A staple of San Antonio history and cuisine is about to get its due. While the 1938 pecan shellers’ strike changed the lives of local workers for the better, the fruit of the hickory tree variety has been central to indigenous culture for centuries.

Accordingly, American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM) will hold its fourth annual Pecan Harvest gala to celebrate the flavorful nut with traditional and modern recipes. The gala, held Dec. 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Progreso Hall, is a fundraiser for the 25-year-old nonprofit organization, which supports programs for education, health and wellness, arts, and civic engagement.

While mesquite flour was a primary food for the early Coahuiltecans of northern Mexico, San Antonio’s plentiful pecans became a calorie-rich staple for their descendants, who harvest pecans regularly in late fall.

At least one recipe will combine the two key ingredients, in honor of the cultural minglings of the region. The recipe for pecan mesquite cookies is derived from the 200-year-old archives of the local Spanish Colonial missions, tweaked slightly for modern tastes, said Miguel Davila, AIT-SCM cultural arts coordinator.

Other recipes for the gala buffet were sourced from the tribal community, including personal cookbooks. The main dish will feature a pecan mole, another blend of regional staples hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, and San Antonio. A locally produced pecan ice cream will be offered for dessert, and a champurrado, or porridge-thick chocolate milk made using masa, will round out the menu.

“All of our dishes include heritage ingredients,” Davila said. “That’s really the main reason for the gala dinners, is to highlight our ancestral heritage foods.”

The gala will also honor community member Christine Ortega, who helped fund the purchase of a new $5,000 mesquite flour mill for the organization. One of AIT-SCM’s goals is economic development for the organization, Avila said. The mill will first be used to produce flour at a smaller scale, for a farmer’s market and community meal. By 2021, Davila said, the hope is to package it for sale on a commercial scale.  

As with all AIT-SCM programming, the gala is open to members of the public. Tickets are available for purchase through Eventbrite, or by calling the AIT-SCM offices.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...