Each year, the Yanaguana Indian Arts Festival at the Briscoe Western Art Museum celebrates Native American heritage through art, artisan crafts, music and dance, craft workshops, presentations and food.
This year, the festival welcomes a new food truck, REZ’Rvation Only, featuring “Diné comfort food” inspired by the combined Navajo and Mexican heritages of the couple who owns it. (Diné is the term used by Navajo tribal members to describe themselves.)
On the menu are Navajo Tacos, a Pow Wow Dog, Cheii’s Chili, and traditional Diné frybread, the ubiquitous and beloved staple served at powwows, on reservations and in the kitchens of urban Natives.
On and off the rez
Timmi Gonzales, a member of Navajo Nation, owns REZ’Rvation Only with her husband Chris, who is of Mexican heritage. After waiting for their favorite treats in too many unbearably long lines at powwows, the two understood that there might be a significant demand for Diné cuisine on and off the reservation.
“San Antonio loves diversity,” said Timmi Gonzales. “I knew that there would be a large demand for just the fry bread and the tacos. And so we wanted to bring in our own take of a few of the dishes.”
Patrons can opt for traditional frybread or choose to add dessert toppings. And frybread is available not just on its own, but as the bun for a pair of smash burgers — one with hatch green chiles — and the Pow Wow Dog, an all-beef hot dog wrapped in frybread dough and deep-fried.
Gonzales is allergic to onions and has several close relatives and friends with gluten allergies and predilections toward vegetarian and vegan food, so those options are all included on the menu. Perhaps unique to REZ’Rvation Only, Gonzales serves a gluten-free frybread.
“I never had a recipe, and so I basically figured that one out on my own,” she said. She also eschews lard in the regular frybread, using soy oil to keep it vegetarian-friendly.
One dish the duo didn’t alter was Cheii’s Chili, which includes a healthy portion of pinto and kidney beans in the true New Mexican chili tradition and is based on the secret recipe of her children’s grandfather, Gonzales said.
Bringing it back home
Gonzales said her husband encourages her and their daughters to occasionally revisit her traditional homelands on the Navajo reservation near the Four Corners area in northwestern New Mexico. They all look forward to getting frybread from pop-ups made by their shima-sanes — the Diné language term for grandmothers — and to feeling replenished by being within the land of the four sacred mountains.
Gonzales said it means a great deal to bring those happy feelings back home to San Antonio.
“It’s huge because not only am I bringing that home for us, but it’s also just a feeling of kinship,” or k’e in Diné, which means taking care of people and making them feel warm and welcome, Gonzales said.
Along with standard ingredients, the frybread contains a feeling of hozho, which she described as “the inner harmony that you have within yourself, and then the environment around you. We’re intentionally putting love into that bread that we’re making. Our thoughts are on healing, positive good medicine.”
When you visit the truck, you might learn a few more words of Diné bizaad, the Navajo language, including reservation slang terms stoodis and skoden, which Gonzales said basically means “Let’s go! Let’s do this!”
The Gonzaleses are looking forward to serving their dishes at the Yanaguana Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Following the festival, the truck will appear at various locations around San Antonio, including near Mission San José, on Bandera Road, in Stone Oak and near Crockett Park.
Follow the REZ’Rvation Only Facebook page for more information.