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The Acculturation of Corn

The Acculturation of Corn How the Melting Pot of the Americas was and is Shaped by Native American Food, as told through Cornbread and Tamales By: Charles Hine and Michael King Native American Influence on Food Jerky

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The Acculturation of Corn

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  1. The Acculturation of Corn How the Melting Pot of the Americas was and is Shaped by Native American Food, as told through Cornbread and Tamales By: Charles Hine and Michael King

  2. Native American Influence on Food • Jerky • Akutaq, also called "Eskimo Ice Cream” (suggested as the origin for ice cream) • Sweet Potatoes • Tacos • Tamales • Tlacoyos (gordita) • Pozole • Mole • Guacamole • Salsa • Mezcal • Tortillas • Corn • Corn has the largest influence; it became a staple for European settlers, replacing wheat

  3. Mythology • Mother Corn, Corn Woman, and the Corn Goddess • Also called First Mother • Native American’s believed that corn tied them to the earth • “The connection between the physical and spiritual worlds lay in the connection between human beings and Mother Corn.” • Several stories persist

  4. Penobscot Legend • Born from the earth; she bore the first child • When the people became numerous more food was needed • First Mother told her husband that they only way to feed them was for her to die at his hand • She gave instructions of what to do with her body • Corn grew from the spot where she was buried • Other legends • Some talk of a young or old woman who made food from her body in various ways • When she was discovered, the people where going to kill her, she told them how to dispose of her body and corn grew from her burial site • The Aztecs had legends about a corn goddess usually seen with two pairs of corn in her hands, associated with the number seven

  5. A Few tribes that associate corn with a goddess or a creation story • Arikara • Pawnee • Cheyenne • Mandan • Hidasta • Abnaki • Cherokee • Huron

  6. A History of Cornbread • “Cornbread-love, like all love, is universal and deeply individual.” – Cornbread Gospels • Native Americans have been using cornmeal for thousands of years • European settlers were used to wheat as the staple crop • European crops failed in the New World • Native Americans introduced them to corn • Showed them how to plant and harvest it • Corn has no gluten, Europeans were unable to make cakes in the old ways • Northern settlers always tried to cut the cornmeal with flour to make bread; to this day northern cornbread has much more flour than its southern counterparts • They also introduced them to ground cornmeal and various ways of cooking it • Boiled porridge • Cornbread/Corn pone

  7. The original cornbreads were more like corn pone • They were meant as a simple staple to sustain people when supplies were low • Corn pone • 2 cups white corn meal • 1 teaspoon salt • 1 1/2 cups cold water • Shortening (lard, oil, grease, or butter if available)

  8. Cornbread took on the flavoring of the local people • “The preexisting local Native American ways with corn, along with regional climate variations and economies, all shaped and flavored the regional cornbreads baked by these new Americans.”

  9. Cornbread continued to be a staple, especially for the poor and in times of hardship • Pre-Civil War • Cornmeal was far cheaper than wheat • Used to feed slaves • Water, cornmeal, salt • Cooked in leafs, and covered in coals • Called ash cake • Used after the Civil War in the South during the recovery

  10. Southern vs. Northern Cornbread • Both have adopted aspects of the tribal people within those regions • Southern Cornbread: “tells a story of lack.” • Denser, mostly cornmeal, no sugar, usually uses white cornmeal • Northern cornbread is the complete opposite • The use of maple syrup in cornbreads from the north was taught to the settlers by the Native American tribes that used the sap

  11. Truman Capote’s Family’s Cornbread (Southern) • 1 tablespoon butter or bacon drippings • 2 eggs • 2 cups of buttermilk • 1 teaspoon sugar • 1 teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon baking soda • 2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal

  12. “Thirded” Colonial Cornbread (Northern) • ¾ cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal • ¾ cup whole-grain rye flour • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder • ½ teaspoon salt • 3 tablespoons butter or mild vegetable oil • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses • 2 eggs • 1 ¼ cups milk

  13. Cornbread Influences Today • “No single food native to America has become more essential to the survival of so many different nationalities around the globe.” –Cornbread Gospels • Pakistan has added cornbread as a staple • Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and Henry David Thoreau all wrote passionately about cornbread • “Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it.” –Mark Twain


  15. TAMALE HISTORY • Can be traced back as far as 5000 BC to the Aztecs • Tamalii from the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs. • Maize or corn was a very important food for the Aztecs. Maize was used to make everything from cornmeal dough (Masa) to make tamales, drinks and cornbread. • They were prepared as a dish for ceremonies and festivals. The priests would hand make tamales and offer them as gifts to the Gods

  16. History Cont. • In Mayan creation myth from the book of Popol Vuh Maize God is central to birth of the sun and dawning of the world. • Was used by the warriors because they were easy to transport and easy to reheat

  17. Making Tamales in Ancient Times • Originally the Aztecs cooked the tamales by burying them in hot ashes which made them crispy and brown. • They steamed the tamales in underground pits or in uncovered pots. Using this method, the Aztecs believed that the tamal stuck to the bottom of the pot was good luck and would ward off danger on the battleground.

  18. 30 lbs Masa 8 Pork Roast 10 Pkgs. Corn Husk 9 lbs of Lard 1 Gal can Olives 1 lb California Chile 5 Tbs Salt Broth 3Tbs Baking Powder Combine ready made Masa, baking power, salt in large bowl (electric mixer) mix broth/water from cooking roast to moisten dough. In large bowl mix lard until fluffy then add to Masa until it looks spongy. (In a cupful of water roll a small piece of maze in a ball put in cup until it floats to top of cup this will let you know Masa is ready to spread on corn husks). If maze does not float to top add more water until ball of Masa floats to top. Prior to preparing tamales cook pork roast in large container until meat is fully cooked and ready to be shredded. Cook approximately 6-8 hours. Meat Preparation Combine cooked shredded meat with prepared chilies until flavored add additional spices if desired. Preparing Tamales Spread prepared Masa onto corn husks evenly with spoon toward top of husk. Add desired amount of meat filling to center of husk add a few olives to each tamale. Fold each side of husk together with end turned under tamale. Stand tamale in a large container with open ends up. Once container is full add water and top container with open husks and a few towels to keep steam in to help cooking. Cook tamales approximately 3 hours or until Masa separates from husk, this will indicate tamales are completely cooked and ready to eat. (Makes approximately 10 dozen per large container) How to make 10 dozen tamales

  19. Different Forms of Tamales • Pork • Chicken • Fish • Beef • Sweet • Chile • Cheese • Vegetables.

  20. Modern Use of Tamales • Christmas Time • Thanksgivings • Any celebration where families are coming together http://www.eastlosangeles.net/tamalefestival/

  21. Why These Foods? • Represents a heritage of Indian culture • A passing of knowledge from one generation to the next • Reciprocity • Sense of Community & Family Ties • Its been passed down in my family for five generations

  22. Sources • Dragonwagon, C. (2007). The Cornbread Gospels. New York: Workman Publishing. • http://www.progressotamale.com/tamale/history_of_tamales.html • http://www.epcc.edu/ftp/Homes/monicaw/borderlands/09_tamales.htm • http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-society-family.html • A Brief History of Mexico by Lynn Foster • Maize in human nutrition article by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations • http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0395E/T0395E00.htm

  23. Mark Twain: Corn-pone Opinions • http://www.cooksrecipes.com/bread/corn-pone-recipe.html • http://www.angelfire.com/va/goddesses/corn.html • http://www.artsmia.org/sacred-symbols/preview-corn-goddess.html • http://www.themystica.com/mythical-folk/~articles/c/corn_mother.html • http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/CornMother-Penobscot.html • http://www.universalpreschool.com/how-to/thanksgiving.asp

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