Let’s Eat! New Cookbook, Chími Nu’am, Guides Home Chefs on a Seasonal Journey Through Native California’s Foodways

Sara Calvosa Olson guides gourmands on a journey to decolonize their diets in this one-of-a-kind cookbook that serves up Native Californians’ traditional ingredients with a modern-day twist.


BERKELEY, CALIF.—California is home to a vast and vibrant array of Native American peoples each with their own distinctive culinary traditions rooted in their ancestral lands. This fall Karuk-Italian food writer Sara Calvosa Olson celebrates this Indigenous heritage in her inventive and vim-filled cookbook Chími Nu’am: Native California Foodways for the Contemporary Kitchen. Gathering over 70 delectable recipes and featuring more than 100 photographs as well as stories, staples, and stewardship philosophies from tribal communities across the West, this accessible kitchen companion reimagines some of California’s oldest ingredients for home cooks today. 

Meaning “Let’s eat!” in the Karuk language, Chími Nu’am bucks the trend against the high-sugar, high-fat, high-sodium disease-making diets of mainstream food culture, centering recipes around natural foods indigenous to California, from acorns to deer meat, that have been cultivated and shared by Native peoples for thousands of years. Blending these traditions with waves of modern-day diasporic influences, Calvosa Olson brings us such mouthwatering plates as red chile rabbit tamales, manzanita waffles, stinging nettle risotto, wild berry freezer pops, miso smoked salmon chowder, and mussels and mushrooms on acorn bread — (“This recipe is as if someone said, ‘Avocado toast, but make it NDN.’ Well, I got you,” she writes).

Divided into four seasonal sections, recipes progress from fall through summer, tied to the cadence of the land’s natural rhythms and braided with insights on mindful ingredient sourcing and preservation. Calvosa Olson shows us how to stretch our bounty by making gathered ingredients last—through smoking, drying, pickling, kippering, canning, and repurposing those ugly veggies for stock, sauces, and braises. Acknowledging the inherently political nature of food, this cookbook also gently calls on us to divest from extractivist food systems by incorporating more local ingredients into our diets.

“Think of this as a reverse cookbook,” writes Calvosa Olson; “It isn’t the type of book in which you find a recipe and then run to the store for the ingredients you need to fulfill your weeknight dinner grind. This book requires a connection to nature and food gathering that you will need to nurture, to become inspired by your role as an environmental steward.” Geared toward Earth-to-table eaters and anyone keen to begin their journey to decolonize their mind in relation to food, this cookbook is a sharp and soulful addition to warm any kitchen.

Sara Calvosa Olson (Karuk) is a food writer and editor living in the Bay Area with her husband and two teenage sons. Her work dwells at the intersection of storytelling, Indigenous food systems, security, sovereignty, reconnection, and recipe development. Her writing has appeared in News from Native California and Edible Shasta-Butte. Visit her website at, and follow her on Instagram at @thefrybreadriot.

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