CORNBACK: A cornbread reclamation story

Facebook: Ionte’s Cornbread

Thanks to Ionte’s cornbread, I was reminded of how good our cornbread taste. The Hominy flour cornbread is one of my all-time favourites, and it truly has stood the test of time. This superfood is all Onkwehon:we have had little colonial interference, making it an ideal staple that is one-hundred-percent made for us!

Although hominy cornbread is not to be confused with cornbread, Toni Tipton-Martin notes had been adopted by early slaves due to its likeness to the traditional dish called Kush. Cornmeal (right) shared a similar consistency to an Indigenous African super-grain called Fonio (left); It reminded the early human trafficking victims of their home. (Left is Fonio, Right is Cornmeal)

Corn is found worldwide, but its origins are North American, specifically to Guerrero and Oaxaca’s modern states in Mexico, over 9,000ys ago or perhaps even longer. 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2002, 99 (9) 6080-6084; DOI:10.1073/pnas.052125199

The source of turning corn into hominy is called nixtamalization, and that process traces to present-day Guatemala to about 1500BCE. Dried corn is cooked with hardwood ashes or lime water to break down the shell to release amino acids and vitamin B that would otherwise not be absorbed. Both are important in maintaining optimal health and wellness. Nixtamalization is the hero that Onkwehonwe needed to break down and assist with proper absorption.  

Corn as a staple has become one of the foods our bodies are both genetically and geographically accustomed.  It makes sense  that the benefits of eating traditional foods that can be appropriately stored throughout the year or, better yet, are in season. 

Hollowed log and wooden pestle

In a large pot, you would have to boil the dried corn. After boiling the dried corn in the ash mixture to remove the hulls, you would strain it in a basket, let it dry, and the real work begins. Unless you have a grain mill, you would need to use a corn mortar and pestle to get the flour consistency. The hominy flour is combined with a little water; add in the beans with meat or even berries if that’s your preference, form it and boil it again.

These little pucks of scrum-diddly-umptious goodness are a powerhouse source of energy for Onkwehonwe throughout all life stages. Historically, during the typical day to day activities, the pot would boil over a concisely monitored fire, and clan members would take as needed as long as everyone could get a share. 

The hearty and well-moulded bread makes a perfect for the on-the-go crowd like hunters or gatherers. It makes me think quite honestly that cornbread was also possibly the first “take out” food. 

But that’s for a different reclamation