“Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples. The museum’s Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe enhances the museum experience by providing visitors the opportunity to enjoy the indigenous cuisines of the Americas and to explore the history of Native foods. The Cafe features Native foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains. Each of the five food stations depict regional lifeways related to cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors found in both traditional and contemporary dishes. Selections include authentic Native foods such as traditional fry bread and corn totopos as well as contemporary items with a Native American twist—think buffalo burgers!
Chef Freddie Bitsoie
Mitsitam Cafe executive chef Freddie Bitsoie (Diné [Navajo]) came to the Mitsitam with 10 years of experience fusing his classical culinary training with knowledge of Native American foods and ingredients. Among other honors and accolades, Bitsoie was the winner of the NMAI's Living Earth Festival Native Chef Cooking Competition in 2013, and was named "a rising star in the constellation of young chefs" by Native Peoples magazine in 2011. He was featured on an episode of PBS's Lidia Celebrates America and is working on his own show, Rezervations Not Required, which will highlight indigenous cuisines of the world.
In addition to his culinary training, Bitsoie has a background in cultural anthropology and art history. "In college, my professor pointed out that every paper I wrote was related to food. One day, I looked around my kitchen and asked myself, how many people my age have a fully stocked kitchen and an empty living room? That's when I left school to get some cooking experience, and I spent that next year making the best $8 of my life learning to be a chef."
For Bitsoie, foods are carriers of ancestral knowledge that show the bounty of tribal homelands and reflect the history of Native Americans, from the mixing of ingredients that happened as part of voluntary trade to the restrictions faced because of forced migration and other policies. The question he always asks himself to stay honest in his cooking is "how can my grandmother relate to this dish?" At the Mitsitam, some of his answers have included Northern Atlantic clam soup with sunchokes and leeks, the ancestral version of New England's beloved clam chowder; roasted beets with seaweed, inspired by the Pacific Northwest; and Mesoamerican bean soup with green chilies.
Mitsitam Espresso Coffee Bar
The museum’s Mitsitam Espresso Coffee Bar serves pastries and casual fare from the Mitsitam Cafe’s repertoire. Tables in the coffee bar are adjacent to the Potomac Atrium, the heart of the museum and site of many cultural presentations and festivals. A lending rack of tribal newspapers is available for visitors who want to catch up on news from Indian Country.