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Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck
Posted at 1:05 PM, Jan 10, 2024

BILLINGS — Mama Joan's food truck can easily be spotted around Billings by its bright pink exterior and the delicious smells coming from the interior.

Linda Gilcrist and her family opened the truck in the summer of 2023, serving Sioux-inspired frybread and Indian tacos.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

“Obviously everything is centered around frybread,” Gilcrist said. “The name Mama Joan’s is actually after my mom. She passed away in 2015 and the frybread was something she always made for us kids because there were eight of us.”

Gilcrist said the idea to open a food truck to honor her heritage came at a time when she was grieving the loss of another family member and she needed a way to stay busy.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

“I had recently lost a little brother. I think it was part of that process of pouring myself into something in order to honor my mother and my brother at the same time," she said. “Even though people didn’t know her, they would know her by this little pink truck.”

Her mother's frybread was her brother's favorite. Gilcrist remembers her brother always asking her if she was making some. She didn't anticipate Billing's residents would love it just as much, too.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

“Actually, I didn’t think it would be as popular as it was. It has taken off, which we’re very thankful for,” she said.

When Gilcrist first opened the truck, she would roll out each piece of frybread by hand. With the popularity of her food, she quickly realized she needed to change that business plan and got herself a dough sheeter. Trying to keep up with the demand was something her mother also went through trying to keep eight mouths fed with the frybread.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

“I remember being a little girl and she’d be frying it and putting it into paper bags and we would eat it as fast as she would fry it,” Gilcrist said with a smile.

While the food truck isn't open during the winter months, Gilcrist made an exception for a couple of sixth-grade classes at Riverside Middle School on Tuesday.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

English teacher Katlyn Greenwood wanted to make learning more fun for her enriched classes, so she gave Gilcrist a call.

Mama Joan's: Billings family honors heritage with food truck

“We’ve been focusing on the Indigenous cultures,” Greenwood said. “I wanted to make it more personal to my students.”

Gilcrist and her sister served up frybread with honey and powdered sugar and Indian tacos to the sixth graders, and it was a big hit.