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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - The Indian Tipi - Cooking - #TidbitThursday


Welcome back to our weekly Historical Tidbit Blog Column!

I took a few weeks off to research some more juicy tidbits and info for you and for my current WIPs (works in progress). Hope you enjoy!

Every family cooked for themselves and sometimes for their related immediate family members who may not live in the same tipi. A warrior was responsible for feeding his family by hunting the meat (buffalo, deer, rabbits, etc).

Several different methods were used, depending on the meal and/or the food being served. Families had limited amounts of dishes as they moved place to place depending on the season. So, oftentimes, they came up with creative ways to cook food with little to no pots.

One method was cooking in the ground (a "pit oven"). A hole would be dug into the ground and lined with sweet leaves. Chicken or ham, potatoes, corn, carrots or onions would be set in the hole and covered with leaves. Hot coals from the fire were placed on top of these leaves. A canvas or skin was laid over the hole. Embers might be shoveled on top of that. Finally, a layer or dirt to "enclose" the heat. All of this was left alone for several hours to cook. One can imagine this might be a gritty meal. Interestingly, a lot of other cultures use this same method today (google cooking pig in a pit).

Another method of cooking used is broiling. A stand containing a rack of ribs or other meal was set next to a hot fire or speared onto sticks and set directly over coals.

Many families owned an iron kettle (via trade with settlers) or at least a buffalo paunch (stomach) that was tied to a frame and used like a large bowl. It was filled with water, vegetables and meat. Stones were heated in a fire then dropped into the water to cause it to boil. Food could then simmer and cook.

One of the key methods of preparing food involved drying (or jerking) meat. This was important for wandering tribes as they needed to be able to eat while they hunted and travelled. Meat was stretched out and dried in the hot afternoon sun. At night, it would be piled up on clean canvas and covered so it wouldn't absorb moisture (which could lead to mold). It could be eaten hard or softened with a little water. Old jerky could be used in soups.

"The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction, and Use" by Reginald and Gladys Laubin

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