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SOFKEY (sofke, sofke)

Sofkey, derived from the Creek work safke or osafke, is a sour corn drink or soup enjoyed by Native tribes who once lived predominantly in the Southeastern United States. Today, these tribes include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek or Muscogee, and Seminole who reside primarily in Oklahoma, as well as the Alabama and Koasati who live mainly in Louisiana and Texas but also in Okfuskee and Hughes counties in Oklahoma. For most North American tribes, corn soup is a common food, but it can vary greatly in its ingredients and preparation. The Southeastern sofkey is as different from northeastern corn soup as German cooking is from French.

Sofkey making--pounding and sifting, circa 1923

Sofkey is made by cooking white cracked corn in a large supply of water, flavored with lye made from wood ash. No other seasoning is used except among the Koasati, who cook the corn in salted water rather than lye-ash. The mixture is cooked over moderate heat for three to four hours.

Creek women making sofky. The soup is eaten both hot and cold, using either a spoon or cup depending on the consistency, which can vary from a thin gruel to a watery porridge. Sofkey tends to be sour and frequently is considered an acquired taste. It is served in most any setting where food is shared, such as in homes and at various community gatherings.

SEE ALSO: FOLKLIFE, FOODWAYS, FRY BREAD, WILD ONION DINNERS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. N. Campbell, "Choctaw Subsistence: Enthographic Notes from the Lincecum Manuscript," Florida Anthropologist 12 (1959). Charles M. Hudson, The Southeastern Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976). J. Ed Sharpe and Thomas B. Underwood, American Indian Cooking and Herb Lore (Cherokee, N.C.: Cherokee Publications, 1973). Muriel H. Wright, "American Indian Corn Dishes," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 36 (Summer 1958).

Pamela S. Wallace

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