Some of Jacque Siegfried’s happiest childhood moments were her weekly cooking sessions with her father.
“My dad is Shawnee,” says Siegfried, “and he taught me respect for nature, and how what we need is available for us to use, if we know where to look.”
Thus began a lifelong journey of discovery. To learn more, Siegfried pored over history books and cookbooks, entranced by the vibrant culinary heritages of the Shawnee, Cherokee and other Native peoples – stories which go all the way back to sophisticated agricultural societies 4,000 years old.
Nātv, Siegfried’s new restaurant, pays homage to these traditions – but she knows it’s impossible to perfectly duplicate these ancient dishes.
“Our crops are different – soil, water sources, seasonings and livestock are different than they were before our colonization,” she says. “And many recipes were not passed down. Still, we’re working with Indigenous farms and local Oklahoma farms to source ingredients. We’ll offer traditional dishes and newer creations, using traditional and modern cooking methods. We hope that we can show the wonder that is Indigenous cuisine.”
Siegfried uses a Cherokee family recipe to make a succotash that, thanks to fresh local corn and summer squash, bursts with flavor. There’s pork belly on top that’s cured, then deep-fried, thus placing it firmly in the Cherokee hog fry tradition. Another dish has a strip of beef tenderloin, its flavor enhanced by a barely visible reduction made from fragrant berries – a sauce invented by the Lakota people of South Dakota.
Salads are tiny works of art, composed of strange yet flavorful leaves, flavored with honeysuckle vinaigrette and enlivened by bright, edible flowers. All of these dishes pay homage to Native American culture, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of its beauty.
Nātv’s brick and mortar restaurant will soon be open at 1611 S. Main St. in Broken Arrow; visit natvba.com for updates.