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Most culinary inspiration is sparked by intangibles—sights, smells, tastes. But for chef Andrea Murdoch, it’s numbers that tell a story and, in turn, inspire her to share her own. Her company, Four Directions Cuisine, is named for the four-sided Inca Cross, a symbol of her Andean Venezuelan culture that she wears around her neck. Murdoch also proudly curates dishes with components from her birth country for catering, cooking classes, and pop-up dinners around the Mile High City, marrying Latin American ingredients with those from local Native American tribal farmers and breeders to illuminate the stories of those too often ignored. “There’s a lot of symbolism and intention in indigenous cultures,” says Murdoch. “That’s really beautiful to me.”
The numbers that move Murdoch most are those linked to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement. According to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute, almost 6,000 Native American women and girls were reported missing or found murdered in 2016 alone. Illuminating indigenous issues such as the MMIW is the driving force behind Murdoch’s cooking. Through signature dishes like her blue corn and amaranth flour “mountain biscuits,” Murdoch celebrates indigenous culture and draws attention to its most pressing problems. Take that blue corn, for instance: Murdoch sources it from the Ute tribe-run Bow & Arrow Foods in southwest Colorado. “When people take (a bite) and ask ‘what’s in this?’—that starts a crucial dialogue,” she says.
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For those interested in joining that dialogue (and sampling Murdoch’s soulful cooking), the Colorado chef is teaming up with Comal Heritage Food Incubator for a special Warrior Goddess Dinner on Sunday, May 5, which is recognized as the National Day of Awareness for the MMIW movement. Attendees will savor a four-course dinner of wholesome dishes like Alamosa striped bass with quinoa pilaf. Murdoch will explain the indigenous origins of her dishes, but there will be one element of the evening she hopes speaks for itself: four seats will remain empty, with the exception of a red dress in each. “Those will be for our stolen sisters,” says Murdoch. “That’s who all this is for.”
If You Go: Proceeds from the Warrior Goddess Dinner will benefit the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, a non-profit that provides education about and brings awareness to MMIW. You can buy tickets for the dinner, which begins at 6 p.m., here.