderly in the nursing homes where he learned his craft.

"But I didn't learn how to make fry bread until I got here. It's not as easy as it looks."

Now, heís dishing up the in-demand Tiwa taco. Itís the Tiwa version of an Indian taco, beginning with one-quarter piece of fry bread topped with beans and the fixings - pinto beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and grated cheese. Then, it's topped with another quarter piece of fry bread.

"That's what we call a Tiwa taco."

The secret of the Tiwa taco is in the maker of the fry bread dough, Acoma Pueblo's Zelda Chaplin. She has the touch. Serious fry bread eaters ask for her by name. "We let Zelda make the dough. Some people come in and ask, 'Is Zelda here today?'" Wilson said.

Blue corn enchiladas and the Navajo favorite mutton stew are the latest additions to the menu.

As for mutton stew, Wilson said, "Itís a little more popular than I thought it would be."

Although the bread pudding is prized, when the platters and posole bowls are finished, Wilson said, "Not a lot of people go for desserts because they feel so full when they leave here." Wrapped individually are Pueblo sweets - cinnamon sugar cookies known as biscochitos and prune pies - for visitors to take home.

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