November 22, 2016
It’s a tricky proposition to categorize Monica Bhide’s new novel, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken under ‘Cookbook’. Strictly speaking, it is not. There are no indulgent recipes to swoon over as in her 2015 cookbook, A Life of Spice or the two before that, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen in 2009, and The Everything Indian Cookbook in 2004. A prolific writer, Bhide has penned short stories, fiction and inspirational books, tailoring the latter to an audience eager to follow in her footsteps.
Her pieces have appeared in such prestigious journals as Food & Wine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, The Washington Post and the New York Times. As a local author, she is a frequent lecturer on the topic of food blogging for the Smithsonian Associates programs and has been a guest speaker at Georgetown University. Equally as impressive, she has been featured in four of the annual Best Food Writing anthologies along with some of the finest food writers in the nation.
Author Monica Bhide
In her latest novel Bhide offers up a sensitive, utterly hilarious portrait of a sweet, idealistic, and somewhat hapless, Indian teenager, Eshaan, whose secret love for a beautiful young woman, Kitt, leads him down a convoluted path to achieve his life’s mission. Eshaan’s altruistic dream is to feed the poor, but until he wins a local TV chef’s competition, he has to navigate major life hurdles with the aid of a page-turning collection of both friends and foes.
Bhide brings us into her world to experience the scents and flavors of India, the heady aromas of frangipani and curry, by offering up these memorably quirky, endearingly fascinating characters in the literary tradition of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. One can only hope this is just the start of an ongoing series about the adventures and misadventures of Eshaan, Lama Dorje, a wise Buddhist monk, Radio Rani, an orphaned servant living in the monastery, and many others who dwell in the blessed aura of Buddha’s Karma Kitchen.
Monica will appear at an upcoming Indian dinner featuring her recipes at The Fourth Estate restaurant in Washington, DC on December 12th. Some of the recipes are central to the plot of Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken. A signed copy of the book and a compendium of recipes are included in the price. To view the menu and purchase tickets for the dinner, click on this link. www.press.org/events/karma-and-art-butter-chicken-dinner
To learn more about Bhide, order one of her books or view her line of art jewelry visit monicabhide.com.
Monica Bhide’s Butter Chicken
Makes 4-5 servings
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic
2 tablespoons Indian tandoori masala (I recommend Shan Tandoori/ Tikka mix)
1⁄4 cup canned tomato puree
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee*
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into small pieces
Salt, to taste
- In a large bowl, mix together yogurt, ginger, garlic, Indian tandoori masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.
For the Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
1 serrano chile, finely minced
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
- To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the reserved marinade.
- Add the salt, chili pepper, and chicken and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
Add the cream and simmer for another minute. Serve hot.
April 27, 2016
To pen a collection of recipes using ingredients gleaned from the great outdoors, you ought to have some street cred – or shall I say hunter/gatherer credibility. Author Susan L. Ebert is not only skilled at all the activities listed in the cookbook’s title, she prepares and shares these foods within her circle of likeminded friends.
She’s part Euell Gibbons, wildcrafter, Michael Pollan, food philosopher, Alice Waters, natural foods proponent and Barton Seaver, chef and guardian of sustainable seafood. For Ebert, who’s all of these icons rolled into one, food – including the gathering, preparing and preserving of it – translates into being outdoors. The Texas transplant learned her skills from her Kentucky grandparents, Mamaw Grace and Papaw Dorsey, who valued the art of canning and drying their foods. As a young woman Ebert turned her attention to organic gardening, working under J. J. Rodale at Organic Gardening magazine where she learned about the dangers of pesticides and embraced the importance of caring for the earth.
With a poet’s passion and an environmentalist’s commitment, she learned to fish, hunt and glean wild edibles while publisher and editor of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. It was then she realized, as a single mother, she could feed her two young children from nature’s all-organic supermarket.
In The Field to Table Cookbook – Gardening, Foraging, Fishing & Hunting (Welcome Books – a division of Rizzoli International Publications – 2016) recipes are organized by hunting, fishing and gardening seasons. Here are 150 of Ebert’s favorite, non-GMO, wild foods recipes presented with love, humor, and a respectful compassion for God’s creatures.
Dishes as diverse as Doves in Blackberry Molé, American Beauty Backstrap (Dry-Aged Venison Backstrap with American Beautyberry Cumberland Sauce), Rancho El Rey con Guajalote (King Ranch Casserole with Wild Turkey) and Peaches ‘n’ Cream Pie, tempt the cook with stunning food and landscape photographs by Robert Peacock. In every recipe Ebert shows an intimate awareness of nature’s cupboard, from pickling redbud flowers in Spring to gathering wild muscadine grapes in early Fall. Even the bourbon she chooses for her Bluegrass Country Mint Julep must be just so and from one of two distilleries that use non-GMO corn. Only Wild Turkey or Four Roses will do.
For those who may not be handy with a gun, Ebert lists mail order sources for farm-raised and ethically harvested wild game, along with specialty gristmills for stone ground grains and flours.
Here’s Susan’s recipe and notes for Roasted Rabbit with Chipotle Sauce
Roasted Rabbit with Chipotle Sauce
Americans are eating more rabbit than at any time since World War II. Seems trendy chefs have discovered what many hunters already know: Rabbit’s delicious white meat is high in protein, low in fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, rabbit meat has a higher protein-to-fat ratio than beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey, and even a farm-raised rabbit is an environmentally responsible protein choice—the amount of food and water needed by a cow to produce 1 pound of meat will yield 6 pounds of rabbit meat.
Texas has no closed season on rabbits and hares—the most renowned of which are jackrabbits (actually hares), weighing between 4 and 8 pounds, and ranging throughout the western U.S. and all of Texas, except East Texas. Swamp rabbits (cane-cutters) weigh 3 to 6 pounds, with a range confined to East Texas’s marshes and riverine areas. The 2- to 3-pound cottontail rabbits range throughout the eastern half of the U.S., making them as plentiful as they are tasty. Go with a tightly choked light-gauge shotgun—20 ga., 28 ga., or even a .410—stoked with No. 6 to No. 7 ½ shot for best results afield, or buy organic domestic rabbit from a growing number of sources. [Fossil Farms, Boonton, New Jersey 973 917.3155 or visit www.FossilFarms.com]
Roasted Rabbit with Chipotle Sauce
- 1 field-dressed cottontail or farmed rabbit
For the brine:
- ½ cup sea salt
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
- 4 allspice berries, crushed
- ½ cup organic dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cherry wood chips
- Blueberry–Chipotle Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
- Pour the cooled brine into a nonreactive container large enough to hold the rabbit, and add 4 to 6 cups ice water.
- Submerge the rabbit in the brine, weighing it down with a heavy plate if necessary.
- Brine the rabbit until about 1 hour prior to cooking, then remove and pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the rabbit on a wire rack over a baking sheet to dry and come to room temperature.
- Before grilling, brush the rabbit with some of the melted butter inside and out, and season with salt and pepper, both inside and out.
- Build a fire on one side of your grill (or if using gas, light only one burner) and bring the grill temperature to at least 400° F.
- Using long tongs over the hot fire, sear both sides of the rabbit to a golden brown. Move the rabbit to the cooler side of the grill, and roast over low indirect heat, with the grill
- covered, for 2 to 4 hours, basting occasionally with melted butter, until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170° F. (Add cherry wood chips that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes to flavor the smoke.)
- Baste with barbecue sauce, then loosely tent under foil for 10 minutes prior to carving.
- Serve with more barbecue sauce on the side.
Blueberry–Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
This recipe came from a plethora of blueberries (30 pounds!) after a berry-picking excursion to a nearby organic blueberry farm. While it’s exquisite with roasted rabbit, the sauce also pairs nicely with game birds, poultry, or pork. Or, as my daughter Cristina suggested, why pair it with anything? Simply drink it with a straw, or perhaps brush your teeth with it!
Yields 2 quarts
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 8 cups tomato puree (10 to 12 medium tomatoes,
- peeled, cored, and pureed)
- 4 dried chiles de árbol (rat tail chiles), stemmed and
- 1 (7 ½-ounce) can chipotles in adobo sauce
- 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground mace
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar (I use
- 1 cup dark agave nectar
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Melt the butter in a 4- to 5-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute more.
- Add the tomato puree, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the chiles de árbol in a blender with ½ cup boiling water, cover, and let them steep for 10 minutes to soften, then puree on high speed.
- Add the pureed chiles, the chipotles in adobo, blueberries, salt, dry mustard, cayenne, celery seeds, cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg to the stockpot, and increase the heat to medium to achieve a lively simmer.
- Once the pot is bubbling, add the vinegar, agave nectar, and lemon juice and reduce the heat to low.
- Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Remove from the heat and let the pot sit for 15 minutes, then ladle the sauce into a blender (fill the blender no more than half-full to avoid splatters) and batch-process until smooth. Freezes well.
March 24, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Just as I was beginning a healthier diet what should appear in my mailbox but two wonderful books from Lifelong Books, both dedicated to vegan cooking. How psychic is that? Terry Hope Romero, who has written a number of cookbooks on the subject, and was voted “Favorite Cookbook Author” by VegNews in 2011, has come out with Protein Ninja: Power Through Your Day with 100 Hearty Plant-Based Recipes that Pack a Protein Punch. It’s especially geared to vegans who feel they might not be getting enough protein in their diet. I take that to apply to those of us who work out a lot as well as those who are strictly vegan. Now I do not purport to be vegan, or even vegetarian (I can’t/won’t give up eggs or seafood), but there are some fantastic recipes in these pages that can benefit all of us.
You may already be familiar with Romero’s books Vegan Eats World, Salad Samurai and Viva Vegan!, but she was also co-author of Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Pie in the Sky to name a few. In her latest cookbook she gives us recipes for every meal of the day. Gratefully they are quick and easy, as well as ethnically diverse. No bored palates. The collection offers plant-based protein dishes that are more sophisticated and creative. One might easily say, gourmet.
Though Romero is vegan for ethical reasons of kindness to animals, there is much current evidence that this philosophy is leaning towards another scientific proof – that eating vegan is a solution to climate change. Think about it. The less impact on the environment, the healthier the planet. Okay, enough science. Pretty soon I’ll need footnotes. In any case, it’s fact-based. Trust me. Google it.
In her book Romero offers tons of advice on how to easily up your protein intake. She also tells you what dishes can be frozen, which is tremendously helpful to those of us on the go. And though many of these recipes call for a myriad of different ingredients, mostly staples, there is enough symbiosis between recipes that you won’t feel as though you’re wasting food or money. Also helpful is the recipe icon guide that lets you know which dishes are gluten-free, soy-free, etc.
It was nearly impossible to choose one recipe from all these tempting vegan burgers and patty recipes (there are seven and she calls them “Burger Bowls” since they consist of a full meal) or her “Bakery Basket” (that includes amped up biscuits, waffles and the like). Dressings make up another group of recipes and they are super-creative, like the Dill Pickle Thousand Island Cashew Dressing. But here is Romero’s recipe for White Bean Cashew Ricotta Toast that can be made savory or sweet.
White Bean & Cashew Ricotta Toast
Makes about 2 cups spread in less than 30 minutes
I’m probably pushing the boundaries of what can be called a ricotta, but this satisfies my craving for a mellow, creamy spread without the usual help of tofu that plays well with fresh toppings, such as baby kale, arugula, and thinly sliced tomatoes or radishes or cucumber. Or go bold and use it as a base for sweet toast, too: sliced strawberries and chopped fresh mint, or a swirl of almond butter, chopped dates, and a dusting of cinnamon.
½ cup unroasted cashew pieces
1/2 cup hot tap water
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or navy beans, well drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons mild flavored olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
½ teaspoon salt
Hot whole-grain or sourdough toast
Baby kale leaves
Diced cherry tomatoes
Ground sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
Thinly sliced strawberries
Fresh mint leaves
Date syrup or pure maple syrup
Pink sea salt
- Make the spread: In a small bowl, combine the cashew pieces with hot water and soak for at least 20 minutes, or until the cashews are tender. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the soaking water and drain away the rest.
- In a food processor, blend the drained cashews and the reserved soaking water into a thick, slightly grainy paste. Add the beans, olive oil, lemon juice, agave nectar, and salt. Pulse into a thick mixture, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Don’t overblend; it’s preferable that this have a somewhat grainy texture. Taste and add a pinch more salt, sugar, or lemon juice, if desired.
- Use immediately, or chill for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to develop.
- Slather over hot toast and top with either the savory or sweet garnishes.
The path cookbook author Elina Fuhrman took to arrive at her passion has been a circuitous one to say the least. As a war correspondent and journalist for CNN, she’d fashioned a career writing about international conflict in far-flung hot spots. But nothing could have prepared her for the personal battle she faced when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. In her search for health and wellness Fuhrman took on the challenge like the professional she is – researching, studying and interviewing doctors and nutritionists, from both Eastern and Western medicinal cultures. She calls her search her “healing pilgrimage”. The result is her debut cookbook. You might even call it a guide – Soupelina’s Soup Cleanse – Plant-Based Soups and Broths to Heal Your Body, Calm Your Mind and Transform Your Life. It has a little bit of schtick and a lot of tried and true recipes for the same freshly made soups she sells to her tony clientele in Los Angeles.
Fuhrman uses an artist’s palette of vegetables to inform her recipes – a nod to the “rainbow” concept of eating right. The first few dozen pages describe the application of Ayurvedic (from the Sanskrit “science of life”) principles to diet and lifestyle. She further delves into homeopathy, Chinese medicine and folk remedies, now commonly referred to as “alternative medicine”. Fuhrman makes a strong case for including these ancient theories and practices into her holistic regimen and offers 3- and 5-day detox cleanses, extreme for some, yet useful for those seeking a dramatic kickstart to their diet.
From quirkily named soups like “Easy Peas-y”, “Don’t Kvass Me Any More Questions”, a title derived from her Russian roots, and a cold soup called “Brave New Watermelon” that incorporates watermelon rinds (who knew?), it’s a book to teach as well as inspire. I particularly liked reading the prefaces to each recipe. They describe why it’s good for you, what symptoms it addresses, and what nutritional benefits it contains.
Here’s a recipe from the book that uses a delicious springtime ingredient – watercress. Though it calls for a Vitamix, you can just as easily use a blender.
GONE WITH THE WATERCRESS
I’ve been looking to bring watercress into my diet for a while, but for some reason, I shied away from its bitter, peppery flavor. Until I read studies that it has significant levels of glucosinolate compounds, which means major anticancer benefits. Having these compounds in your body appears to help inhibit breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers. When I remembered the delicious roasted chickpeas and carrots dish I had in Capetown, spiced with the intense North African blend called ras el hanout, I decided to play with the flavors. The sweetness of chickpeas totally worked with the bitterness of watercress, and the flavors seriously transported me to another continent. Not to mention the soup’s health benefits: It’s an antidote to fatigue, and great for detoxifying your body, healing your respiratory and digestive systems, and protecting against free radicals.
+ Preheat the oven to 350°F.
+ Combine the carrots and cooked chickpeas with the ras el hanout and a sprinkle of olive oil, and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until al dente. Reserve half of the spiced chickpeas and set aside.
+ Meanwhile, heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat, add the onion and ginger, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the nonreserved spiced chickpeas, watercress, salt, and boiling filtered water and simmer until the leaves wilt, about 3 minutes.
+ Transfer the mixture to a Vitamix and blend until smooth.
+ Taste and add salt to your liking.
+ Serve with the hot spiced carrots and reserved chickpeas.
- 3 carrots, diced into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons ras el hanout
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 (1-inch) knob fresh ginger, grated
- 1½ to 2 bunches watercress
- Himalayan pink salt
- 3 cups boiling filtered water
July 15, 2015
Special to Indian Country Today Media Network
Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep’s book Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab tells the almost-lost-to-history story of Cherokee Chief John Ross and his attempts to save the Cherokee Nation from President Andrew Jackson. Photo credit: Penguin Press
You don’t need to be a history buff to dive headlong into Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab (Penguin Press, 2015), Steve Inskeep’s riveting masterpiece of two influential men who held radically opposing visions for our country. The well-respected author and co-host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition recounts in vivid detail the ultimate story of power, ego and greed that was played out in the Deep South (which Inskeep dubs Jacksonland) and which ultimately defined the future settlement of our nascent nation. Coming from relatively humble roots, both men once fought on the same side and later crossed verbal swords in defense of their principles—Jackson, whose desire for personal gain for both himself and his well-heeled cronies translated into immense power and control of the Union, and John Ross, a well-educated and savvy Cherokee Indian chief committed to protecting Indian territories and sovereign rights.
Inskeep toggles between chapters about Jackson and Ross as he methodically lays out their personal journeys, meticulously detailing their early lives, crossed paths, and the events and battles that lead to the ultimate betrayal—the Trail of Tears. But the events do not progress in a straight line. And that’s precisely what makes this a page-turner.
At stake in 1812 were the territories of the Five Civilized Tribes—Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek—whose collective territory extended from the southernmost tip of Florida, around the panhandle to Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, westward along the muddy banks of the Mississippi River to the Missouri Territory, and north in a winding border that extended from the Atlantic Coast south of what is known today as Georgia and along the northern reaches of the Tennessee River. This was the so-called Indian Map. On the contrary, the “White Man’s Map” of the same period laid claim to everything east of the Ohio River and the Mississippi, with the exception of Florida, which was still in Spanish hands.
Known to his people by his Cherokee name, Kooweskoowe, Ross was able to access the “whiteside,” as he called it, using his mixed Scottish and Indian ancestry to straddle both Indian and white political and social spheres. Trained as a lawyer, he sported the sartorial style of white politicians, cutting an imposing figure as he strode through the halls of Congress, negotiating with lawmakers to strike deals favorable to his people. There was no more dedicated and effective representative for the Cherokee, and they trusted and relied on his savvy statesmanship.
But the dark side to this era of Indian relationships with the U. S. government is the backstory of Jackson’s unimaginable greed, ruthless double-dealing and consolidation of power. How he granted favors to and colluded with his associates to obtain land for their personal enrichment, while breaking promises to the Indian nations.
Through personal letters written by Ross and Jackson, and a wealth of documents of the period, Inskeep has achieved an exhilarating read. Outlining the real history of Jackson’s rise to the U.S. presidency, and Ross’s hard-fought efforts for the Cherokee, the author makes it clear that given a few different conditions, the removal of the tribes might never have happened. For example it is stunning to learn that the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, in which the Indians ceded territory and agreed to move west, prevailed by a single vote, even though it had never been signed by Chief Ross or the Cherokee National Council. And that Jackson’s biggest battle may have been his health, which was so poor that frequently he was perilously close to death.
As a seasoned reporter, Inskeep has said he was driven by “the disgraceful politics of the past few years” to write this book. That passion has driven him to give us a clear-eyed and fascinating story of two influential men, one whose democratic values followed the principle of majority rule, and another who represented minority rights. But he has also delivered a cautionary tale of the machinations of the rich and powerful that especially resonates today.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/15/jacksonland-riveting-narrative-details-chief-john-rosss-attempts-save-cherokee-nation
July 15, 2015
Special to Indian Country Today Media Network
Author Steve Inskeep, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition, discusses ‘Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab,’ published by Penguin Press. Photo credit: Linda Fittante
Noted author and journalist Steve Inskeep, co-host of Morning Edition on National Public Radio, sat down with Indian Country Today Media Network to dissect his new book, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab, published this summer by Penguin Press. The book, a riveting masterpiece about two influential men who held radically opposing visions for Turtle Island, brings to light lesser-known facts about this time period that the publisher calls a “crossroads of American history.”
What prompted you to write this story?
I just wanted to tell the whole story, and it was interesting to me to realize how little of the story I knew. John Ross was almost an entirely undiscovered character, an interesting character, and I wanted to find out what made him tick.
What was your reaction when you began to discover a clear picture of interwoven greed and power?
It wasn’t a complete surprise. How it worked, and why, was new to me. It’s understood that there were national security motives and patriotic motives to clear Indians out of the Southeast. But I don’t think it’s as well understood that there were also economic motives and a desire for land and a desire to expand slavery that was behind it and that really drove it. And that Andrew Jackson himself was personally involved in developing the land that he obtained as general. I came across a lot of detail that had never been put together in quite this way.
There were so many moments when things could have gone in an entirely different direction, as when the Indian Removal Act won passage in Congress by only one vote. It seems the press was hugely influential then, creating stories out of whole cloth while spreading fear and innuendo about the Indians. Do you think newspapers were more influential then than they are today?
Newspapers then were more influential because they were the principal form of media. There would have been around three dozen newspapers during late colonial times. By the early 1800s they were in the low hundreds, then very quickly it goes up to around 800 by 1828. Everybody read each other’s papers, and people would send them around by mail.
Do you think Sequoyah’s creating of the Cherokee syllabary in 1821, and its usage in Ross’s newspaper, helped spread the word?
Yes and no. The Cherokee Phoenix newspaper had articles in both Cherokee and English. And so, although it was a cultural triumph to have their own written language in a newspaper, it also had propaganda value. But the real political punch was that editors of other papers would read the Cherokee perspective of events that were different from the White perspective of the same events.
RELATED: Book Strips Away the Myth Surrounding the Cherokee Syllabary
How important do you think Ross’s ability to walk on the “whiteside,” as it was called then, contributed to his success as a diplomatic envoy?
I think it was very important that he was able to speak English and present himself in a way that white men could understand and relate to, and that sometimes he could also pass as a white man. I’m not saying that was good or bad. It was just the political reality of the time. That could also be used to undermine him, though. And it was also used to challenge him. Cherokees didn’t challenge his status as an Indian, but whites would undermine his racial credentials and say he wasn’t Indian enough. So sometimes it was a double-edged sword.
The most important thing was that he was literate in English, could write his own letters and make his own demands, and was not dependent on an interpreter to get across all the nuances of what was intended in agreements. Others who signed treaties may not have known what they were signing. Ross understood the terms and the wider political context of what the Indians were being offered.
What do you think was Ross’s greatest success?
I think it was when he blocked Jackson from grabbing two million acres of land, even though later Jackson went around him. At the end I don’t think it’s widely understood that before the Trail of Tears, Ross improved the terms under which the Trail was to be undertaken. He managed to keep the Cherokees together and get more than $6 million for the land. Though that was not what it was worth, it was substantially more than what the government was offering. At the same time Ross managed to keep the Cherokee government together. All along he was innovative in the use of democratic tools in a way that adds to our democratic tradition and foreshadows a lot of things that civil rights leaders did a century or more later.
In the end, if the tribes had held together and not sold their lands, do you think there would have been a larger war?
We have an answer to that. More or less, yes! We saw it happen in Florida. There was a war that lasted for years. Thousands died, U.S. soldiers, civilians and Seminoles. We’re talking about a really awful conflict for its time, and that, I suppose, would have been the alternative. In Alabama there were Creeks who did not want to go away, and there was an insurgency there in the 1830s. You could have had more devastating wars. There can’t be any doubt about what the result probably would have been, because even if they were all united, they were so outnumbered by then. Had they united in some effective way, you could have had a different course of history. But they didn’t, and when there was an attempt to unite them under Tecumseh, it didn’t turn out very well for the Indian side in the end.
During your extensive research, what surprised you most?
I had no idea that the Cherokees had done so much in their own defense. I think that has been overlooked, even by accounts that were sympathetic to the Indian side. I think Indian removal has often been portrayed as an argument among white people, though there were people who were for it and people who were against it. I’m not sure that the Cherokee participation in the emerging democratic life in the United States has been recognized in the way that it should be.
What would you say are the parallels to today’s struggle for civil rights?
I think some of the same techniques John Ross used were those used by civil rights leaders in the 20th century. Cherokees decided they needed their own newspapers, as did African Americans. They also both realized they needed white allies, and both groups reached out to the religious communities to get some of those allies.
Both groups fought in Congress, and both fought and won before the Supreme Court. In the end though, the Cherokee efforts and victories did not do them a lot of good. While by no means perfect, by the 20th century, racial attitudes were changing and improving, and it was becoming less and less acceptable to argue that there were entire racial groups of people not entitled to become full citizens of the United States.
In the recent campaign to put a female icon’s image on American paper currency, would you prefer to see Jackson removed, rather than Hamilton?
I wrote an article for The New York Times recently in which I proposed that John Ross should be on the twenty-dollar bill and Andrew Jackson should be on the flip side. I think there should be two characters on every bill. Each pairing should be people who relate, so that they tell a story about our democracy and about imperfect people fighting it out about our democracy. Abraham Lincoln could be paired with Frederick Douglas. Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill paired with Harriet Beecher Stowe. It would give a greater sense of this grand democratic story that we are all a part of, and the way that different kinds of people participate in that story and have influenced it over time. Jackson and Ross were not perfect people. They were people who fought within the democratic system.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/15/author-steve-inskeep-talks-john-ross-andrew-jackson-and-trail-tears-161079