04/15/2013 05:00 pm ET Updated Jun 15, 2013

Maria Tallchief Helped Me Walk Again

Each month, for the last 22 years, I have written a newsletter to the loyal customers at Ina's to inform, educate, entertain and promote. Until I sit down to write it, I never know what might fill the page.

I had room for one more piece one month and decided to write a list of people I'd like to feed. Some obvious names made the list like Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Elmo, Whoopie Goldberg and Frank Rich... for example. Maria Tallchief was a last minute addition.

Because of the community and relationships nurtured by me in my restaurant, it should not have come as a surprise when Marion, one of my regular customers, read the newsletter while eating breakfast and said, almost casually over her shoulder as she left, "I'll bring Maria Tallchief in next week." I remember standing there not quite sure I had heard what I heard.

She called me a few days later to set it up... Wednesday at noon.

At noon, the door opened and Maria Tallchief walked through it.

We sat across from each other with Marion next to her.

Despite years of arthritic changes to her back, hands and legs, the carriage and position of her head were unmistakeable. The impossibly high cheekbones and broad smile were dazzling.

This was still the woman who had walked the earth on point.

After my welcome she said, "I have no idea why I'm here." I said I had a story to tell her... and I began:"I had Polio when I was 18 months old and was in braces and casts. After the paralysis subsided, I was left with a leg that was smaller, shorter and weaker than the other one.

When I was 3, my mother took me to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the hopes that seeing dance would keep me motivated to exercise, to 'try harder.'

I was small for my age and I remember the feeling of the velvet seat, sitting on our folded coats to be able to see the stage and the staggering magic of the dimming lights and rising curtain revealing a single ballerina.

In that second I fell in love with the ballet and I fell in love with you.

After that, when my father would do my daily exercises with me and I would cry or protest, "No more, Daddy, please," he would rub my sore leg and say, "Maria Tallchief wouldn't say 'no more," and I soldiered on.

And so, Ms. Tallchief, whatever mobility I was able to recover was as a direct result of your name being spoken."

She was silent for a very long time, thanked me and we both cried.

The only way I could repay her -- to show her what she meant to me-- was to feed her.

I made her my Heavenly Hots, which are as light and elegant as she was.


4 eggs large
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup cake flour
2 Tbsp. potato starch
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl (or blender or processor) beat the eggs.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Heat a griddle or fry pan on medium high heat. Coat with a thin film of oil.

Carefully 'drop' a large spoonful of batter until it makes a circle of about 3 inches.

When a few bubbles appear on the top, turn them over very carefully and cook until lightly browned. (Note: Use a very thin wide spatula because they are very delicate.)

We serve them with a peach, raspberry, blueberry compote. I personally think maple syrup is too strong a flavor for them.