“If you can think it, you can manifest it. All life is is about figuring out how.” ~ Lois Ellen Frank
My conversation today is with Lois Ellen Frank. It’s difficult to know where to start when introducing Lois because she is so accomplished at so many things.
Lois is a chef, author, Native foods historian, photographer and James Beard Award winner for her book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. She has a Masters of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Culinary Anthropology and she focuses on foods of the indigenous tribes of the Americas.
She’s part Native herself from the Kiowa Nation on her mother’s side. Lois works in the Native community by focusing on the importance of traditional foods in their culture.
I’ve known Lois for probably six or so years and over that time I’ve seen her business develop and grow and what she’s been focusing on is getting the Native population back to eating their traditional foods which is making them healthier. They’re losing weight, reducing their blood sugar levels and addressing their diabetes issues.
Through her company, Red Mesa Cuisine, she, along with her business partner, Walter Whitewater, offer a pretty spectacular meal for our Santa Fe Culinary tours. We enjoy this beautifully prepared meal that utilizes traditional ingredients (with a few exceptions). We eat squash and beans and corn chowder and, for the meat eaters, bison.
But in addition to this beautifully prepared meal, we also get a lesson in food history, particularly as it relates to Native Americans. Once you hear our conversation, you’ll get an inkling as to what makes that dinner is so special because you’ll hear Lois speaking from the heart. Lois is really quite grounded and a very wise person and it becomes obvious that she puts a lot of love, thoughtfulness and wisdom into her cooking.
In this conversation, we talk about her childhood growing up on the east coast and how, at an early age, she was able to make money through her love of food and how her mother was so influential in fostering the idea that if Lois could dream it up, she could accomplish it.
When studying at culinary school, Lois got a lot of pushback both as a woman and a person interested in Native foods (she was told there was no such thing). We talk about how she was temporarily dissuaded in pursuing the culinary arts and she went on to become an accomplished food photographer. But she found herself surrounded by foods that she was ethically opposed to until a comment by a mentor ruined it for her and she knew she had to change the trajectory of her life.
We recorded at Lois’ home outside of Santa Fe. It was so peaceful there, you’ll actually hear a chorus of cicadas during our conversation. As you’ll hear, Lois’s life has had some twists and turns but it was when she started listening to her gut that she started to really find and follow her passion. And I think that is such an important lesson.
We may feel lost or out of sorts with where we are at a given time but if we just slow down, pause and listen to our gut, to our heart, the path is right in front of us.
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