Tuesday, January 12, 2016



I have this wild and passionate foody problem about a fry bread fixation.  I have hungered for it nearly forty years. Navajo Fry Bread.  Nita a missionary lady married a Navajo man, Dennis Johnson.  We met them in seminary.  At one of our get-togethers (happened to be in the parsonage of our pastor, another Dennis Johnson, where we were house-sitting) Nita made us the traditional Navajo fry bread.  It was SO good.  I have tried and have not succeeded in making it as good as the ones in my memory. 

Last time we were traveling cross country, we spent the night on the reservation in Arizona.  However, the hotel that served its patrons an afternoon snack of fry bread in the lobby had no vacancies.  Oh, such cruelty at being turned away from the place of authentic fry bread.  To add insult to injury, we had to stay across the highway at the place where the door had been practically kicked in with blood stains on the carpet.  Hmm.  No fry bread was included.  Unmet hunger is no fun after raised great expectations.  I was near tears and not just over the raunchy lodgings. Now, my recent attempt at a gluten free version has not been very successful tasting like smashed biscuits fried in oil.  It's as close as I'm probably going to ever get, so I'll live in my memories and dream on, thank you.

A chief before, during and after the "Long Walk"

I'll try to remember all the facts of the history of Navajo fry bread.  In 1849 the huge territory that the Navajo tribe subsisted on was being threatened by the New Men who ran off Mexicans (thus, New Mexico).  The U.S. Government sent soldiers to form a treaty with the Navajo of which the chief was favorably considering.  However, one brave named Sandoval was opposed and rode a horse back and forth trying to rile up support against the treaty.  A soldier accused the brave of stealing his horse. The general in charge, named after George Washington, threatened to shoot into the crowd if none came forward to settle the dispute.  He fired a canon which killed the Navajo chief who was planning for a peaceful settlement.  The result was a rounding up of the tribe for the "Long Walk" of 300 miles to the reservation or a holding place meant for 3,000 where 9,000 were forced to live.  Many starved on the walk and more while in custody there.  Government rations consisted of lard, flour, salt, sugar, and powdered milk, which were often rancid.  Fry bread for sustenance was the result.  It became the symbol of suffering and survival.  Since diabetes is now so rampant among the tribe, over fifty per cent, and with nearly a majority living under the poverty line, this is not a healthy choice with its 700 calories and 28 grams of fat per serving.  Some say it has killed more Navajos than the soldiers in that diabetes and fry bread don't mix.  However, it is still a favorite at pow wows and on the reservation and symbolic of the struggle. 

Psalm 7 is called a wild and passionate hymn.  It is also translated as a wandering song composed when David had to hide himself from Saul whose code name was probably "Cush, the Benjamite."  I wonder if David ate a version of fry bread for his sustenance?  This Psalm is about crying out to God for help against the enemy.  This kind of cry throughout history sadly has been the norm, rather than the exception.

"O Lord, my God, in Thee I have taken refuge;
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me,
Lest he tear my soul like a lion ,
Dragging me away while there is none to deliver."
(Psalm 7:1-2)

Remember, David as a shepherd boy saw the destruction of lambs and sheep which had been torn by a lion, at least one of which he killed in order to protect the flock.  So this was a real visual in his mind of the danger he was in, from those who pursued him.

Then David goes on professing his innocence in that he challenges God to exam him and see if he has done the things he is accusing the enemy of doing, and if so, to deal with him justly.
"O Lord my God
(Yehovah Elohai,
 the strongest confidence the soul can have
in the Supreme Being),
if I have done this,
If there is injustice in my hands,
If I have rewarded evil to my friend
  (him who was at peace with me),
Or have plundered him 
who without cause was my adversary,
Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it.;
And let him trample my life down to the ground,
And lay my glory in the dust."
(Psalm 7:3-5)


Remember when David cut off the skirt of King Saul when he was sleeping in a cave?  Yep, this is probably written about that time.  David did it to merely show the king that he was in danger of the pursued becoming the pursuer, yet David had not killed or injured him. "Even for this my heart smote me, because it appeared to be an indignity offered him who was the Lord's anointed." (Adam Clarke)   David wished he could end it all peacefully, but...old King Saul was a jealous old soul and a jealous old soul was he; so he called for his pipe and he called for his bow, and David had to flee.

"Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger;
Lift up Thyself against the rage of my adversaries,
(Saul was good at raging)
And arouse Thyself for me...
The Lord judges the peoples;
Vindicate me, O Lord,
according to my righteousness
and my integrity that is in me...
For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.
My shield is with God
Who saves the upright in heart."
(Psalm 7:6-10)
  Have you ever sought that shield with God?  Have you ever asked Him to save you the upright in heart according to your integrity that is in you?  Sometimes it does seem that the bad guys win, that we are pursued and surrounded by evil even forced to subsist on rancid fry bread.  But God has the final say.  His eye is still upon you, His shield upon you to save you.  You can skip over the parts about the man who does not repent, you know the one who God sharpens His sword and has bent His bow made ready with fiery arrows for.  You have repented, haven't you?  That's what I thought.   Whatever you do, don't dig a pit and fall into it yourself.  Have you dug any pits lately?   Instead, sing along with David...

"I will give thanks to the Lord
according to His righteousness,
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High."
(Psalm 7:17)
In other words, David wrote this song instead.  Can't you just hear him plucking away at that little harp he keeps tied to his saddle?  Fry bread anyone?
Real War Heroes
FYI, you do know about the Code Talkers, right?  They were the Navajo servicemen who developed a code using their native language, a code that was never broken by the enemy. "Ya'at eeh," or something like, that means "hello" in Navajo, the only word I ever learned from my week on the reservation, and yes, I saw a little Navajo grandmother making fry bread outside her hogan, but did not stop and ask her for a bite.  Little things like that stick in your mind and heart.

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