2015 Louisiana Studies Conference Presentation Abstract

“Culinary crossroads: Traditional foods of the Sabine Parish Choctaw-Apache Community”

Presented by Robert B. Caldwell, Jr., University of Texas at Arlington

The Choctaw-Apache community is located at an ancient crossroads, a borderland area where the division between the numerous streams and bayous of Louisiana and the old prairies of Texas is now hidden in a dense pine forest. Anthropologists have long divided American Indian cultures into southeastern and southwestern cultural areas. Once again, the Choctaw-Apache represent a distinct mix between these two “food areas.”

Choctaw-Apache foodways are influenced by  numerous cultural regions and ecological niches (river bottomlands, southern forests, plains, desert) along the Camino Real de los Tejas (northeastern Mexico, Texas, Louisiana) and the culture region of the U.S. Southeast, as well as hundreds of years of cultural interactions between so-called “old world” and indigenous groups.

Choctaw-Apache community of Sabine Parish has always been a mystery to outsiders. In the past, this questionable mystery and fear helped them keep isolated from the outside world. They were “those people.” The cuisine associated with families within the Choctaw-Apache has a distinct ethnic marker that sets them apart from other communities. The cuisine developed from a longstanding cultural exchange between tribes of the Southwest, Southeastern Indian, and Europeans including Spanish and French. This presentation explores how these multiple food influences crossed cultural boundaries in the 18th and early 19th century to blend into a distinctive local cuisine and explains the foods of this community which is little-known and often misunderstood by outsiders.