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.)
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.
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
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
Try this as a alternative to your regular chicken soup.
This is a simple, low fat, quick recipe for chicken posole, and is a great alternative to your regular chicken soup. For an even leaner soup, skip the sour cream and use reduced fat, low sodium chicken broth. Continue reading
In this article, published in the Food section of the New York Times on March 7, 1993, food critic Florence Fabricant suggests that there is a “renewed interest” in dried corn in American cuisine. While this renewed interest and, for many, introduction to dried corn stems from an interest in Southwestern and Mexican cooking, Fabricant indicates that hominy has been a part of the American culinary tradition for quite sometime. Continue reading
French lentil and hominy chili, from Giada de Laurentis, courtesy of Food Network.
Hominy and beans are a natural pairing–not only do they share a long culinary history, but processing both results in a product with a similar, soft texture that easily absorbs flavor in stews. This particular chili is not only vegetarian, but is also borrows traditional ingredients usually found with posole–cilantro, lime, avocado, cotja cheese, which makes for an interesting flavor combination. For us, we prefer to substitute a hard fall cider for the brown ale, which lightens the overall dish.
Note that you will need to soak your lentils for quite sometime (8-14 hours, or overnight if you prefer), which means you also have time to make your own hominy! Continue reading