2009-03-19 / Headlines

Bette's Kitchen

by: Reseanna Renaud Special to the Times

all photos by: jenni giovannetti all photos by: jenni giovannetti Manderson-Bette's Kitchen, owned and operated for the past ten years by Charles and Betty Janis O'Rourke, offers much more than reasonably priced home cooked cuisine in a relaxed country setting.

It is a place where regulars get good conversation served up with a full menu plus two daily specials and soup-of-the-day and tourists fill up on Betty's intriguing family background.

Located one mile south of Manderson on Black Elk Road, off scenic byway BIA 33, customers need only follow the signs to the top of a lush pine dappled hill to find Betty, and maybe some fresh homemade bread.

'When I started out it was all to-go. I didn't have anything like my regular menu, just hamburgers and fries. Now I have 30 items." It wasn't always hands-on mass cooking for Betty.

She started out in RN training then moved on to Nutrition Coordinator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe for 25 years. She loved teaching the youth about cooking during parenting classes and held workshops for people with health concerns such as diabetes, kidney, and heart disease.

After her departure from the OST and husband Charles' retirement from the BIA, Betty began making take-out meals for folks which eventually evolved into a full fledged restaurant.

Charles went to work for FEMA but Betty needed help with

h e accounting and talked him into joining her in the business.

"I never advertised. It was word of mouth and KILI Radio." Now she has students, chartered buses, bikers, and workers from the nearby ranger station making their way up the trail for lunch. "I've had planes land here. I've had helicopters land here. This summer I had 75 Criminal Investigators from all over the US. I set up a buffet for them and they came in buses and vans.

Bette's Kitchen, a Pine Ridge Chamber member, is featured on several websites. Betty is still adamant about providing healthy food to those on special diets and features a veggie burger and vegetable soup alongside the regular fare. And if you need your cooking to come to you, Betty handles catering of all sorts, whether it be a wedding, branding, or graduation. Visitors love to climb around the tall needlelike wind burnished buttes and hike to the family's old Black Elk cabin nearby.

As a Black Elk descendant, she is proud of her Lakota heritage, and guests love to hear her stories. "Right where I have my house is where they finished the book Black Elks Speaks. This goes along with all my story telling. The pictures on my wall are of my Great Grandfather, Nicolas Black Elk. My Grandfather, Ben Black Elk posed at Keystone and Mount Rushmore for 28 years. I lived in Keystone with him for 18 years of my life. Two years ago, I did a two hour educational documentary of my memories of growing up with my grandparents." As she holds an early postcard of Ben in full regalia posing in front of the prominent monument, she gently laughs about her grandfather calling himself the 'fifth face of Mount Rushmore'.

Black Elk Speaks is the 1932 story of Oglala Sioux medicine man Black Elk as told to author John Neihardt. Black Elk's son translated Black Elk's words from Lakota into English. A more recent book, Black Elk Still Lives, is about Betty's family with her name appearing in the family tree at the back. Bette's Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday for lunch but she will put on a Sunday buffet for ten or more.

You can call in your order at 605-867-1739 for pickup or come in for a sit-down.

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