Cooking is an important part of life for the Cherokee woman. Not only is it necessary for nourishment, for life; it is part of the social fabric of the Cherokee people. In our traditional story of the first man, Kanati, and the first woman, Selu. Selu is also called the "Corn Woman." She lived with her husband, Kanati, and two sons. Each day she would leave her house and return later with a basket full of corn. The boys wondered where the corn came from, so one day they followed her. They saw her go into a storehouse, and they got where they could peek in and watch her. There they saw her place her basket on the ground before her and begin to shake herself. The corn started falling from her body into the basket.
They then thought that their mother must surely be a witch; and that witches must die! Selu could read the boys' thoughts. She told them that after they put her to death, they would need to follow her instructions so that they would continue to have corn for nourishment. "After you kill me, you must clear some ground in front of our house. Then drag my body in a circle seven times. Then, you must stay up all night and watch."
The boys did this, but they got the instructions wrong. They cleared seven areas of ground, and drug her body twice in a circle. Corn began to grow, but only where her blood dropped to the ground. Because the boys were careless in listening to the instructions, corn must now be planted and taken care of in order for it to grow. And to this day, it only grows in certain spots and not the entire earth.
Visit any traditional Cherokee home, and the woman of the house will provide a delicious meal. As a matrilineal society, it is the woman who carries the clan, she who gives nourishment to the growing infant by providing it with her milk. She continues to nourish all who come to her home by providing lovingly prepared food.
Below are a few recipes that make up a wonderful, traditional Cherokee meal.
1 cup of cornmeal
½ cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups milk
¼ cup melted shortening
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp honey
4 cups drained brown beans
Mix all of these ingredients, except beans, thoroughly, and then fold in the beans. Pour into greased, heated pan. Bake at 450 until brown (usually 30 minutes or so)
2 strips of good bacon
2 cups of hominy
2 or 3 green onion
Fry bacon while cutting green onions into small pieces. Crumble bacon, and add onions. When the onions start appearing to be frying, add hominy and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes first on high heat, then on low.
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp shortening
½ cup grape juice
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough very thin on floured board and cut into strips ½" wide (or roll dough in hands and break off pea-sized bits). Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 - 12 minutes.
Kanuchi is a real delicacy to the Cherokees in Oklahoma! A kanuchi stump, or kanona, used for preparing kanuchi. A heavy log is hollowed out a few inches in depth. A long, heavy stick is used as a pestle for pounding. Kanuchi making takes a lot of effort, but it is surely worth the work.
Hickory nuts, gathered in the fall are allowed to dry for a few weeks prior to preparation. The hickory nuts are cracked and the largest pieces of the shells are taken out. You can pick them out by hand or shake the pieces through a loosely woven basket. Better still, do both. The nuts (don't worry if there are some small pieces of shell) are put in the 'bowl' of the log, and are pounded until they reach a consistency that can be formed into balls that will hold their shape, sized about three inches in diameter. They must be kept in a cool place and they can even be frozen.
When you are ready to prepare the kanuchi for serving, put one of the balls (thawed, if it was frozen) in a sauce pan with a quart or so of water. Bring it to a boil, and the ball should dissolve into the water. Simmer about ten minutes, then strain through a sieve. This separates any of the shell that is left. It should simmer until it is about as thickens to the consistancy of light cream. IF you wish, add two cups of hominy to each quart of kanuchi. Most cooks add some sugar or honey. It should be served hot as a soup.
Wild Onions and Eggs
Gathering wild onions inspring is a ritual among the Oklahoma Cherokees, as well as the other tribes who live where these wonderful plants grow. Wild onions and eggs are often frozen and kept for months so they can be eaten the rest of the year. Begin with a cup of wild onions that have been cut into small pieces. Two or three tablespoons of bacon dripping are put in a skillet and warmed over medium heat. Place the chopped onions and about one fourth cup of water. Simmer while stirring until the onions are tender. You can add small amounts of water if needed, When the onions are tender, and most of the water has cooked away, add six or seven beaten eggs and scramble. Info provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center. For information regarding culture and language, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org