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Flavors: Mariah Gladstone of Indigikitchen shares Native foods

Mariah Gladstone Indigikitchen 2022.jpg
Stella Fong
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Mariah Gladstone, creator of Indigikitchen, holds a Black Magic Winter Squash with a sweet dense flesh. For this Flavors Under the Big Sky show, Gladstone shared her knowledge of indigenous foods via Zoom.

Mariah Gladstone shares the knowledge and love of her Native foods through Indigikitchen.

She started the online resource with recipes and digital media to foster an appreciation and love of traditional Native foods. Gladstone grew up in northwest Montana in Kalispell and spent summers on the Blackfeet reservation near Babb, where she now lives full time. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Environmental Engineering she returned home to discover her true passion with food and started Indigikitchen.

“My mom definitely taught me to cook, and was, in part, taking an early childhood education class that taught her that kids that grow up cooking learned fractions,” Gladstone said.

When making up a banana bread recipe, her mother would present double or halved the amount of bananas and ask her adjust the recipe. Moreover, baking provided “the understanding of how to bake cookies because I recognized that you needed butter, sugar and flour, and these different components that make up food.”

Further, Gladstone says she was "was lucky to grow up with, like, moose meat, like, the wild rice that my cousins would bring me, like, the food from my garden that I was really lucky that my dad and grandpa built for me.”

As a child, Gladston "started dreaming up recipes,” recording her culinary creations with markers. “But it was through that, and this ingrained love of cooking that my mom encouraged me to have that I found Indigikitchen where I still experiment with food.

“I am using ancestral foods that have been on this continent for thousands of years, but I get to recreate them in ways where we, as 21st century individuals, recognize them as delicious foods. I get to use the tools of the modern kitchen and I get to incorporate these flavors that we have had, but in fun new ways.”

The fun, new ways she uses Native ingredients are being incorporated in school meals.

“I am very excited to be working on a project with No Kid Hungry which is to develop a toolkit to introduce more Indigenous recipes into the school lunch programs,” Gladstone said. “We are working with four different school districts to make sure that we put those recipes into practice, and that we’re able to start recognizing that there is a connection between this Indigenous wisdom and the delicious foods that we can put into our bodies.”

On Indigikitchen, recipes such as Mesquite Cornbread, Pumpkin Lentil Soup and Bison Sweet Potato and Poblano Stew can be found. With each recipe, there is a video where Gladstone goes through the steps of cooking up the dish and explaining the ingredients.

Gladstone’s goal is to bring a healthier way of eating to her community.

“I think everyone wants to connect more with local foods and less with processed foods, and everyone wants to be able to recognize the gifts that the environment is sharing with them," she said. "And also I think when you know those gifts, you know how to take care of those places a little bit better.”

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.