The Piney Woods--Tangipahoa, St. Helena, and Washington Parishes

By Joy Jackson

The diet of the piney woods people included a generous portion of sweet potatoes, prepared in a variety of ways, various types of vegetables with beans and peas predominating, and both wild and cultivated nuts and berries. Walnuts, peanuts, and chinquapins were consumed along with mayhaws, blackberries, wild strawberries, and grapes. The chinquapin looks similar to a chestnut and has a flavor like a walnut. Peanuts were grown on most farms. Jean Crain, who lived in Mississippi a few miles past the border with Washington Parish, remembers harvesting peanuts. She recalls, "You would pull them up and usually take them into the shade and sit down and pick them off. We would have sometimes two barrels full. When company came, you parched peanuts." Boiled peanuts are still prepared and quite popular in this area. . . .

The major source of meat for piney woods people, however, was the hog. No part of this August farm animal was discarded by the thrifty piney woods farmer. Even the hard portions of the hooves were ground up and used for medicinal purposes. Vivian Womack, a native of St. Helena Parish who lives outside Greensburg, describes how her father killed and dressed a hog.

In my childhood hogs were allowed to roam the woods free for whatever they could find. I recall my father riding out on his horse to bring a hog home to butcher. Often those hogs were wild, and if he couldn't catch it with a rope and bind it and bring it home, then he shot it with a gun, a rifle, and brought it home and butchered it. The hogs were generally killed in cold weather, and they were hung from a support, either a tree or a support built to hold them. They were slit from stem to stern, and the insides were taken out. Some of those insides were kept--the entrails or guts, as we called them, were kept to stuff sausage in. The lights and liver we used for hash along with the heart and feet, if we didn't use them for something else. The head was used to make hogshead cheese. The other parts of the hog were cut into different cuts of meat to be smoked in the smoke house over a hickory fire. Some of that sausage was used fresh as patties or stuffed into the cleaned entrails with a sausage grinder that had an attachment for stuffing. It, too, was hung in the smoke house over the fire with the other cuts of meat that were pork and were smoked over a period until dry and cure, and then at intervals, a smoke was built under it throughout even the summer time to keep away flies.

This excerpt is from Folklife in the Florida Parishes, Louisiana Folklife Program, Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism and Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies Southeastern Louisiana University, 1989, pp. 52-53.