Zuni

Prepared Foods

Originally Published in 1995

View PDF

Excerpted from ‘Uses of Native Materials in Zuni Pueblo,’ written by Zuni High School English Composition students and edited by Patricia Joan Allen (Zuni, New Mexico: Zuni High School, 1989)

Blue Corn Breads (Muk’yaba:we)

There are several variations of blue corn bread in Zuni. The dough can be shaped into patties (muk’yaha:re) or into blue marbles (muk’yaba:we). The blue corn meal mush is also wrapped in corn husks. These are called chut’siya:we.

Blue corn bread is usually made in the winter time. One belief is that if it is eaten in the summer, hail may come and destroy the crops. Another belief is that it should only be made and eaten in the morning as it might cause sickness if eaten in the afternoon. However, many Zunis make and eat it any time of the day with no harm­ful effects.

To prepare blue corn bread patties (muk’yaba. we), take the blue corn off the cob and grind it to a coarse texture with a hand grinder. This is sifted, but does not need to be toasted. Next, boil 6 cups of water before making the dough.

To make the dough, use several cups of blue corn meal, baking powder and water. Limestone ashes (aaure) may be used instead of baking pow­der. These ashes help the corn mush turn blue. Baking powder produces a light green color. Ashes from the chamisa brush, corn cobs, or cedar can be substituted for limestone. The amount of ingredi­ents can be increased or decreased depending on the size of the family.

When the color of the dough turns blue-gray, shape it into thick cakes about 2 inches in diam­eter. These are then put into the pot of boiling water and boiled for 45 minutes, or until it becomes thick like mush.

Blue marbles (mukk ‘yali:we) are made from corn which has been roasted or heated in the oven until it is lightly browned and cooked. Then it is ground to a fine consistency either on a hand grinder or with a hand grinding stone. Limestone ashes (a:luwe) and water are added to form a stiff dough which is then shaped into marble-sized balls. These are dusted with blue corn meal and dropped into a pot of boiling water. They are boiled only a short time because the corn has been preroasted. The liquid or juice (k’yaIli:we) remaining after boiling either the patties or the blue marbles is saved to drink when they are eaten.

To make blue corn bread wrapped in corn husks (chut’siya:we), soak ashes in water until they dissolve. Then strain out any remaining lumps. The raw blue corn kernels are boiled in 2 or 3 quarts of the ash water for about 20 min­utes or until the skin or covering on the corn comes loose. The corn is then washed thoroughly, strained and rinsed until all the ashes and skins are removed from the corn. The corn is soaked in clear water and strained again. Next, it is ground while still wet and used immediately to make chut’siya:we.

A layer of this cooked mush about 1/2 inch thick is put on a wet corn husk and tied up in a slender bundle the same length as a tamale. These bundles are then boiled until the corn husks soften. They can be eaten fresh or reheated.

Blue corn bread is tasty with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, or mixed with green chile and salt (k’yałk’osenne) in stew bowls. It makes a filling meal when eaten with jerky or other traditional foods. Blue corn bread was and is still very popular in some families to this day. It is considered one of the delicacies among the traditional foods of Zuni.

CORINA LAIWAKETE
GRADE 12

Chile Stew (K’vawaho:we)

Traditionally, chile stew is eaten during Shalak’o time, night dances, initiation time or anytime during the year.

In ancient times when there were no wood stoves, stew was cooked with hot stones. A stone which had been heated in open fire would be added to the pot of food being prepared. At least two stones had to be used. When the one in the pot cooled off, another heated stone was added. The stones would be alternated until the stew was cooked. This method was very time consuming.

Special cooking pots were designed for cooking over the open fire. Their clay construction was much thicker and heavier to withstand the heat.

When cast iron pots became available, chile stew was cooked over an open fire in these. After the fire cooled down, the meat or jerky was fried. The water, wild onions and corn were added to the pot.

Here is how chile stew is made in Zuni today. First, set the oven at 300 degrees, or if it’s to be cooked on top of a wood stove, it should be about that same temperature. The ingredients used to make the stew are venison, mutton or beef, red or green chile, potatoes, garlic and coriander.

Cut the meat into cubes and fry or boil it. For a family of six use 3 to 3-1/2 pounds of meat. Now fill a 2-gallon pot about half full of water and let it sim­mer for an hour. Then add peeled, cubed potatoes.

The chile for the stew is prepared in this manner. Roast the red or green chile 10 to 15 minutes. Then let cool for about 10 minutes. Next peel the chile, grind it, and mix it with coriander. Blend these two ingredients with a little garlic powder. Add this to the stew, and let it simmer for an hour and a half.

The smell of stew will make you hungry. It looks like any ordinary stew, but the taste is better. Hot oven bread or tortillas are excellent additions to chile stew.

SANGELITA WEEKOTY
GRADE II

Jerky (Shik’usna:we)

Jerky has long been known to the Zuni people. In ancient times jerky was pre­served and stored for winter use. Hunters and farmers would take jerky when they went on a hunt or were out tending their fields.

Described here is the traditional method of preparing jerky. First, the deer has to be skinned. All the meat is taken off and cut into thin slices. It is cut with the grain. Most deer meat is found on the front and hindquarters. There’s not too much meat on the rest of the body. Meat trimmed from the ribs and other bony sections is often used for posole. In the past the bones were taken to the Skull Shrine (Dornap’a) at the base of Dowa Yalanne Mountain.

When all the meat has been cut into thin slices, it is time to hang it up. It is sprinkled with chile (kola), with mint (rnattsa), or salt (rna:k’ose) to prevent spoilage while it is drying. It needs to hang until it is wrinkled and hard. The length of time varies with the weather. When it is completely dry, it is salted and eaten. The same method is used to make jerky out of mutton and beef.

Some Northwestern people use jerky for smoking like tobacco, but the Zuni people just eat it. It is also used in cooking, especially in making stew, hot tamales, and other traditional foods.

The thing I like most about making jerky is that it’s good, deli­cious and nutritious.

BRIAN AHIYITE
GRADE 10

Mutton Stew (Chuleva:we)

Mutton stew became a traditional food in Zuni after the Spanish introduced sheep (kyaneau) in 1539. Prior to 1540, a similar stew was probably made with the meat of wild game in the Zuni area such as deer, elk, and bear.

Since the introduction of mutton, the stew has developed into what we presently have, chuleya:we. Mutton stew is a traditional food during the time of Sha’lak’o, the event which highlights the Zuni calendar.

The event of Shalak’o, which arrives in late November or the early part of December, is a preparation for the visitation of our ancestors. All Zunis are committed and obligated to help. Refusal or reluctance to participate in the activities is in a sense to be disre­spectful of our ancestors. Therefore, misfortune will come to those who refuse to comply. All family members and close relatives of a family whose house is to be blessed during the evening of Sha’lak’a must be present at the home and do what is asked of them. Mutton stew is prepared in large quantities to feed all the Shallak’o guests.

Ingredients needed to prepare mutton stew are 3 to 4 cups of white corn, a shoulder of mutton or a package of stew meat, cilantro (kukmdu) and red chile powder (k’oI owe). First, place the water on the stove to boil. Then wash and peel the skin off the white corn on a metate (akie). Cut the meat into cubes and add it with the white corn to the boiling water. Cook the stew for approximately 3 hours or until the meat is tender and the corn starts to open up. Add cilantro and red chile powder for flavor.

There are two main ways of cooking stew: inside on a stove, or outside in a beehive oven. If cooking inside, cook the stew slowly for at least 3 to 4 hours. Cooking outside takes a long time. Overnight cooking is preferred by some older Zuni women.

A fire must be built inside the beehive oven to get it ready. Usually the hot ashes are left in the oven to cook the stew overnight. The opening is sealed with a piece of flagstone and mud in order to keep the heat from escaping. The next morning the opening is unsealed and the stew removed. Mutton stew takes much time and effort, yet makes a delicious meal.

Not only do we Zunis prepare chuleya:we for our own physical sustenance, but we constantly bear in mind our ancestors or beloved ones that have gone to their rest. Through our offerings of small amounts of chulcya:we and other traditional foods placed either in the fireplace or by the river, we nourish their existence in the spiritual world during their visitations on big occasions such as Shalak’o.

KARLA CHAVEZ
GRADE 12

Paperbread (Dow Hewe)

Paperbread is a very thin, translucent wafer bread. It can be grey in color when using blue corn, or white using white corn. Zunis usually stack their bread flat, Zunis usually stack their bread flat, unlike other pueblo peoples who roll theirs up like news-paper. To many outsiders, it is commonly known as piki bread.

Paperbread is baked on a big flat stone, a sandstone that is found on the west side of Dowa Yalanrie Mountain. . Long ago many people owned he’we stones, but today few people own one, so it is considered a precious item.

To prepare the stone by smoothing and shaping is a long process. It could last all day. The stone will be flat after the smoothing and shaping are finished. It is seasoned by repeated rubbings with piñon gum and squash or pumpkin seeds. The stone has to be hot enough for the gum and seeds to melt and be absorbed by the stone. Every inch of the rock must be covered. In addition, it is believed that the stone should be prepared with good, positive feelings in order for the stone to come out right.

Preparation of the corn is also a time-consuming process. After the corn is harvested and shelled, it is preheated before being ground on a merate (ak’e) and mano (yalinnc) or more recently with a grinding machine. It is then stored away in flour sacks for later use.

Around Shalak’o time, the paternal and maternal aunts announce that there will be a corn grinding ceremony (oknak ‘yanna). Ladies young and old gather at the six Shalak’o houses to grind blue corn to the beat of  chanted songs. The chanting group is composed of men from different medicine lodges.

The ladies kneel to grind using an ak’e and yalinne. The metate is a large malpai rock with an oval groove in the center. The mano is the hand grinding stone. The number of metate stones depends on the amount of corn to be ground. When grinding is completed, the flour needed for immediate use is kept out and the rest is stored in a cool, dry place for later use.

Before the dough is mixed, a fire is built in the cook‑house. . Cedar wood is always used because it produces a high temperature. This fire should be lit for the duration of cooking. The he’we stone is supported on its ends over the fire. Another important ingredient of paperbread is ashes(luwe) which gives the bread its blue-grey color. Ashes are prepared from a limestone rock found by the gravel pit on the road to Ojo Caliente. The ashes are obtained by a process similar to firing pottery. The rock is fired, cooled, and then soaked in water for the meal. If lime‑stone ashes are not available, juniper ashes, or baking soda may be used as these have the same effects.

However, if too much baking soda is added, the paper‑bread will have a greenish color and a bitter taste.

Now begins the process of preparing the paperbread mixture. Water and meal are cooked to a medium thick mush over moderate heat. The ashes are then added. In another bowl, toasted corn meal is mixed with enough cold water to form a dough.

The next step is the baking of the bread. The he’we stone is greased with a sheep’s brain or spinal cord. Then the stone is tested with a small amount of the mixture to see if it is ready. The woman making the bread dips her fingers into the mush mixture, scoops up a quantity, and mixes it with some of the corn meal dough until it becomes the right consistency. She then spreads it quickly and lightly across the stone from right to left with her fingers. If the stone is not hot enough, the paperbread will be too thick. It only takes a few seconds before it starts peeling around the outside edges. Then it is lifted gen­tly at the top corner and peeled off. It is stacked up flat in a basket and the next one is started.

Long ago, the young ladies began making paperbread at an early age. They were not taught, they learned by watching the older ladies. These days, not too many ladies know how to make paperbread. They depend on the older ladies to make it.

Paperbread, a traditional Zuni food, is made for the coming of the Shallak’o and also in late June or early July for the return of the rain dancers from their annual pilgrimage to the Zuni Heaven (Kołuwala:wa). This bread is also fed to the kachinas during dancing festivities.

DEBRA NATACHU
GRADE 12

Pumpkin Blossom Cakes (Kvane:L Oshokwinne)

Pumpkin blossom cakes are one of the traditional Zuni desserts. Few people know how to make them today.

Summer pumpkin blossoms (adeya.we) are needed. They can be picked when the blooms first open in the mid­dle of June or July. The winter pumpkin blossoms taste bit­ter. The seeds of the summer pumpkin are a little larger than Halloween pumpkin seeds.

First clean the inside of the blossoms and let them dry. In a bowl, make a fairly thick paste of blue corn meal and water. Add about 1 teaspoon of sugar if desired. Then stuff the blossom with this paste. Lay the stuffed blossom on top of a stove or a griddle heated to a moderate temperature. Put a small plate or something similar on top of each blos­som to flatten it so it will cook more evenly. In the old days heavy flat rocks were used. After one side of the blossom is browned turn it over and brown the other side. When fin­ished eat like any cookie or cake.

Pumpkin blossom bread may be prepared by grinding dry blossoms and white corn meal together to make a paste (not too fine), adding salt or sugar as desired. This paste is then placed on corn husks like tamales and boiled in water until cooked. This blossom bread is called adeya: mule.

 ROBIN GLASCOCK
 GRADE 10

Sheep Head Preparation (Kvane:L Oshokwinne)

In Zuni, sheep heads are prepared in the following way.  When butchering, cut the sheep’s head off at the throat where there is a soft spot between the joints at the back of the neck. Next, throw the head into a fire, so that the wool will burn off clear to the skin. Wash the head so that it is clean. Finally, put the head in a roaster about one-half full of water and cover the roaster. Now there are two methods of cooking. The first is in one of the outside ovens, which is most often used to  bake bread. Build a fire for some hot charcoal, gather it around the roaster, and cover the door with a flat stone. Plaster some mud mortar around the door, so that no heat escapes. Leave the roaster in for about 10 hours Some people leave it in overnight for a slow cook before a big event. The second method of cooking is by digging a pit in the ground, and building a fire in it. After that the roaster is set in the middle of the coals and covered with the remaining charcoal. Both methods are excellent for steam cooking the sheep’s head and other parts of a sheep, such as stomach sausage (tsu’halonne) and stew (woleyanne).

After it is cooked, the elders sometimes warn youngsters not to eat certain parts of the head. For example,they say that eating the tongue causes thirst, eating the brain causes snoring, and eating the eyes causes a person to have watery eyes. Maybe one reason why the elders have these restrictions is that they want to save the best parts of the sheep’s head for themselves. But some young without’ believing them. There are special uses for the brain (ohe:re) too. It is used to treat the hide of an animal during the tanning especially deer hides. It is also used to treat the flat stone when paperbread (dow here) is being made. The Zuni people like to prepare and eat sheep heads especially during Shallak’o time when many sheep are butchered. Old folks like to bake them for breakfast  food. It is probably one of the easiest ways of cooking. No flipping or stirring like most cooks do today. Just wait for it to cook like a pot roast.

VERL PINION
GRADE 12

Tamales (K’ola Muwe)

The origin of tamales (kola muwe) is not known. They may be derived from the Mexicans or Spanish. In Zuni, tamales are considered a ceremonial dish and used as traditional meal offerings. Tamales are prepared during night dances, at Shallak’o or any other big occasion, but they are popular year round.

The ingredients needed for tamales are pork, mutton, or beef stew meat (shik’uhmo: we), onions (rmokkwi:we), chile powder (k’oI owe), salt (ma: k’ose), shortening (ishana:we), white corn (k’ohakwa chuwe) or hominy (chumo’ts’ikkwahna:we), blue corn (chu:łi’anna) or corn flour (dor owe), corn husks (sbewe) and coriander (kulan­du).

The first step in making tamales is preparation of the blue corn (chu.łi’anna). Boil the corn with sifted ashes until it is tender and the covering of the corn peels off easily. Wash it thoroughly to remove all the ashes. Then grind it in a hand grinder until it becomes medium fine and turns into corn flour (dow owe). It may also be ground with a metate (ak’e) and mano (yalinne).

The second step is preparation of the white corn (chumo’ts’ikkwahna:we). Wash  it in warm water, let it dry, and grind it with a grinding stone metate (ak’e) and mano (yalinne). Sift the corn by tossing it up in the air and catching it in a basket so that the covering or skin of the corn will blow away. Then grind it again on a hand grinder until medium fine.

The third step is cooking. First, brown the meat (shi’alek-wi:we) in a large pot along with shortening (ishana:we). After browning the meat, add water and let it simmer. Put salt (ma:k’ose) and chile powder (k’oI owe) in the pot and let it simmer for about an hour. Mix white corn meal in the brown meat and chile mixture and stir slowly until it is almost mush. Then add onions and other spices like coriander (kulandu) to the mixture.

After the mixture is done, wet some corn husks (shewe). Then, put the blue corn flour in a bowl and add water so that it is almost creamy. Next, on a corn husk, put a layer of blue corn and a spoonful of the meat mixture. Shape it into an oval-like shape and cover it with another layer of blue corn. Place another corn husk on top and tie it up with strips of corn husk or strips of yucca (ho:ts’an howe). Finally, boil them in a large pot until the corn husks turn chile red. Now, they are ready to eat.

Going through the process of preparing Zuni tamales (kola muwe) takes a lot of time and effort, but it is a rewarding task. Tamales are shared with mem­bers of the immediate family, and also distributed by women to the dancers during the time of our night dances. Sometimes women have bake sales to sell their kola muwe to community members.

IRIS LATE
GRADE 12

 Tortillas (Hebatchi:we)

Tortillas, brought to Zuni by the Spanish, have beenalmost a staple in the Zuni diet for over a hundred yearsSalt tortillas (k’oI hehatchi.we) were described in Zuni Breadstuffs by Frank Hamilton Cushing in the late 1800s. He stated that very finely ground white corn or wheat was mixed with yeast to make a stiff dough. Balls of this dough were then flattened out on a smooth stone or counter. Before baking, the women used the tips of their fingers to make indentations on each side of these thin cakes. As they were baked on a hot stove or griddle they were turned often until well browned on both sides.

Today, ingredients used for tortillas are flour, salt, baking powder, lard and water. Also needed are a large bowl, a rolling pin and a stove. First, pour 4-1/2 cups flour in a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of baking powder. Add 1/4 cup lard and warm water.

Stir all these ingredients together until they form a dough. Then cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for a few minutes. Now the dough is ready to shape into little round balls. A rolling pin is used to roll out the dough into flat, thin, circular shapes. Long ago, women used an ear of corn for a  rolling pin. To cook a tortilla, place it on until it puffs up. Then turn it  over and let it bake until both sides are done. Stack them on a plate to keep them warm until ready to eat. In Zuni, young men are warned by women not to pick the last cooked tortilla from the top of the stack. If  the young man goes into the armed forces, he might get shot or wounded by the enemy.

Tortillas look like round, flat frisbees. They are white and have brown spots on them from cooking on the stove. They smell and taste good and are used with any type of meal. They are especially good with beans. In Zuni, they are used in many of our religious activities like the give-away dances.

EDMUND SHELENDEWA
GRADE 12

Zuni BreadO (Dowa mu’le, mulonne)

Zuni bread is always served on special occasions such as Sha’lak’o, night dances, give-aways, and other ceremonials, as well as for everyday meals. Our Zuni elders are more accustomed to eating traditional bread with meals than store-bought bread. Today, there are two different types of yeast used in Zuni bread. Long ago, Zuni cooks discovered how to produce yeast. They mixed chewed sak’o:we (a coarse corn meal) with a finer meal and warm water which was then placed in small, narrow necked pots by the hearth to ferment. To this, they added lime flour and a little salt. This yeast sourdough starter has been handed down from generation to generation. Today, it is kept fresh in the refrigerator.

Before this traditional starter can be used, it must be soaked because it dries out. Next, flour and warm water are added to make a batter. This is left in a warm place overnight. It will be ready to use in the morning. The other way Zuni bread is made is with store-bought yeast.

Ingredients needed are one or two packages of dry yeast, one big bowl of warm water, and 3 to 4 cups of flour. First, the yeast is dissolved in the warm water. Then flour must be added to make dough. The sourdough batter is placed in a small bowl and set in a warm place overnight. The next day, the batter is mixed with some flour, dry yeast, salt, warm water, and a portion of sheep tallow (dow ishana:we). After all the ingredients are mixed, the kneading begins. The dough has to be kneaded for about 2-1/2 hours. It is a tradition for all the women in the family to work at this together. When kneading is complete, the dough is put aside for about 2 hours to let it rise.

After the dough has risen the first time, a fire is built in the oven. Normally, old dried juniper wood is used to build a fire. It takes around 2 hours for the oven to reach the right temperature. During this time, the dough develops its sour flavor. When the second rising is finished, portions of dough are kneaded and shaped into individual loaves: long oval shapes with one end folded back on top. These loaves look almost like golf players’ caps or the well known Ivy‑ league caps.

A bed is then made for the dough: a place to put the loaves while they rise again. It could be on a large cloth on a table or on the floor. After the loaves are put “to bed” they are covered with another cloth.

As the loaves rise, the oven is checked to see if it is hot enough to bake bread. To do this, a broom is made out of some juniper branches (horna‑ chołdonne). It must be wet before it is used to clean the ashes and hot coals out of the oven. When the oven is clean, the temperature is checked. Rocks inside the oven wall look white when it is about the right temperature.

Next, corn meal (chudochi:we) or wheat bran (kyadochi:we) is sprinkled in the oven to test the temperature. Wheat bran is preferred because corn meal burns too fast. If the corn meal or wheat bran turns brown in 10 minutes, the oven is at the right temperature. The grain is then cleaned out with the juniper broom.

Then the bread is placed on special boards (mulo:kwayik’yanakya łemme) to carry out to the oven. Each board takes four to five loaves. A long-handled scooper (mupbokya łemme) is used to put the loaves into the oven and also to take them out when they finish baking. Sometimes the loaves of bread are switched around in the oven so they will brown more evenly.

After about an hour and a half, the bread is ready to be taken out. At times, as hot loaves are removed from the oven, one may be sold to tourists upon request. The golden brown bread tastes a little bit sour. While the fresh bread is cooling off inside the house, a loaf may be given to a relative, friend, or a vis­itor who comes by unexpectedly.

CAROL TUCSON
GRADE 11

Zuni Bread Pudding and Sweet Cakes (Hebalo:we Dap He’balokya)

A few weeks after our winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) comes the Zuni Night Dances, and it’s time for the ladies to cook some delicious mutton stew, oven bread, and traditional foods like Zuni bread pudding (hebalo:we) and sweet cakes (he’balokya). This recipe has been passed down from generation to generation.

Ingredients used are about 10 pounds of whole wheat flour, 10 pounds of all purpose flour, 2 to 3 pounds of brown sugar, and about 2 quarts of boiling water. These ingredients are increased or decreased depending on the size of the family.

Before brown sugar was available, sprouted wheat (kyadochi:we) was dampened and laid in the sun for 2 to 3 days to dry. Then the wheat was ground to use as sugar. Crystallized wild honey was also used in the past. Today, some people use molasses or white sugar.

Before mixing the ingredients, build a fire in the outdoor oven. It takes about 2 hours to reach the proper temperature. Then, to make the he’balonne or he’balokya, mix the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, brown sugar, and add some boiling water. Blend the ingredients until well moistened. A bundle of four or five willow sticks (łaba:we) is used to stir this pudding.

There are two ways of baking this mixture. Some families use cast iron pots and others use corn husks as containers, but they are always baked in the outdoor ovens. When using a cast iron pot (de’sakwiba), just put the pudding in the pot and let it cook overnight in the outdoor oven. To make sweet cakes (he’balokya), wet corn husks are used as containers. The pudding is spread on the corn husks. These are placed on a big board to carry out to the beehive oven.

Check the oven to see if the fire has burned down. Next, clean out the oven with a juniper broom (homa-chołdonne), test the temperature and if it is okay, put the sweet cakes in the oven. Cover the opening with a flat stone or an old blanket to prevent the heat from escap­ing. In about 20 minutes, the sweet cakes will be baked and ready. Remove them from the oven, take them inside and wet the corn husks with cold water so that they will cool off. When you are ready to eat, peel off the corn husks and enjoy the sweet cakes.

Zuni bread pudding and sweet cakes are included in the traditional food offerings used to feed our deceased ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. It is a Zuni tradition for both sexes to make these food offer­ings with prayer requests for long life, positive blessings, and a good future for the Zuni people. The food offer­ings will occasionally be put in the family fireplace, or at times, men will take them to the river. This is the responsibility of the initiated male members, young and old, to serve their ancestors and spirit world protectors.

COLLEEN WYTSALUCY
GRADE 12

Zuni Parched Corn (Alekwi:we)

Zuni parched corn (alekwi:we) is prepared only during the winter months. Different kinds and colors of corn are used to make parched corn, including sweet corn (shots’i’do). There is a traditional belief that if prepared during the growing season, it may adversely affect the fresh corn crop out in the field.

To prepare this corn, 2 cups of sand, a cast iron pot, four or five slender willow sticks, and a small bowl of salt water are needed. Corn from the last harvest is used; however, it must be dry enough to pop.

A cast iron pot is placed inside the fireplace resting on a stack of rocks, bricks, or a steel grill with legs. It is tilted forward so it will be easier to stir the corn with slender willow sticks (łaba:we). These willow sticks are about one‑quarter inch in diameter and approximately 2 to 3 feet long. Before the corn can be popped, a fire must be built in the fireplace under the cast iron pot. At least 2 cups of sand are put into the pot. Sand, collected from the banks of the Zuni River, maintains an even temperature when heated, and cooks the corn evenly. When the kernels pop, the sand will keep them from popping out of the kettle.

While the sand is getting hot, pour in the corn (chuwe), and some piñons (k’uwe) to go with it, if they are available. As the corn is popping, stir it occasionally with the willow sticks. When the corn is roasted, use a dipper with holes in the bottom to separate the corn and piñons from the sand. They are put in a willow stick basket (ts’i’le). Next, use a corn cob dipped in saltwater (ma:k’yawe) to sprin­kle over the corn. Now it is ready to be eaten. Just pop it into your mouth and enjoy the flavors of roasted corn and piñons.

There are several traditional beliefs about eat­ing alekwi.we. In Zuni, separating piñons from the corn violates a taboo which will bring misfortune. When eating this popcorn and piñon mixture, the pinons are eaten shells and all. It is believed that if a boy or a man is choosy while eating the parched corn, he will be picked as one of the victims in bat­tle. Likewise, a girl or woman will be singled out to do unpleasant chores by herself with no help. It is also said that parched corn should not be eaten during pregnancy because the baby will become overweight.

CHERYL KAAMASEE
GRADE 12

 

 

 

Cite This Article

"Zuni." Expedition Magazine 37, no. 1 (March, 1995): -. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/prepared-foods/


This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.