RubyRosaryReprinted from

Creole State Exhibit Artifacts at Louisaina Folklife

Ruby Parrie’s traditional skills developed from need and circumstance. One of 18 children, each of whom had chores and responsibilities, she was so small when she started cooking that she had to stand on an apple crate to reach the cabinet. She learned to quilt when she was just 10 years old. Her mother taught her to hand sew shirt tails and material pieces into plain, square quilt tops, stuffing the quilts with grass and using unraveled flour sacks for the thread. After she married Leo Parrie and began to rear their 11 children, her mother-in-law taught her to use a treadle sewing machine. Mrs. Parrie still uses the hanging quilt frame that originally belonged to her mother-in-law.

Ruby’s mother-in-law also taught her to sew without using pre-made patterns or directions. She makes most of her own clothes and makes uniforms and clothing for other people using patterns that she creates free-hand from newspapers. Mrs. Parrie also makes shirts, blouses, dresses, pants, ties, and other regalia for Native American powwow activities. She has a sense of Native American color and style and dressed her children in clothing she made to reflect their heritage.

Having been raised in an economically deprived community, Mrs. Parrie does not like to waste anything. One day in the yard, she picked up a string so that no small animal would tangle in it. She idly made knots in the string while talking to a friend. The string began to resemble a rosary, so Mrs. Parrie experimented with knots and string types and began to make rosaries. She sometimes purchases beads to decorate the rosaries or has local artisans carve crosses.
Mrs. Parrie’s foodways traditions combine elements from Native American, European, and Southern cultures. Cleppies, a corruption of the French word, crêpes, are a type of Indian fry bread. Mrs. Parrie also makes sweet potato pies that are half-moon shaped and either baked or fried, similar to the Spanish empanada. Red pepper soup includes chicken, garlic, roasted red peppers that she has grown and dried, corn meal, and water. This soup is generally served on special occasions.

Mrs. Parrie’s specialty food is tamales. Using her mother’s recipe, she processes dried corn into hominy to make masa for the wrapping.. The meat for the tamales may be pork roast, beef, hog’s head, chicken, or deer that is cooked with garlic, salt, and her home-grown peppers. With special preparation, the corn, meat, seasonings, and corn shucks are steamed to perfection. She usually makes tamales about once a week, producing about 25 dozen at a time.

North Louisiana

Native American

Wood, Twine
Photo: Thomas A. Wintz, Jr.