Foods and Influences

By Robbie Trosclair, staff writer

For the United Houma Nation, food starts with traditional crops like corn, squash and beans — a trio known as the three sisters because of the way they sustain each other and the soil while growing together.

Monique Verdin, a UHN member, believes the food they grow is important to help heal the damage done to the Earth from overfarming.

“We should look down at the earth beneath us in order to look forward,” Verdin said.

With the crops grown, the UNH can start to celebrate their history by creating traditional foods. Ida Aronson, who runs the United Houma Nation farm, says growing traditional produce is helping them connect to their past through traditional recipes like Maque Choux (pronounced Mock-Shoe), a recipe made from corn and herbs. Other traditional dishes include dumplings made from persimmons, custards made from squash and traditional teas.

“I’m hoping to bring back more nutritional foods to the surrounding Houma area,” Aronson says.

Louise Billiot, who grew up with indigenous dishes like the ones above, says another traditional dish she grew up with is fry bread.

“It’s simplicity is why it’s so good,” Billiot says.

Billiot says that when she was a child growing up, she remembers the cooking being plain because they didn’t have much. Even her gumbo recipe just consists mostly of onions, chicken, water and filé, a thickener used in gumbo made from ground sassafras, a traditional UHN crop.

In fact, the Houma introduced many ingredients that are now considered Cajun — foods like grits, sweet potatoes and beans, she says.

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