Today, there are various traditional gardens across the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. When I was searching for a recipe that is both traditional and delicious, a friend of mine who works in the Tribal Education Department suggested a book titled Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians as Recounted by Buffalo Bird Woman by Gilbert L. Wilson. The book is filled with traditional Hidatsa gardening methods and recipes recounted by Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Native and expert gardener. As winter approaches, I thought it would be wise to suggest a winter dish called four-vegetables-mixed. The following recipe is an excerpt taken from Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, Chapter III: Sunflowers.
To make this dish for a family of five, I did the following:
I put a clay pot with water on the fire.
I threw one double-handful of beans into the pot. I recommend sticking with this amount of beans, regardless of how many people you are cooking for.
When we dried squash in the fall we strung the slices upon strings of twisted grass, each seven Indian fathoms long. (An Indian fathom is the distance between a woman’s two hands outstretched on either side.) From one of these seven-fathom strings, I cut a piece as long as the distance from my elbow to the tip of my thumb; then I tied together the two ends of the severed piece, making a ring. Then I dropped it into the pot with the beans.
Once the squash slices were well-cooked I lifted them out of the pot by the grass string and placed them into a wooden bowl. With a horn spoon I chopped and mashed the cooked squash slices into a mass, which I then returned to the pot with the beans. I threw away the grass string.
Then I added four or five double-handfuls of mixed meal, of pounded parched sunflower seed and pounded parched corn. The whole thing boiled for a few minutes more and then it was ready for serving.
I have already mentioned how we parched sunflower seed. I used two or three double-handfuls of seed to a parching. I used two parchings of sunflower seed for one mess of four-vegetables-mixed. I also used two parchings of corn, but I put more corn into the pot at a parching than I did of sunflower seed.
Pounding the parched corn and sunflower seed reduced their bulk so that the four parchings— two of sunflower seed and two of corn—made four or five double-handfuls of the mixed meal.
Four-vegetables-mixed was freshly cooked; and the mixed corn-and-sunflower meal was also made each time. A little alkali salt might be added for seasoning, but even this was not usual. No other seasoning was used. Meat was not boiled with the mess, as the sunflower seed gave sufficient oil to furnish fat.
Four-vegetables-mixed was a winter food; and the squash used in its making was dried, sliced squash, never green, fresh squash. (Woman, 1917).