Monday, October 16, 2017

Culinary Arts, Part I - Muskogean Era

Recently, I attended a luncheon at East Central Community College (ECCC). The event was hosted by the Culinary Arts program and was part of the students' mid-term exam.

The students and their teacher, Mr. Karrh, prepared Southern cuisine from four different periods from our history: Muskogean, Colonial, Civil War, and Civil Rights, as well as shared people, events, and historical tidbits from each era.

Since there was so much to soak in, I'm going to divide this into four parts, posting about each era during the next four months.

I especially enjoyed the Muskogean and Colonial eras as that's when my current series, is set, in the 1790s.

Mr. Karrh and some of his students dressed in period garb.

Mr. Karrh wore a Scottish kilt underneath the long jacket. I didn't think to get a photo of his kilt, but he is of Scottish descent. 

A Student in Period Garb


Food from the Muskogean Era. Notice the wooden serving chargers. The Muskogean Era is loosely defined as the pre-18th century before cast iron pots and kettles were introduced to the Muskogean tribes by the Europeans.

The Menu for the Muskogean Era

Students in Period Garb Serving the Meal

Students and Guests Enjoying the Repast

Banaha at 9 o'clock, Corn on the Cob at 1 o'clock, Hominy at 5 o'clock

Banaha, hominy, corn on the cob, fry bread, and molasses cookies were staples for the Muskogeans prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the Southeast. Fry bread is still cooked and eaten today in many homes of the Choctaw nation.


6 cups corn meal
2 teaspoons baking soda
boiling water
corn shucks

Pour enough boiling water over the meal and soda mixture to make a soft dough which can be handled with the hands.

Prepare 4 to 6 handfuls of corn shucks by pouring boiling water over them to cover, then strip a few shucks to make strings. Tie 2 strips together at ends.

Lay an oval shaped ball of dough on shucks. Fold carefully and tie in the middle with strings. Place in large stew pot and boil 30 to 45 minutes.

Pam's review of Banaha: I've never eaten Banaha, and it wasn't exactly my favorite dish on the menu. It was a bit grainy and bland as corn meal is apt to be. I didn't receive a list of the recipes from the event, so found the basic recipe online. Other ingredients can be added to change the texture of Banaha. In some ways, Banaha could be compared to an earlier, simpler version of "dressing" or "stuffing". Just add some boiled eggs and chicken broth. :)


I've had hominy maybe once in my life and wasn't fond of it, but the ECCC Culinary Arts students made me a fan by adding chicken to the dish. I didn't find a recipe that resembled the simple dish offered at the luncheon, but it was perfectly seasoned, possibly with just salt and pepper. But it was so good that one couldn't go wrong with a bit of butter. Of course, most of us would buy canned hominy if making this dish, but the Muskogean cook would have had to soak and cook field corn in a lye solution. Then she would boil the corn for several hours to loosen the hulls from the kernels, and soften the corn. For more detailed instructions on cooking hominy, go here.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to sample the fry bread, but since I live between two Choctaw reservations, fry bread would be fairly easy to get a taste of around here.

Molasses Cookies

Now we get to the sweet part. Molasses cookies. What I remember about molasses cookies comes from an elderly lady name Mrs. Arletta who made what we called teacakes (not to be confused with the English teacake), but Mrs. Arletta's teacakes were similar to molasses cookies. From as young as six-seven years old, I can remember sneaking into her kitchen and reaching in her cookie crock to get one of her teacakes. I never, ever found it empty.

There are tons of recipes on the internet for molasses cookies, so take your pick.

However, I have a feeling that the 17th-18th century recipe was way simpler than the "Old-fashioned" recipes dotting the internet, and I simply can't imagine any of them tasting as amazing as Mrs. Arletta's did to a little barefoot girl on a sunny, summer day way down in Mississippi.

The Promise of Breeze Hill is set in 1791 Natchez Territory. With a wide range of characters with ties to the Spanish, French, British, Choctaw, African, and Irish, the food served would have been a bit more varied than what was available during the Muskogean era, and the serving pieces would be more in line with the Colonial era, but there would still be some offerings on the table, especially when the cook was part Choctaw, Chickasaw, or Natchez.

Join us next month on the 16th for a look into the Culinary Arts of the Colonial Era in the South.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.


  1. That sounds like an interesting luncheon. And for the record, I really like hominy--with butter and some salt on it.

    1. Vickie, I guess it just wasn't a staple at home when I was growing up, so I never learned to like it. But, like I said, this dish was great. So, I think if someone knows how to prepare it, it makes all the difference. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I wasn't familiar with the Muskogean era. I was raised in NJ, so didn't have hominy till after I met my southern husband's family.

    1. Same here. Linda. I might have to experiment with some recipes now that I know how good it can be.

  3. Thanks for the post! I bet that was a very interesting lunch, and I think it would be fun to attend something like that!

    1. It was great fun, Connie! I would have liked to have a recipe booklet with all the recipes included. They could charge more for the luncheon if they included the recipes. I'd pay! :)

  4. What a luncheon! Thank you for sharing your most interesting post.

    1. It was definitely a fun event. Stop by next month on the 16th for a post on the Colonial Era. :)

  5. What a fun and exciting luncheon. I enjoy attending events where different periods or a particular country food is being served. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to the other ones in the future. I enjoy hominy, of course it's canned, Recently someone made a nice dish with hominy, ground beef, tomatoes, chili powder, peppers, onions and other spices. It was very tasty.