In Wasau, Wisconsin, Lidia makes Pork and Mustard Greens with Wisconsin’s Hmong Community.
Driving North from Madison, Wisconsin to the small town of Wausau, Lidia stops at a series of Hmong vegetable gardens. Every June families gather here to start planting the seeds for the next year – new rows of corn, beans, melons, eggplant, greens, and herbs. Many of these plant varieties have no English names. Hmong immigrants brought these plants and seeds from the mountains of Laos, old flavors they are now growing in their new homeland.
Since the Vietnam War ended 41 years ago, more than 200,000 Hmong have come to America from Southeast Asia. On April 9th, 1976, the first Hmong arrived in Wasau from Thailand. Lidia meets Latricia who escaped Laos with her parents in 1979. She was only 5 years old and spoke no English, so it took her some time to assimilate. The Hmong garden plot in Wasau provides food for her family and other Hmong refugees, but more than that it’s a link to her Hmong heritage. “It’s nice to have fresh food on the table,” she tells Lidia. “And to continue the traditions of our culture.”
Latricia brings Lidia through the fields and shows her the crops. Lidia helps pick mustard greens, and joins Latricia to prepare some of the traditional Hmong dishes that are served as part of every New Year’s celebration. These include traditional Pork with Mustard Greens and Beef Mince-meat or Laaj.
Once the feast is ready Lidia joins Latricia’s extended family to enjoy the traditional Hmong Feast, and share their family stories.