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.
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
Vertumnus, a mid-sixteenth-century painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Note the use of a maize cob for an ear. Maize, like many New World food items, was rapidly assimilated into the culinary traditions of Europe, becoming common place within only a few decades after Columbus’s first trip.
Essential to hominy is the process of nixtamalization (pronounced NEESH-ta-mal-i-za-shun). It’s a tricky word, and honestly, it’s a tricky process. For this reason, there’s a lot of misinformation about what nixtamalization is and exactly what it does. Continue reading
Blue corn flour tortillas.
On May 7, 2014, Vice News published the piece, “You’re Eating Fake Tortillas, and Diana Kennedy Is Pissed About It.” A world-renowned authority on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy offers a familiar polemic–food today just isn’t as flavorful as it used to be. Ingredients are becoming more and more standardized everyday, and varieties of vegetables are becoming less and less. It’s the fast food, industrial world we live in. Countless varieties of fruits and vegetable become one or two available in your local grocery story, to the point at which “cows” become “cow,” “bananas” become “banana.” Continue reading
On the left, three flint maize kernels soaked overnight in a solution made from woodash lye and water; on the right, dried flint maize.
Hominy is a varied term with a varied past. I’ve already touched on this a bit, but the subject deserved much more attention. It can be ground or whole, lyed or cooked in woodash, and can be from various maize varieties. So, what are these different definitions of hominy and where do they come from? Continue reading