It's STORY time!
Here's How it all Started...
Oh the irony...
Thinking back to my days growing up in rural Oklahoma, I could remember the intoxicating aroma of frybread drifting throughout the powwow arena. I could picture topping a plate of warm frybread with all the tasty fixin's to make an Indian Taco. I could almost taste how delicious this meal was going to be. Upon awakening from my frybread daze, I just had to have some of this comfort food. However my heart sank when I realized I couldn’t just go to a local restaurant to satisfy my craving. I simply couldn't find a Native American Restaurant here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Oh well, looks like I will have to wait for the next powwow, or...I know, I'll just make it myself!
Searching through some old boxes from the storage shed, I found a recipe we used back in the day when my sister and I made frybread at the powwows. Since one batch was way too much for just myself, I decided to invite some friends over to enjoy this delicious treat. After the "eat-fest" the consensus was clear…I need to make this for more people than just my close friends. I need to share this tasty food with everybody!
So that's when the wheels started turning and I began the process of creating a way to bring Native American food to the people. Along this journey I learned about the importance of quality food from quality sources and that's when the excitement turned into a passion. Starting from a craving and created to share, Tohbi's was born.
A Little Fry Bread History
Navajos under guard at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1864.
Frybread is considered to be a “traditional food” of Native Americans, however it was not originally a cultural food of any Indian tribe in North America until the mid-19th century. In 1863 the Navajo people were removed from their land in Arizona and sent on the “Long Walk” of 300 miles to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. It was during this time when the Navajo women in reservation camps made the best of government issued commodities. By combining these rations, the iconic food known as frybread was created.
Even though Native American cooking extends far beyond frybread, this relatively new delicacy has become synonymous with Native American culture. Ever since it's creation by the Navajo, frybread has been adopted by numerous tribes around North America. Frybread is now served at almost every Native American ceremony and cultural gathering. Also, frybread serves as the foundation for the ever popular Indian Taco which is known as the universal modern day powwow food.
From popular songs to award-winning films such as Smoke Signals, where a character wears a "Frybread Power" T-shirt, frybread has become a culturally significant Native American icon. Frybread is a common cultural aspect that links all Native Americans and has become a symbol that represents the Pan-Indian culture and intertribal unity.
Vision for Tohbi's
When I first had the notion of opening up an establishment to serve Native American Food, my initial thought was that it would be a great way to share a delicious and iconic food that you can’t just get anywhere, at least not where I lived. When I did the research on where I was going to get the ingredients for my food, my eyes were opened as to the sources from which these ingredients came from. So now sharing tasty food was not the only thing on my mind.
I learned what was meant by the term “Factory Farming”. I discovered what a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) was. I was also educated as to the use of agrochemicals in the production of non-organic produce. All these practices raised much concern and many questions. Questions like “Chickens are given hormones to grow faster so they can get to market quicker?”, “Cows are treated with hormones so they can produce more milk?” “Chemical fertilizers are used for quick plant growth?” Is this a good thing? Can this really be healthy? However, the biggest question I kept asking myself was “why”. Why does food have to be produced through these methods? This is the only way to produce food right? Well, not really.
Knowing how this food was produced and what's in it was just not that appealing. That’s when I discovered good people doing great things in food production. People who actually care how food is produced and what impact the production has on people, animals and our environment.
Farmers raising animals naturally without hormones and treating them with respect. Crop growers growing produce through sustainable farming practices without the use of health harmful chemicals. Ranchers protecting local plants and wildlife by carefully managing natural resources. Food producers who are fair to the hard working people who make the production possible. These are the leaders in the acceptance and adaptation of sustainable economic, social and environmental business practices. These are the fine people we want to work with and support.
Does it cost us a little more to get premium food from these quality sources? Well right now it does. Do we pass this on to you? Absolutely not, because my vision has nothing to do with a profit margin, it’s about doing something good. Getting food from these responsible sources gives us the power to influence how food is produced. This influence might be small right now but if more people demand a better way, changes in food production will be inevitable, and that is better for us all.
I want to spread the word about the Native American comfort food I grew up with by sharing it with everyone I can. I also would like to show food eaters and purveyors alike that there is a much better way to produce our food.
Peter K. Razonable
Founder and CEO