March 22, 2011

Indians in A Taste of Louisiana

I came across this series on PBS a few months ago. The first three episodes featured Native Americans.

Taste of Louisiana with Chef John Folse & Co.: Our Food HeritageIn this new series, world-renowned Cajun and Creole chef John Folse examines Louisiana’s culinary history and celebrates the French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, American Indian and African influences on Louisiana’s cuisine. Filmed before a live audience, the program combines music, history and of course, great cooking.

Native America: Poverty Point

At the time Ramses II was ruling Egypt, Moses was leading the Israelites from bondage and the Phoenicians were trading along the Mediterranean, Native Americans were thriving at Poverty Point in northeastern Louisiana. Jon Gibson, an expert on the Poverty Point settlement, introduces us to this unique civilization. David Griffing of Poverty Point explains how these early Americans were ingenious in their "hot rock" cooking and demonstrates how to prepare steamed fish. Donna Pierite performs Native American songs during the show.

Native America: Sportsman's Paradise

Before agriculture, hunting and fishing were the primary food sources for the Native American tribes of Louisiana. While they hunted deer, game birds and small animals, they also enjoyed a bountiful harvest of fish and shellfish. David Griffing, a Louisiana park ranger and Native American expert, gives us insight on our first Americans. Bertney Langley and his mother, Loris, of the Coushatta tribe, demonstrate how to make fry bread, a traditional Native American food. Hazel Dardar performs Native American songs during the show.

Native America: Native Plant Foods

The Lower Mississippi Valley provided over 250 natural herbs for the Native Americans. Kim Hollier and Dr. Charles M. Allen of the Louisiana State Arboretum in Ville Platte give us a firsthand look at these wild edibles. Dr. Alma Blanchard, a "traiteur," explains the art of this alternative medicine practice and even treats Chef Folse for an old injury. Hazel Dardar performs Native American songs during the show.
Comment:  Chef John Folse is so relentlessly upbeat that he almost sounds insincere. But I must give him credit for doing his shows right. Even though they're cooking shows, he spends the first 10 minutes of the half-hour learning about and sharing Native cultures. Back in the studio, he has a couple of Native guests who answer questions or perform songs.

The message is one of continuity. Not only did Natives produce great civilizations, but their descendants are still with us. These cultures aren't dead, they're a vibrant part of the American tapestry.

Anyway, the shows are good, but they're mainly about cooking, not Natives. If you want to see them, you can buy the DVD here:

A Taste of Louisiana with Chef John Folse & Company: Our Food Heritage--The Native American Shows (DVD)

For another documentary about Native food, see Preview of Growing Native.

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