Recipes & Cooking  |  01/16/2024

Gamebird Gourmet // Butternut Squash Soup with Acorn Dumplings


The perfect meal for winter weather mixes traditional Native California foodways and the contemporary kitchen

Story and Photos By Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Skip ahead to recipe

Karuk tribal member and food writer Sara Calvosa Olson is an editor at Edible Shasta-Butte and a regular contributor to News from Native California. Her recipes and essays on Native foodways have resonated with those looking to “decolonize” their diets in the Bay Area.

Olson’s Instagram handle, The Frybread Riot, comes from a scene in the 1998 movie Smoke Signals.

“A lot of people associate Native food with frybread and tacos, and so it’s both a riot for and against frybread, because it’s a survival food – it’s a struggle food. It allowed us to carry on, and I’ll go hard for frybread every time. But also, it’s not everything, and I’ll also riot against it, that we’re more than this – we’re better than this,” she said.

Olson’s work has led to the publication of her book called Chími Nu’am, meaning “Let’s Eat” in the Karuk language, in 2023. The book is broken up into seasons, and readers will find recipes for dishes such as quail soup with acorn dumplings, acorn miso, coffee and juniper-brined venison, rabbit and Dungeness crab paella, elk shepherd’s pie, etc. Chími Nu’am offers a blueprint on the ethics of gathering and provides a bridge between traditional Native California foodways and the contemporary kitchen, borrowing ideas and ingredients from the diaspora of various cultures that have come to the state. Olson hopes the book will serve as a starting point for people who want to incorporate more Native foods into their diets.

Growing up along the Trinity River, a major tributary of the Klamath, Olson lived in close community with other Indigenous families who practiced traditional subsistence gathering and stewardship techniques. In addition to acorns – a cornerstone food for many California tribes – the Karuk still eat fish, deer, elk, quail and other game birds, and on the seashore, people continue to gather mussels and surf fish.

Sara Calvosa Olson’s story inspired me to cook with acorn flour. Admittedly, I didn’t make this flour myself, but purchased it from an online vendor. If you live in area with abundant acorns and would like to try making the flour yourself, Olson offers a step-by-step tutorial on leaching acorns on her website, as well as ideas and recipes on how to use it.

Substitutions for acorn flour that might be a little bit easier to find are chestnut flour or hazelnut flour. If convenient, make the quail stock the day before or, use chicken stock to cut down on prep time.

Butternut Squash Soup with Acorn Dumpling


Butternut Squash Soup with Acorn Dumpling

Servings: 4, Preptime: 7 hours, Cooking Time: 1 hour

  • Quail Stock
    • 1 pound of quail bones and trimmings, such as the back, wings and legs
    • 3 carrots, cut into thirds
    • 2 ribs of celery, cut into thirds
    • Half a large onion
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 sprigs of thyme
    • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
    • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
    • 2 quarts + 1 cup of water, plus extra
  • Soup
    • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
    • Salt and pepper
    • Olive oil
    • 1 large shallot, minced
    • 1 rib of celery, chopped
    • ½ tsp. ground coriander
    • Pinch of nutmeg
    • Bunch of sage leaves
    • 4 tbs. butter
    • Heavy cream, to taste
  • Acorn Dumplings
    • ¾ cup acorn flour
    • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tbs. minced fresh sage
    • ½ tsp. fine sea salt
    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 1 cup of buttermilk


Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley is associate editor of Nebraskaland Magazine and a frequent contributor to the magazine. She and her husband run the wild food cooking website

This story appeared in Fall 2023 Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more delicious recipes in the pages of the magazine, become a Quail Forever member today!