The Fresh Loaf

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Native American cornbread

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Native American cornbread

What kind of leavening, if any, did Native Americans use in cornbread?

BreadLee's picture

There's a recipe for an Indian bread in bernard clayton's book .. page 549, that uses only baking powder. It's from the Indian women's club of Tulsa. 


Filomatic's picture
David R's picture
David R

Maybe it's misleading to look for "the answer" to this question. Different areas at different times could easily have used quite different methods; in addition, the cultural "baggage" that's unintentionally attached to the question can be pretty overwhelming, in some cases at least.

The easy answer is "whatever was available at the time".

clazar123's picture

I think you are asking what leavening was used by Native American cooks PRIOR to encounters with Europeans, right? Other than natural fermentation (which every human group has discovered), probably none. Pearl ash and saleratus were European discoveries, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, a LOT of Native culture (incl. cooking) was lost during the post-European contact era.Flat breads and thick "biscuits" like hoecakes (a colonial name of a corn biscuit with no leavening)or boiled corn "biscuits" were common, as well as pemmican.

"Frybread" is not truly a Native American product but occurred after the people were provided with white flour as part of their payment for their lands and relocation to reservations. To qualify that statement-when they were given what was due according to treaties. Food warehouses were often locked because of nonpayment by the Federal govt to tradesmen who were the providers and native peoples were starved because of this reneging of payment. Often the starving Native Am. took the food and then were judged savage for doing so. Hence the "Dakota War"or "Sioux Uprising " of 1862 and the hanging of 38 Native Americans in Mankato,MN for their role in trying to feed their people. Very bad time in history.

Read it and weep. There has been more than 1 Holocaust in history.

Actual recipe of Native American corn bread and some history of corn bread. Frybread is viewed by some people as a symbol of the oppression and pain experienced by the Indians when they were forced to be dependent on the "American" govt for food and their culture was obliterated by denying them their language and culture.

DISCLAIMER: I am not Native American but I try to be educated.

David R's picture
David R

In addition: People's view of particular recipes and traditions - whether those resulted from oppression and genocide or didn't - often have more to do with their personal or close-family connections to those recipes & traditions, rather than to the broader political and social events. For example, "My mother/grandmother made it like that, it's one way I remember her" can have major positive significance for an individual, despite the fact that a political analysis might show that she only made bread that way because she had been forced into horrific circumstances and had no choice.