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Giving Thanks with Cultural Cuisine: Chocolate Torte


Though we always think we're too full somehow on Thanksgiving, there's always room for a little bite of dessert.

To end our special Thanksgiving feast, Walter Whitewater shares with us his Pinon Chocolate Torte. It's his unique take on a recipe his grandmother taught him.

Mr. WALTER WHITEWATER (Culinary Adviser, "Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations: Traditional and Contemporary Native American Recipes"): Thanksgiving is very special, because that's the time that we give back. We feed the family, you know? We share the food that we harvest, that we make. A place called Pinon in Arizona, I'm from there. Around this time, the people using harvest Pinon a lot. Pinon nuts is very sacred to the native people here in the Southwest. These are pine nuts. You just grind them. Sometimes, these usually have shells in it. So you take the shells off, and then the inside, the nuts is the one that we use, and we grind them.

The dessert that I'm making, called it Pinon Chocolate Torte, I first learned when I was probably, like, around 16. From then, the years went by again. I came back to the reservation. That's when I start cooking with grandma, you know? And then I started to realize some things that I - I wanted to do things a little different.

It takes a whole cup of - to do the Pinon nuts, you know? You crack them and you, you know, take them out of the shells. I usually put them in a Cuisinart. It turns them into like a peanut butter. Then you add your chocolate, then the egg, then the sugar, then vanilla. You scrape them out, and then you mix them with the flour. It's the blue corn flour. At the end, like, if you want to garnish something that - and then I add the prickly pear.

Prickly pear is back home, that was our dessert, you know? When we were herding sheep, you know, and it's like, hey. You know, there's that fruit that my people just use it like the way, like you're eating apple. Just clean up the hair, and, you know, and just - you just eat it like that. The same thing I did is, like, well, what can I deal with it? So we grind them, take the juice and just separate it from the seeds and we make it back into the syrup and add honey to it. Then some people add sugar to it. But I usually add honey to it.

I just wanted to say, during the pickings, we make offerings. There are reasons why that we - there's other living things that lives out there, we share it with. So we make offerings then, and we take the food just enough, just enough to, you know, so we save some for the birds and so those - so it can continue on growing again. And then, whatever is left, I usually put it back where it came from. Give back to the earth, say thank you. That's like all part of Thanksgiving. (unintelligible) means thank you. The nature that shared that with us, so we share that with the people and we give it back.

You want me to share a little Thanksgiving song with you guys?


Mr. WHITEWATER: Okay. Here it goes. (Singing in foreign language)

That's just something that's asking the creator, thank you for giving us all the food, the medicine and all that.

CORLEY: Walter Whitewater is a member of the Navajo tribe and the culinary adviser for the cookbook, "Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations: Traditional and Contemporary Native American Recipes."

To read step-by-step instructions for this and all of the recipes our contributors offered and to see photos of some of the dishes, visit our Web site: npr.org/tellmemore. And happy eating to you.

That's our program for today. I'm Cheryl Corley, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.