background image

Blast From the Past: Huhugam Ki Museum Kitchen Sale

Staff from the Salt River Huhugam Ki Museum make popular items from when the museum used to be open for food back in the day.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Huhugam Ki Museum opened its kitchen for the first time in years on Saturday, November 18. The museum kitchen’s food items, which were once a fixture in the Community’s workplaces, were once again served to waiting crowds.

The sale was held to raise holiday-season funds for a family being sponsored by the Cultural Resources Department (CRD), according to Gary Owens, museum manager.

“The cool morning started out with Community volunteers including Girly Shaw, Claudelle Valencia, Tammy Walker, Barbara Johnson and Sandra Jones, and CRD staff, making enough tortillas for the famous ‘Pima Burgers’ and red/green chili burritos.”

On this Saturday, Community elder and museum staff member Sharilyn Belone was once more at the head of the battlefield and showed everyone how to properly run a kitchen at full speed. Owens noted that the green chili was the star, as this dish is rarely made for sale in the Community anymore. Popovers were dancing on top of the lard inside the kitchen and outside under the iron vato as the staff tried to keep up with the demands of hungry people for all their favorites.

CRD Director Kelly Washington kept the beefy burgers frying on the grill. Just when all of the workers thought there was a lull, someone else would come up and order five more or 10 more of an item. The line extended out the gate, but it didn’t seem to matter for those who were patiently waiting for the museum’s all-time classics.

The famous Pima Burger, which is a hamburger patty wrapped in a tortilla made from staff at the museum, was one of the popular items brought back. There was a long line of Community members at the museum's back gate as soon as the window opened.
Many in Salt River grew up eating and cooking these foods. The museum kitchen ceased operations on March 9, 2010, just before the Round House Café opened. It had been in operation since 1989, when the late Alfretta Antone wanted to give the visitors to the museum a taste of contemporary food. At that time, there were a lot of tortilla makers in the Community and almost everyone knew how to make red and green chili. Today, making these dishes is becoming a lost art.

The Pima Burger was a staff invention to bring a little variety to the menu and it became a kitchen staple. During the latter part of the kitchen’s history, real traditional foods were offered, like poshol, hanam and wheat tortillas.

So, for just a little while during a Saturday lunchtime, more than 10 staff members brought a little of the past back to the Huhugam Ki Museum—and, at the same time, they helped a family enjoy the Christmas holiday.