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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 17, No. 3
September, 1939
CHOCTAW INDIAN DISHES

By Peter J. Hudson

Page 333

The process of preparing corn for Tash-lubona and Ta-fula is about the same.

For Tash-lubona, soak the corn for a short time or until the hull is loosened, and then beat it in a mortar uuntil the hull has slipped off leaving the grain of corn as whole as possible. Then take the corn out and fan it in a basket (ufko) to separate the hulls from the grain of corn. This basket or ufko is made of stripped cane. It is about three feet long and eighteen inches wide. One half of this basket is flat, having no sides, but starting from the center of the length, sides gradually rise from a fraction of an inch to five inches, one end being five inches in height. The corn is fanned and the grains all go to the end with the sides while the hulls are blown off the flat end. After the hulls are all disposed of, put the corn in a kettle with lots of water, salt and pieces of fresh pork and boil it down until it is thick. When it is done you have Tash-labona, which is very rich. Don't eat too much Tash-labona as it will make you sick.

With Ta-fula, the same process is followed as with Tash-labona, only the corn is beaten until the grains of corn are broken into three or four pieces, then take it out into the basket and separate the hulls from the grains. It can then be cooked with beans, with wood ashes or in any other way you wish. Meat is not cooked with Ta-fula. Use plenty of water and boil it down until there is a lot of juice. You can eat all the Ta-fula you wish as it contains no grease.

For Bread or Banaha, or, in English, Shuck Bread, soak the corn a long time, maybe all night, then beat it in a mortar until the hulls axe off and then put in the basket and separate the hulls from the grains, after which put it back in the mortar and beat it into meal. Then sift it. That meal is as fine as wheat flour. Of course there will be some grits left that cannot go through the sieve.

In making Sour Bread, the grits are mixed with the dough. The dough is made the night before and allowed to sour and then it is cooked.

In making Banaha the meal is made into dough and then rolled out into lengths of Hot Tamales but about four or five times bigger around, and each one covered with corn shucks and tied in the middle with a corn shuck string. The middle is smaller than the ends when tied up. It is then boiled in water until done and the

Page 334

shucks taken off when ready to use. When Banaha is to be carried on a trip the shucks should be left on.

Another bread is made with this meal by wrapping the dough in green fodder and boiling. It is very fine. Sometimes the hulls of peas are burned and the ashes put in this dough which makes it a brownish color.

Holhponi is the old Choctaw word for Ta-fula and the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi call this dish Holhponi to this day.

In Cyrus, Byington's dictionary, Tash-labona is spelled Tanlubona or Talubo. Tanlubona came from two words, Tanchi which means Corn, a noun, and luboni, verb, meaning to boil. In Choctaw language, when you unite two words, a vowel and sometimes a syllable of the preceding word is dropped. So in this case "chi" is dropped, leaving Tanluboni. Luboni, to boil, then becomes a past participle and it is spelled lubona. The "n" in Tan is there because of the fact of the nasal sound. The old missionaries adopted a short line drawn under a vowel to give it a nasal sound, so I prefer using a short line drawn under the vowel to denote a nasal sound rather than the use of "n". Therefore, I would spell the word Talubona. In a few cases the "ch" is changed to "sh", so in this case "ch" is changed to "sh" and the word becomes "Tash". The Choctaw people will recognize the word as it is used interchangeably.

Ta-fula, came from two words, Tanchi, a noun meaning corn, and fuli, a verb, which means "to stir." Then when they are joined together "chi" is dropped, leaving Ta-fula. The "i" is changed to "a" because it is a past participle, and in Choctaw when two consonants come together it calls for a vowel.

Walakshi is another Choctaw dish made on special occasions. Wild grapes are gathered in the Fall and put away on stem to dry to be used when wanted. To cook, the grapes are boiled and then strained through a sack, only the juice being used. The dumplings are made of the corn flour described above and dropped in the grape juice and cooked until done. Of course more or less grape juice is absorbed by the dumpling and the remainder of the juice is thickened. Walakshi was always furnished by the bride's relatives at weddings, while the bridegroom's relatives furnished the venison.

Bota-Kapvssa is a cold meal made of parched corn. The grains of corn were poured into a kettle, a fire was built under it and hot ashes were poured in the kettle with the corn. The corn was stirred continually until it was parched brown and then it was taken out and put in the basket described above to be fanned, the ashes being separated from the corn. The parched corn was put into the mortar and the hulls loosened from the grain of corn and then it was put back in the basket again to be fanned, separating the hulls from the grains of corn. It was again put in the

Page 335

mortar and pounded until it became a fine meal. Bota-Kapvssa is very nourishing. The Indian hunters and warriors used to take a small sack of it on their journeys and when they became hungry or thirsty, a small amount was put in a cup of water and upon drinking it, the thirst as well as the hunger was satisfied.

When roasting ears were gathered, a fire in a long row was built and a pole laid over the fire, the roasting ears were laid against the pole in front of the fire and the ears were turned every few minutes so that they would cook evenly and also to keep them from burning. When they were all cooked, the corn was shelled from the ear and dried in the sun, and sacked and put away for winter use. It was cooked in water and because it swells a great deal, a little corn would make a big meal. It is good for invalids.

In making Choctaw dishes, flint corn is preferable but if flint corn cannot be obtained any corn can be used. Horses will not eat flint corn. Flint corn is called by the Choctaw Indians Tanchi Hlimimpa. It is the only kind of corn the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi had when the white people found them.

In making Hickory Ta-fula, hickory nuts are gathered and put in a sack over the fire place to dry for a month at least. Then when ready to make Hickory Ta-fula, the nuts are cracked finely, shells and kernels together, then put in a sack and water poured over the nuts to drain. After this water is drained, it looks like milk. This hickory nut water is then poured into the Ta-fula and cooked. This makes a very rich dish.

When pumpkins are gathered in the fall, they are peeled and cut into narrow strips and dried for winter use.1



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