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Valentine || Tanka Bars

Tanka bar Like other college foibles, the freshman fifteen is a lot less forgiveable once you're in your thirties.

That's why, even on a long day on the road, I don't find it hard to not occupy my nervous energy by eating. (I love these stories I'm collecting, and I don't want to end up resenting them for endowing me with a squishy butt.)

You're of course aware of my penchant for Lära Bars. (And thanks very much to those of you who have greeted me at the door with boxes of them...I'm looking at you, Danny.)

But man cannot live on dates and cashews alone. ...Well, some men can. But this particular woman cannot.On the other hand, if the drive is going to be longer than 6 hours, I know that I'd better bring a snack, lest low blood sugar turn me into easy prey for an anxiety attack. (Lord knows you've had to read enough of those.

And that is why this particular woman is simply mad for Tanka Bars.

Photo from @tankabar

If you haven't heard of Tanka, it's not that surprising. Created in Pine Ridge, South Dakota by members of the Oglala Lakota tribe, and heretofore the bars have been easier to find on a reservation than in a mainstream health food store.

But the popularity of the Paleo Diet is pushing this humble little operation out into the limelight. In the same month, Tanka was featured in both Women's Running and in Native Foodways. How's that for primal cred?

Photo by Aaron Huey for National Geographic

Tanka Bar is a natural nutrition bar made from meat. (And all the conscientious carnivores shouted "Glory be!") Specifically, from prairie-raised, primarily grass-fed buffalo meat.

Why didn't I just say "beef jerky?" Because Tanka also makes a buffalo version of jerky sticks, and they are good...but the bar is what's really up.


It's based on wasna, the Lakota word for what eastern Native Americans call pemmican. Only instead of using suet or other fat to bind together dried meat and berries, this is 70% lean bison meat chopped together with preserved cranberries and spiked with pepper and pressed together into a rectangle and it's really hard for me to explain to you here how perfectly it lifts me out of a hunger mind-funk when I'm smack in the middle of an all-day drive. It's sweet, smoky and juicy like a really good steak, leaving a light, energetic feeling in its wake.

Vintage postcard, Buffalo in South Dakota

Beyond liking what they make, I'll just go ahead and say that I like this company. It's run by thoughtful, interesting people with more motivation at their back than making money off a current fad. They highlight the personal stories not only behind their leadership team but also behind everyone who works for them. They did the research needed to create a great and timely product, and they are honest about the progress toward their goals.

The SD that I come from isn't South Dakota; nonetheless, the smell and taste of a Tanka bar takes me back home. My dad fills my mom's Christmas stocking with them; they took loads with them to Uganda when they went to adopt my sisters.

Natural Market, Lawrence, Kansas

After a prolonged deprivation in the east, I was so glad to rediscover Tanka at Natural Market in Lawrence, KS. With the sun out on Interstate 70 and the campfirey smell that broke from the wrapper, I felt like I was more than halfway home.

And when it came time to cross the Rockies? Well, let's just say there's something very brave-making about biting into a bar of red meat when you're negotiating a switchback pass through snow and 70-mph winds. My native ancestors probably didn't eat buffalo, but I'm pretty sure they respond to its taste; I felt the spiritual strength of their badassery anchoring my shredded nerves with every bite.

So, then...behold my new stand-by road fuel lineup.

Tanka bar, LaraBar, kombucha

With these three as my pit crew, the long and lonely miles threaten neither fear nor loathing.

(At least, not the kind related to low blood sugar.)


If Tanka isn't in your natural foods store, you can find out about getting it there by contacting the lovely Jessica