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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Whole kernel, nixtamalized hominy.
Let us be clear–this post is about making your own nixtamalized hominy, your own boiled maize kernels that have been soaked in an alkaline substrate, which will not only make processing them easier, but will also enhance their flavor. If you simply want to soak your dried corn in water then grind/cook it, this is not the post for you. You may argue that this is hominy just the same, but I’m taking a historical perspective–for centuries, hominy was nixtamalized, maize and alkaline treatment married in a prolific foodway. This may not be the hominy you know, but this is the hominy you will soon learn to make if you keep reading. Continue reading
On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes’s book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.
Despite recent misinformation regarding Rufus Estes (he was, in fact not the first African-American cookbook writer, but he was the first African-American railway cookbook writer), this recipe for hominy muffins, as well as the life and occupation of its author, provides a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural associations attached to hominy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Continue reading
Like most fruits and vegetables, there are hundreds of varieties of corn, each with its own peculiarities and nuances. However, I’ll bet that unlike apples or tomatoes, your local grocery store doesn’t carry several varieties. In fact, for most varieties of corn, you’ll have to grow it if you want to eat it.
What follows is not a list of all corns known, but instead specific varieties I’ve been able to source on the Internet. (Most generalized hominy or heirlooms corns, such as “white hominy corn” or “yellow cornmeal” are not included.) Some are from seed companies, where a pound may run $25 or more. Some, though, are more economical. Most of those listed under cornmeal are already ground, and to date, none indicate they were nixtamalized. Continue reading
Many people are surprised when they find out that the native groups who lived in the prehistoric and early historic Eastern Woodlands did not make their own fermented, alcoholic beverages. This wasn’t for lack of suitable materials–corn, as many know, makes a fine beer and liquor. History and culture are likely the culprits. Continue reading