Culture

Cafe Ohlone Gives Diners A Taste Of California’s Oldest Most Traditional Foods

Long before Europeans colonized and occupied what is today modern California, there was a land full of communities.

These communities stretched from the deserts of the south, along the coasts and beaches of present-day Los Angeles, all the way through the Central Valley and into the mountains.

Indigenous communities not only had their own unique identities, culture, and language – they also had their own foods. And one California restaurant is working to show the world this original California cuisine.

In Berkeley, Cafe Ohlone is serving only Indigenous foods common to the area.

Credit: makamham / Instagram

Cafe Ohlone is named for the Ohlone tribe indigenous to Northern California’s East Bay. It’s a small backyard restaurant serving up big flavors with even bigger dreams. The cafe’s founders, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, have dedicated themselves to reviving the foods of the Ohlone tribe.

They’ve created a menu deeply rooted in Ohlone tradition.

Credit: visitberkeley / Instagram

Salmon, venison, acorns, amaranth, chia, yerba buena, blackberries. These are the ingredients of a culture nearly forgotten and one that Medina and Trevino are trying to revive.

This is California Cuisine long before the introduction of Spanish, British, Russian, and American influences.

Credit: makamham / Instagram

The menu at Cafe Ohlone changes with the season, depending on what’s available. The duo often gathers ingredients in the East Bay hills and Carmel Valley. Though Medina said they often have to forage early in the morning or late at night.

He told BerkeleySide.com: “it’s not always comfortable, especially as a brown person, with people looking at you as a criminal for gathering your own food.”

For Medina, the push to popularize the foods of the Ohlone is a personal mission.

Credit: baynaturemagazine / Instagram

He is a member of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and grew up on the very land his ancestors have always lived on. Even though he has deep roots in the East Bay, he wondered by he never saw his culture represented. Medina grew up eating foods like mole, tortillas, and chiles – foods that were imposed on his ancestors by the Spanish.

In an interview with BerkeleySide.com, Medina said: “It can be very isolating when you’re Ohlone, you don’t see tangible evidence about your culture anywhere even though you’re right in your home.”

Together they launched a guerilla food pop-up called Mak-’amham – or “Our Food” in the Chochenyo language.

Credit: carolineseckinger / Instagram

Most of the ingredients have been gathered in traditional ways on their native lands. Mak-’amham holds pop-up events and offers catering services to fund monthly events where they cook for the Ohlone community

The duo is showing respect for their culture and people are here for it.

Credit: @atlasobscura / Twitter

Many across the Internet couldn’t believe how little opportunity there is to try traditional Californian foods – the foods of Indigenous California tribes.

“Food is such a good way to have intercultural dialogue,” Medina told BerkeleySide.com. He added: “It’s hard to disrespect a culture when you sit down and eat their food, especially when you enjoy it and you’re around the people, when you’re having a positive experience.”

“A major misconception is we’re extinct. Our community is doing quite well today. The truth is, we also come from powerful and strong people who survived this difficulty that still exists today.”

Some on Twitter pointed out they themselves group on Native lands but never got to try the foods.

Credit: @ryneches / Twitter

And now with the opening of Cafe Ohlone, they’ll finally be able to taste the foods of California’s original inhabitants.

The Internet is sending a huge thanks to these two leaders bringing forth the flavors and traditions of a nearly forgotten culture.

From El Centro to LA and Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, it’s about time Californians of all backgrounds get to know the history and the flavors of California’s original identity.

READ: Nature Chola Is Making Space For Indigenous People In The Great Outdoors

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After 17 Seasons “Grey’s Anatomy” Has Finally Cast Its First Indigenous Doctor

Entertainment

After 17 Seasons “Grey’s Anatomy” Has Finally Cast Its First Indigenous Doctor

Courtesy of ABC

Just when you thought “Grey’s Anatomy” had literally done every storyline in the book, they turn around and surprise you. And this time, “Grey”‘s is bringing some good news.

Now, in 2021, after 17 seasons, “Grey’s Anatomy” is finally featuring its first indigenous doctor, Dr. James Chee, played by actor Robert I Mesa.

Robert I Mesa is an actor of Navajo and Soboba descent. According to an online biography, Mesa is self-taught photographer, filmmaker and actor working in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Mesa took to Instagram to celebrate the good news about being the first indigenous doctor on “Grey’s”.

“I’m so excited and honored to be the first indigenous doctor on Grey’s Anatomy,” he wrote. “James Chee will be back on April 15, so be sure to tune in…Thank you so much To Grey’s Anatomy! I know this is going to mean so much to my indigenous peoples.” He ended the caption with “it’s a good day to be indigenous”

Although now Mesa is now on one of the biggest shows on TV, he is still a relative newcomer to showbiz and “Grey’s” will be his first major role after appearing on episode three of this season.

“Grey’s Anatomy” has always prided itself in hiring diverse actors to fill its cast.

In fact, when “Grey’s” creator Shonda Rhimes first created the show in 20–, she instructed her casting director to bring in actors of all races to audition. “The script was written with no character descriptions, no clue as to what anyone should look like,” she told Oprah in 2006.

“We read every color actor for every single part. My goal was simply to cast the best actors. I was lucky because the network said, ‘Go for it.'”

Those directions led to one of the most culturally and racially diverse casts in TV history. And it also changed the television landscape forever.

“When they had me come in to read for the role of chief of surgery, I hadn’t seen an African American in that kind of role before,” James Pickens Jr, who plays Dr. Richard Webber, said to The Hollywood Reporter.

He continued: “Shonda always wanted to make sure that the show impacted the landscape in a way that we hadn’t seen before on TV. I like to think that Grey’s had a big part in how the industry casts shows.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” has paved the way for other racially-diverse Shondaland shows like “How to Get Away With Murder”, “Scandal”, “Station 19”, and most recently, “Bridgerton.”

We’re glad that an iconic television staple like “Grey’s Anatomy” is finally expanding its diverse cast to include its first indigenous doctor.

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Fierce

Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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