The Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival has long included a traditional meal served to Chickasaw citizens and guests. The meal features BBQ beef, black eyed peas, white bread, potato salad and chocolate cake, as well as Chickasaw favorites pashofa and grape dumplings. Chicken was added in 2006 as a healthy option.
Pashofa has been a Chickasaw dish for centuries.
Consisting of cracked corn (hominy) and pork, which is covered in water and boiled for several hours, pashofa was more than sustenance. It was traditionally made at ceremonial events in large pots. Women came together to prepare enough to feed an entire village. This required several pounds of cracked corn. When time came to prepare pashofa, corn pounders made from hollowed out tree trunks were used to crack hominy kernels. Next, the corn was poured into boiling water in a pashofa pot. Pork was added and the mixture continued to cook until it was soft and soupy. This process could take a good portion of the day, depending on how much pashofa was prepared.
One of the most important steps in cooking pashofa is to stir the pot regularly. This ensures the corn will not stick to the bottom of the large iron pots. Pashofa paddles were designed specifically for this purpose. They were carved with long handles, broadened at one end like a spoon, but flat with a straight edge for scraping. The strong heartwoods of hickory, bois d’arc and oak trees were used. Because they were made so well, these paddles lasted several generations, handed down as a cherished treasure from one family to the next. The handles wore smooth after many years of use, a legacy of the loving, hardworking hands of Chickasaw ancestors.
Next to the corn pounder, the pashofa pot was a necessary item in Chickasaw households. Before European trade, Chickasaw women crafted large clay vessels for cooking pashofa. The process of making these pots took much labor and many hours of preparing the clay, building and fashioning the pot by hand and waiting for the clay to dry before firing. Though the pots were well-made and served many people, the metal kettle began appearing as European trade increased. They were virtually indestructible and spared hours of making ceramic pots. Many pashofa pots were handed down among Chickasaw families for generations.
Pashofa was, and still is, served by Chickasaw families, for celebrations and ceremonies.
Grape dumplings were traditionally made from the wild “possum grapes” that hung from vines on trees throughout the Chickasaw Homeland of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Though “possum grapes” are no longer used, it is still a dish loved by many.
Today, grape juice is used, along with sugar, and the mixture is brought to a boil. Dumplings are dropped into the boiling mixture, along with cornstarch to thicken the liquid. The mixture is cooked until the dumplings are no longer doughy.
Chocolate Sheet Cake