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50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #29 Betty Fussell - Navajo Fry Bread + Honey Butter

the "Gourmet" prompt...
29. Betty Fussell- A shelf of her books is a snapshot of every major recent food trend—often before it happened: She’s done local, and seasonal, and in–depth biographies of single ingredients (The Story of Corn), and My Kitchen Wars is one epic food memoir.

We're diving back into our 50 women game-changers this week with number 29, Betty Fussell.  Betty is another new-to-me name...which is totally insane, as she's been writing articles and books on "what it is to be an American" for the past 50 years.  That's 24 years longer than I've been in this body.  She began by looking at movies and theater and then moved into "our" genre.  Food.  And really, when I began to look at her resume, I suspect that somewhere deep down, I recognized her name.

She earned a BA from Pomona College, and MA from Radcliffe College and a PhD from Rutgers.  She taught she taught literature and film at the New School for Social Research and writing at Columbia University.  She quit teaching in the 1980's and began writing (hooray for us!).  She's lectured everywhere from Universities to Corn Festivals...and she's still going strong!  For more information on Fussell, please check out her website (which is where I garnered these tasty tidbits on her).

So, upon learning more about Fussell, I immediately assaulted Amazon and starting snatching up her books for anywhere from a penny to a couple of dollars.  Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef and Crazy for Corn are sitting on my side table, as well as her memoir, My Kitchen Wars.  I can't wait until I get some "extra" time to spend with Betty...for she has a magical way with words and storytelling.  And how lucky is it that the only actual cookbook of hers that I ordered was I Hear America Cooking: The Cooks, Regions and Recipes of American Regional Cuisine!?  Lucky because I ADORE IT!  It is divided into sections.  Each section explores the history, stories, traditions, food, and the cultures of a particular region of North America- complete with illustrations and photos.  From Indians and Conquistadors (The Mexamerican Dessert) to Cajuns and Creoles (The Delta South) to Planters and Slaves (Southeast Dixie) to Seafarers and Settlers (The New England Coast) to Trappers and Milkers (The Great Lakes of the Midwest) to Prospectors and Asiatics (The Ecotopian Northwest)...history of food and it's origins in every introduction and recipe.  You may see me cooking from this book quite often!
Honey Butter
slightly adapted from recipe source: I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell
yield: 1 c.

8 oz. butter, at room temperature
¼ c. strong dark honey (I used thyme honey)
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whip the butter in a mixer or food processor.  Beat in honey and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust to the honey/lemon juice balance you prefer.  Refrigerate in a covered container when not in use.
Navajo Fry Bread
slightly adapted from recipe source: I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell
yield: 1 dozen

2 c. all-purpose flour + more as needed
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
¾ c. warm water
oil for frying

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Stir in and oil and water with a wooden spoon.  Knead lightly with you hands for a minute or so, until dough is elastic, taking care not to overwork.  If dough is still incredibly sticky, add in a bit more at a time until it only feels tacky.  Form into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Divide into 12 roughly equal balls of dough.  Flatten with your hands and, on a lightly floured surface,  roll them into circles that are 7"-8" in diameter.  The thinner they are, the better they will puff in the oil.  Pole a hole in the center with your finger.  Dust tops lightly with flour.

Heat an inch and a half or so of oil in a deep skillet (to about 375° F).  One at a time, slide the rounds of dough into the hot oil to puff and brown, ~1 minute or less per side.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate or tray.

Spread them while still warm with honey butter to serve...or just dust them with powdered sugar or eat them as-is.
OR...make them into puffy tacos!  To make taco shells, slide the round of dough into the hot oil and let cook for a few seconds.  Carefully flip with tongs and then grab one side and fold into half, holding in the oil until one half of the fold is cooked, then flipping while still holding to finish other half.  Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain and then fill with seasoned beef, venison, or buffalo and your favorite toppings!
In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?

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