The Three Sisters: Corns, Beans, and Squash

Air Date: 11/27/2002
Source:
NBC Today Show
Creator:
Ann Curry
Air/Publish Date:
11/27/2002
Event Date:
11/27/2002
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2002
Clip Length:
00:03:16

Loretta Barrett Oden from the Corn Dance Cafe discusses Native American foods and the story behind "The Three Sisters": Corn, Beans, and Squash.

The Three Sisters: Corns, Beans, and Squash

ANN CURRY, Anchor:

Before the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, Native Americans grew and harvested the foods that influenced the holiday meal as we know it today. Loretta Barrett Oden of the Corn Dance Café in Santa Fe, New Mexico is here to fill us in on the history behind the holiday. Loretta it’s great to see you, good morning, welcome.

LORETTA BARRETT ODEN: Thank you, thank you.

CURRY: You come to this actually with your grandmother’s love because she made, sparked your love for this, this food and she was living on a reservation.

ODEN: Yes actually I’m from Oklahoma. There are a quite a number of tribes reservations in Oklahoma. So my grandmother, my mom, my aunts, you know the kitchen was the place where you learned. And our culture as any culture is really about food. You know if it’s not what’s on, in the middle of the table, you know.

CURRY: But your interest went on because

ODEN: Yes.

CURRY: Because you traveled all over the country, you made contact with something like twenty tribes.

ODEN: And it’s, and it’s ongoing all of the time.

CURRY: To learn about their recipes and the way they cooked and you found that there is a common thread, what is that?

ODEN: Well the corns, beans, and squash you know throughout the Americas, both North and Central and South America, Mexico. The corns, beans, and squash are

CURRY: We have them on the table.

ODEN: Are ancient, ancient foods. They’ve been cultivated by the people for thousands of years and it’s also about companion planting. So the plants help each other grow and that’s what the story of the three sisters is.

CURRY: There’s a story, while you’re putting all this together, there’s a story that basically that there was woman in the Iroquois legend, a mysterious woman, right?

ODEN: Actually the Iroquois we have many different legends. This food is really pointing out how diverse the people are. So from the Iroquois nations all the way across the Americas we had different corn legends. The three sisters are really about three little girls who didn’t want to be separated during the hunting seasons. We have precooked beans, we’re using the gorgeous heirloom beans, this is what beans used to look like.

CURRY: Ok.

ODEN: They’re multi-colored

CURRY: We’ve got some

ODEN: As these three things are planted

CURRY: tomatoes

ODEN: together as the corn stalk grows the bean vine stakes up the corn stalk

CURRY: Right.

ODEN: Uses it as a trellis, fixes the nitrogen in the soil that the corn depletes and then the third little sister is the fat jolly one, the squash that grows down below, holds in the moisture and smothers out the weeds. So it’s really about these three foods eaten and grown together and they form a perfect protein.

CURRY: Isn’t that interesting, here this legend has it that this all sort of happened that these things grew together and the people decided that that meant you’re supposed to eat them together and in fact they’re actually terrific.

ODEN: Oh yes.

CURRY: As a complete protein

ODEN: It’s really about looking back in time to see what worked so well and you know applying that to today’s. The culinary word is really, you know Native American cookery is kind of not been addressed.

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