How the Elders Cooked

The Indian Pioneer Papers are the product of a project developed in 1936. The Oklahoma Historical Society teamed with the history department at the University of Oklahoma to get a Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers' project grant for an interview program. The program was headquartered in Muskogee and was led by Grant Foreman. The writers conducted more than 11,000 interviews and after editing and typing the work, the results were over 45,000 pages long. The following excerpt is from the interview of Margaret Elkins of Westville.

"The family of the Woodalls that came from Georgia were all fullblood Cherokees. They knew cooking the old Cherokee way. They ate the simplest of food. The food that could be found on most of the tables would be wild meats, corn and bean bread, pumpkins and dried fruit. At that time fruit was plentiful in the woods, but fruit jars were not known so most of the fruit was dried.

The way they dried the fruit was by the sun method. They built a scaffold of poles out in the yard. The fruit was peeled and cut in small pieces and placed on the scaffold until dry. This was sacked and stored up in the lofts of their homes.

The sweet potato was another common food in those days. Many sweet potatoes were raised by the Cherokees. They also knew how to take care of them better than they do now.

Plenty of wild meat was stored away in the winter. Hogs ran wild over the hills in this part of the Cherokee Nation and hundreds of them were killed every year. There was no law to prohibit anyone from killing as many as his family could make use of. But they had to have a claim in the woods in order to do this. These hogs stayed fat all the year. There was planty of meat. Soldier Sixkiller was the greatest hog raiser in this part of the country. He owned several hundred."

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center. Email: cultural@cherokee.org