Bread lady returns

William Thompson

Mary Jane Edaakie, a member of the Isleta Pueblo tribe and affectionately known to Tucumcari residents as the “Bread Lady”, returned to the Tucumcari Historical Museum Saturday to bake Native American bread in an outdoor oven or “horno.”

Edaakie comes from the Isleta Pueblo reservation to Tucumcari twice a year to serve up baked bread and fried bread. Her husband, Robert, said the horno at the historical museum holds 13 loaves of bread, but the hornos on the reservation hold much more. “On the reservation, there are about 40 hornos,” he said. “Each of those hornos can hold about 30-40 loaves of bread. Mary Jane Edaakie said the Isleta Pueblo tribe’s tradition of breadmaking has been passed down since time immemorial. “The tradition goes back centuries,” she said. “We, (the females) learn how to bake bread at a very early age from our mothers, grandmothers and aunts.”

The Edaakies served up many platefuls of fried bread with green chili stew and beans Saturday. While his wife rolled the fried bread dough, Robert Edaakie fried each piece separately. He said that traditionally, the men of the Isleta Pueblo tribe would leave the cooking to the women.
“The men would gather and chop the wood for the ovens, but the women would do the baking and frying.,” he said.
Tomasita Martinez, a former Tucumcari schoolteacher came with family members to the breadmaking event Saturday.
“We read about it in the newspaper,” she said. “I used to bring schoolchildren here to the museum. My son bought four loaves of baked bread today, and we all just loved the fried bread.”

A busload of tourists from the United Kingdom found its way to the historical museum Saturday. They were on a fifteen day trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. Ursula O’Cionnaith, of Ireland, said the spicy food of New Mexico was new to her.
“The fried bread was very good,” she said, but we are not used to the hot sauces people use here.” Mary Jane Edaakie chuckled when she heard that the tourists were having a little trouble with the spicy stew served with the fried bread. “It’s just my simple green chili stew recipe,” she said. “These are the foods we (the Isleta Pueblo) eat everyday.”