Garden & Gun: A Taste of “Cherokee Cooking”

Image result for Cherokee Cooking: From the Mountains and Gardens to the Table

This article is actually an interview with Nancy Plemmons, one of the original authors of “Cherokee Cooking: From the Mountains and the Gardens to the Table.” In this short piece, you get a quick introduction to a number of important ingredients and dishes within Cherokee cuisine, from sochan, ramps, bean dumplings, to the ubiquitous presence of pork in Cherokee cuisine, including hominy dishes. While there’s a lot to highlight from this piece, Nancy’s reply to the following question worth repeating:

White settlers adopted so many ingredients and dishes from the people who were already living in these mountains, from poke sallet to cornbread. What’s a dish you’d still only find on a Cherokee table?

Oh, maybe pig’s feet with hominy. We love hominy, because we love anything to do with corn. I love homemade hominy, but it’s an all-day thing to make in a big pot with hickory ash and nobody does it anymore. Once you’ve eaten homemade hominy, it’s hard to settle for canned.

(Image is taken from Sapelo Island Birdhouses, which currently has Cherokee Cooking for sale through their site.)

Video: “The Timeless Dish of Pashofa”

“When you cook on fire like this, the pashofa tastes better than cooking on a stove.”
-Sam Johnson

A short, wonderful video from Chickasaw TV’s online-series on traditional Chickasaw foods. This particular video focuses on the preparation of pashofa, a traditional Choctaw and Chickasaw dish of hominy and pork. This video highlights not only the basics for how to make pashofa, but also a much of the modern elements of sociality (community, for example) that surround this dish.

There are so many things I love about this short video, but what strikes the most personal chord is the large iron pot hoisted over an open fire–everything about this scene is reminiscent of the iconic image of stew pots in Southern communities that bring people together. For some of us, Brunswick stew could be in that iron pot; for others, perhaps a low country boil. Next time, though, maybe we should try pashofa.

Timeless Dish of Pishofa

Iron pot over an open fire, right before it boils.

New World Thanksgiving (Rancho Gordo)

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This great guide provides a number of recipes for modern-day, New World dishes. (Link included in the text below)


While there is no primary hominy dish to be found in this guide (there is one dish that calls for the addition of hominy, if interested), it is, nonetheless, a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to add dishes more akin to those found in indigenous communities throughout the New World to their Thanksgiving (and even their everyday!) table. Thank you, Rancho Gordo! 

Crimson Popping Corn with Mexican Oregano (Rancho Gordo)

This fantastic recipe from Rancho Gordo’s “New World Thanksgiving” is a great twist on the classic, 21st century, American popcorn snack. They suggest serving it as an appetizer, and I agree–while the crimson kernels are only a slight red/pink when popped, they still make for a beautiful contrast to the green oregano and white cheese (we used Romano). Delicious!

Note that this is not a nixtamalized maize dish, nor is it a hominy dish. Instead, popcorn has a different history from the nixtamalized hominy foodway showcased on this blog. However, many varieties of pop corn (or pops) are not only suitable for making hominy, but make fantastic hominy.

Crimson Popping Corn with Mexican Oregano (Appetizer)
Serves 5-7

  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil (used to pop)
  • ½ cup Rancho Gordo Crimson popping corn (of course, another popcorn will do!)
  • 2– 3 tablespoons butter (added after–can easily be subbed for non-dairy options, like olive oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Rancho Gordo Mexican oregano, crushed with your hand
  • Salt to taste
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino romano (optional)

Directly from Rancho Gordo: “Have ready a large serving bowl. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the popcorn and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the popping has slowed down to 1 or 2 pops per second. This should take about 3 minutes. Carefully uncover the pot and transfer the popped corn to the serving bowl. (If you have a popcorn popper, use that instead!) In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the crushed oregano to the pan and swirl to incorporate. Drizzle the herb butter over the popcorn and mix gently with your hands. Add salt to taste, and finish with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.”


The Hominy Foodway of the Historic Native Eastern Woodlands

This article was published in 2015 in the journal Native South. Drawing on numerous ethnohistoric sources from the Eastern Woodlands, I outline the materials, steps, and aspects of sociality that compose the general native historic hominy foodway of the Eastern Woodlands (just like the title says!). This piece was intended to be a “starter piece” for research on the hominy foodway, introducing the idea of a widespread practice of nixtamalization among historic Indian groups in the south, as well as highlighting similarities between seemingly disparate maize-based practices. In it, I also introduce the idea of that the driving force behind the historic practice of nixtamalizing practices in the native hominy foodway was not nutritional, but instead perpetuated by a culturally-constructed taste for bitter foods. It’s a theme that pops up over and over again in my work, and the idea of culturally constructed taste features prominently in my classes as well.

Creek women making sofky.


The Civil Cooking Pot: Hominy and the Mississippian Standard Jar in the Black Warrior Valley, Alabama

In 2016, this article was published in American Antiquity. In it, I propose that the Mississippian standard jar, the most prolific ceramic vessel form throughout the Mississippian world, was not simply a generic cooking pot, but was instead specially adapted to nixtamalize maize, making it a vital tool in the late prehistoric, Mississippian hominy foodway. While the article is intended for an academic audience, I certainly value any and all perspective on the piece! Additionally, I’ll try to write a more accessible, less jargon-ee piece on the subject soon for the blog.

Below is a color version of Figure 4 from the article.


Recipe: Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

While the star relationship of this blog is the one between corn and alkaline substrates, the star pairing in this recipe is between the blueberries and lemon zest. The sweet cornmeal cake makes a great, full-bodied delivery for these two, letting them shine slightly brighter than a regular flour cake would. As always nixtamal makes a wonderful substitute for the regular cornmeal, and also makes for a softer cake.  Continue reading

Recipe: Jonnycake Bread (The Bryant House Restaurant)

I’ve yet to tackle cornbread or jonnycakes on this blog, and for good reason: this is an area of great contention. Everyone has a great cornbread recipe they righteously defend, and the same is true for jonnycakes. For many, love of the latter even extends to the right kind of cornmeal to use. Perhaps one day I’ll have an informed opinion on jonnycakes (while, on the other hand, I’m no exception to the cornbread rule!), but in the meantime, this cake recipe from The Bryant House Restaurant, courtesy of Bon Appetit, will have to do.  Continue reading

Perspective: The Cultural (and Emotional) Side of Food; or, “if they complain, I’m never cooking for them again.”

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Food is often exalted as an important aspect of heritage, of culture, and even emotion. Yet, many times, underlying this exaltation is an assumption that food, and especially taste, is inherently biological, that what I think is good to eat is the same for all people. What taste good to me, what looks good to me, tastes and looks good to everyone else. Since I like chocolate and milk and bacon, all others must. These things taste good to me, so they must taste good to you. As such, we are quick to call attention to those foods that are strange or seem even inedible to us as disgusting or gross, and we never think twice about it. By viewing food and taste as inherently biological, we treat these negative words as facts, and not what they are–judgements. Continue reading

Recipe: Sweet Cornmeal Pie

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

With the days growing shorter, the leaves beginning to change, and the temperature beginning to drop, one of my favorite times of the year approaches: roasting and baking time. This marks the first of what I’m sure will be numerous recipes to follow that deal with various ways hominy and related products can be incorporated within these two culinary methods. This recipe for a simple sweet pie is made with cornmeal, not hominy, but I’ve substituted the 1/2 c. cornmeal for a 1/2 c. finely ground nixtamal and it worked just fine. I also enjoy adding both cinnamon and nutmeg, giving the pie a more seasonal flavor. Continue reading