The Three Sisters:

Good morning, and welcome back to Ridin Out the Recession in Miz Judi’s Kitchen. Thanks for droppin back by to visit with us!

As you guys know by now, Deb and I consider ourselves very fortunate to be “Southern born, and Southern bred.” We’re proud of our heritage, as I’m sure others are in regards to the parts of the Country they’re from. It’s our way of life, and actually, the only one we know.

With this being said, you know also in regards to our recipes, most have a Southern heritage, and this is what we’ll discuss today…our Southern cuisine, and its roots.

What is Southern cooking? To me, Southern cooking is an accumulation of all different types of food products that have evolved from many different areas worldwide, and were brought here by many different groups of people.

The recipes that have survived to become an integral part of our lives today have been in existence for many, many years now, some for centuries.

For example the English finally settled in North America in 1607, in Jamestown. They came fairly well prepared in their food stocks. Upon arrival they had dried beef, salted pork and fish, and even settled in with cows and chickens.

In the winter of 1609-10, they were hit with one of the worst winters in hundreds of years. This particular winter was known simply as, “the Starving Time.” During these times, archeologists have determined that their diet consisted of many unusual, and even appalling food stuff.

It has been determined through archeological digs that they ate pretty much what they could find, where they may find it. These included horses, rats, snakes, dogs, and cats. This was simply in the struggle to survive, or, doing what you had to do in order to survive.

There are even accounts of cannibalism among the newcomers. Personally, if faced with such adversity, I believe my motto would be just… “Eat it, before it et me!”

We all know that the Indians stepped in, and showed these first Americans how to grow food staples such as they did. We now know as well, that the English brought over their own recipes and before long they were being employed in the making and preparing the food groups the “Native Americans” were supplying them with.

These few settlers had opened the way for other groups to follow. The Scots, the Scot-Irish, the Germans, the French, and the French Canadians began arriving. All with their own recipes and way of life.
Down the road, the slave trade began here in the U.S., although slavery and its roots began on the African continent, a fact not talked about very extensively, but is true. In fact slavery had been condoned, and was a way of life among many African villagers for centuries prior to its introduction into America.

Quickly, do I feel slavery was right? Quite frankly I have to say without a doubt, no it was not, and I don’t condone it by any means, but those were different times, and throughout history, slaves or slavery, has been practiced. Sad, but true.

Making only one more remark in this regard, I’d like to say this…I living, and having lived in the South, all my life, I see very, very little racism today. This too is a true statement. I DO see though, a ton of reverse racism, and race baiting constantly. This all being used for a political agenda, but enough of that, that’s not what we’re discussing…

But, African-Americans, using that term very loosely, as I consider people making the choice of living here in our Country as simply…Americans. These people though played a big, big part in the influencing of our so called…Southern cooking, and this IS the story today.

We have several “black friends,” whom we enjoy visiting with, and most times we’re talking about cooking in some shape or form. Two of these friends of ours run a barbeque business, and I’m here to tell ya, they’re darn good at what they’re fixing.

They sell beef, pork and chicken barbeque, with sides of greens, potato salad, homemade mac and cheese, and Deb’s favorite…their fried okra. She swears it’s the best she’s ever eaten, and I gotta say, she just may be right in her assessment. It IS soooo good. But, everything they fix is!

We consider them to be good friends, and above all else, good, good people…first class! Matter of fact, we’ll take you down to their place and do a video of them, coming up shortly.
But, from these first adventurers America began to take its shape, and grow into the great Country we know today. BUT, the first and foremost factor, I believe, is the influence the “Native American” people had on the term, Southern Cuisine.

This statement brings us to today’s column, “The Three Sisters…”

What are the three sisters you ask? Well, that’s simple enough to answer. This being the three staples of food groups used by the Indian peoples. They are beans, corn, and squash. These were also the first Native American foods to be embraced by the colonists.

Although the native people were all skilled as hunters and gatherers, they were also very accomplished farmers. With their help, the new settlers also became adept at growing these crops as well, and literally these were some of the very staples that kept them alive during the very tough times of establishing and making a life here in… “the New World.”
Of these, corn, or maize, may have been the most beneficial to the colonists. It wasn’t long before corn pone, and Johnny cakes were part of the new settlers lives, and a major part of their sustainment of life.

Beans and squash were basically just as important in their own rights too…sustaining life. So, stop just for a minute or two, and then consider these “three sisters” importance today in our lifestyle.
Corn, beans, and squash all play a big role in Deb and my lifestyle, and we love all three. Matter of fact, depending on what time frame we’re speaking off, you’ll find all three, among others in our garden each year. We love them, and they are a major staple in regards to our food supply.

So, as you see, our self-described “Southern Cooking,” is actually a blending pot of several different cultures. It can also be called “Soul food,” because in reality, a large part of our Southern eating is what can be legitimately described as soul food.

But once more, it evolved from the Native Americans with their “three sisters” heavily involved, the English, French, African, or other cultures as well. Through this we have flourished as a society and come to know and love our style of eating foods prepared in this fashion. It is our heritage.

From the Cajuns and Creoles of Louisiana we have gumbo, red beans and rice, catfish Evangeline, and oysters Bienville.

From the “Low-country,” South Carolina say, we have shrimp and grits, the Low-country shrimp boil, chicken bog, hoppin’ john, and she-crab soup.

Other Southern staples include, greens, peas, rice (and some type of gravy), cornbread, okra, and biscuits to just name a few. Then we start talkin cobblers, sweet tater pie, pecan pie, sweet breads, and on and on… all good eatin!

Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Granny, my Mama, or my wife Deb, any happier than when they know they’re cooking for a bunch of people…family, friends, whatever. They find inspiration standin in those dern kitchens cooking up a mess of food to share.

The comments of , “Oh Granny, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted pork and rice that could hold a candle to this what you’ve made today…it is delicious!” Or, “Dern Deb, those chicken and dumplins are the best I’ve ever put in my mouth,” right down to my Mama standin there in her kitchen being complimented on how well that pecan pie turned out!

I swear, with the women in our family, I’m not so sure if there’s any compliment that is taken to heart, anywhere near as much as one describing how good their food turned out! To them, I believe these are the greatest compliments they could ever have…your food sure is good! I call it…”Blowin their dress up!”

In closing, I’d like to say that to everyone out there who have never tried them…pick up some dern grits, and give em a whirl! Maybe, just maybe, you may soon see that something you considered to probably not be very good, actually is…very, very good! If not, then it’s simply…more for me!

God Bless you and yours, and once more ole Deb says to keep a smile on your face, and one in your heart!

Dub and Deb

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2 Responses to The Three Sisters:

  1. Sandra says:

    Great article D&D. The staples of every area in the south that kept us going for a couple of hundred years before big markets were just down the road. Even in my generation the garden was near the house, game was in the woods and fish in streams ponds and rivers. You just had to go get it. To think back then it was almost free food.
    During hard times I remember some families talking about a supper of fried salt meat, white sop and biscuits. Mostly this was in the dead of winter when supplies and money had dwindled. A Mother found a way to feed her hungry little group. For those of you that don’t know what white sop is it’s milk gravy and is very good. And I am still addicted to fried salt meat. Don’t get me started on cathead biscuits!

  2. Sandra says:

    Since I am feeling quite well today think I will do more that one post.
    Best fried okra in the world
    Lots of Okra ( like a buckeful)cut in the slice width of your choice
    oil or fat for frying(for you fat concerned people use canola)
    Put cut okra in large container
    salt and peppr it
    Toss it around
    Dust with the flour and shake off excess, let it set and it will get gooey
    When it gets gooey add the cornmeal, let it set , toss it around
    Make sure it is quite covered. Heat big pot with oil or fat. Shake off excess
    cornmeal. Put in enough for the okra to float and fry until brown.
    You do not want to crowd your fryer so do it in batches. Drain on paper.
    You want to cook a mass quanity of okra because while it is cooling and waiting for the table it will start disappearing. If you have any leftovers leave it on the counter
    it will disappear too. We eat it like popcorn.
    This makes a very good product and will stay crispy for a while. Enjoy!

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