The Three Sisters: A Celebration

Corn. Beans. Squash.

The Three Sisters.

Many Native American groups tell very different creation stories about these New World crops, which – as “sustainers of life” – meant deep sacredness.

According to Shelia Wilson of the Sappony Tribe in North Carolina:

The legend of “Three Sisters” originated when a woman of medicine who could no longer bear the fighting among her three daughters asked the Creator to help her find a way to get them to stop. That night she had a dream, and in it each sister was a different seed. In her dream, she planted them in one mound in just the way they would have lived at home and told them that in order to grow and thrive, they would need to be different but dependent upon each other. They needed to see that each was special and each had great things to offer on her own and with the others.

To celebrate these legends, on Indigenous Peoples Day, I created a version of Three Sisters Soup.

A Holy Trinity of flavors.

Three Sisters Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound uncured bacon, cut into half-inch pieces

1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup unsalted canned diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

2 cups cooked white beans

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 cups unsalted chicken stock

2 medium zucchini, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/3 cup heavy cream

Flatleaf parsley or cilantro, minced, to taste

Add oil to large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add bacon and fry until crisp and fat renders. Remove to a plate. Stir in chopped onion and cook until onion becomes transparent. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Do not burn. Stir in diced tomatoes and cook for about 5-8 minutes, then add tomato paste. Stir for a minute or so, until liquid is almost gone. Add corn, beans, spices, and stock. Let simmer covered for about 1 hour over low heat. Stir in salt and pepper. Add chopped zucchini, cover pot once more, and simmer for 30 more minutes. Add heavy cream and stir in well until warmed through. Do not boil. Taste for seasoning. Serve garnished with parsley or cilantro or both.


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