I have often wondered about the origins of some of our foods. My first childhood inquiry was about olives. We picked olives for years, so I knew they could not be plucked from a tree and enjoyed raw, although I once saw a visitor from New York try to do just that. Olives are nasty and bitter fresh from the tree! They can take months to cure properly. So that made me ask “why and how?” Why would you want to make something edible that so obviously wasn’t, and how would you figure out how to do it? Olives were eaten and oil pressed from them in Biblical times! Who had the bright idea to cure them and/or press them in the first place?
My next food investigation was hominy. Why on earth was hominy invented? Why take something as wonderful as corn and turn it into hominy? I looked for information and found that hominy was used by the Indians and is mentioned in traveler’s journals as early as 1620. Probably had something to do with storage and prolonging the “shelf life”, but really…yuck! I’ve always hated hominy. I find the taste and texture gross. But I may just be having flashbacks, because my grandmother made her own hominy.
Yes, some of my least favorite memories of childhood are the “hominy days” at Gran’s house! Hominy literally took at least a day or more to completely process. And it was done using lye- something I knew she also used to make soap! Hated the smell, hated the time and effort it took to make the stuff, then hated the end result.
I thought my memories of the process must have been a childhood exaggeration until I ran across this item in the Caddo Herald yesterday:
Hominy, Lye Method
(from The Caddo Herald, September 22, 1944)
To each quart of shelled corn add this solution: Dissolve two tablespoons concentrated lye in one gallon boiling water. Add corn and boil until hulls loosen (about 30 minutes). Rinse corn through several changes of water to remove lye, then rub vigorously or churn. Remove hulls and black tips. Let stand in fresh water two or three hours, changing the water three or four times. Drain. Cover with boiling water, adding one teaspoon salt to one quart water. Cook for 15 minutes. Pour into hot tempered jars. Process 60 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
Note that the “shelled corn” step was often my job. Then add up the times listed here. Good grief! You’d have to LOVE hominy to do all of that! And Gran did.
Any foods that you find baffling?