An Ode to Frybread, Melanie Fey, 2014

Oh Frybread of my heart, how do I describe thee?

Beautiful, flying saucer of golden hue filled with reservoirs of grease

and hot, simmering bubbles.

Almost like a pancake, close to funnel-cake,

maybe even tortilla-similar.

And in your uneven surface, you hold many faces:

some of my past, some of my ancestors, some of my dreams, some of my defeats.

I look to you,

my comfort food.


Frybread of my youth.

I picture brown, tired hands, slightly ashy, belonging to all 7 of my aunts,

broken dreams scattered across their faces, putting their blood, sweat and tears into the bread of their people,

time and energy into feeding us younglings running around with rez dirt in our shoes, scabs on our knees, and fresh rez air in our lungs.

Frybread made by an aunty is some of the best kind.


Frybread of my assimilation.

I can feel you draped around my shoulders like a heavy shawl,

reminding me that on most days, I am destitute of my culture.

I long for the camaraderie that bread making brings.

But as a half-breed I never learned how to properly knead bread.

Deep down, my heart weeps that it may be made of nothing more than bleached flour.

I picture myself being the Frybread making queen,

holding a piece of freshly blistered, hulking mass above my head like a crown,

pronouncing my indigenousness to a crowd.

But in my assimilation, I have never perfected the subtle art.

Am I a Native American if I can’t make Frybread?

The Frybread of my heart,

I can feel your history running through me.

Envisioned are the long and sullen expressions of my ancestors

trudging their way to

Bosque Redondo.

Deep in my soul, deep in my bones,

I can feel their hardships, isolation, sickness and death.

I can feel their exile from the land they loved.

But although you began as a bread of affliction,

you’ve come to represent a greater community.

In your hot, sweaty, and slightly crunchy surface,

I can see your resiliency, endurance, and courage.

You were born out of oppression

but have been transformed to represent a persistent survival.


The Frybread of my internment, Frybread of my cultural longing,

you are my edible dichotomy, unhealthy yet nurturing, destroying yet giving.

A true comfort to my Frybread soul,

a true comfort to a Native American struggling between two worlds.



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