What is your favorite thing to eat? Do you love pizza? Will you eat chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese? Will you only eat them if they don’t touch other foods on your plate? Do you like broccoli? How about cabbage? In 2014, we have lots of different foods to taste and love. There are so many choices out there that we can be pretty picky about our food. Many people will only eat certain things and hate to try anything new.
Being able to pick and choose is a new idea! Today, we eat almost any kind of food we want any time of year. We can have strawberries in December. Even though strawberries don’t grow in Iowa in the winter. Iowans eat oranges any time of year. Even though oranges don’t grow here! We use trains and trucks to bring oranges and strawberries to Iowa from far-away places like Florida.
Before trains and trucks were invented, Iowans had to eat what was available—often just what they could grow or hunt for themselves. Today we can put food in the refrigerator or keep it safe in cans and plastic bags. Before fridges and cans were invented, people had to eat some food right away. Fruit that grew in summer wouldn’t be around in winter. Many times, people had to eat things that weren’t their favorite because their favorite food wasn’t growing at that time of year.
In the 1700s, the Ioway people lived in Iowa. There weren’t any trucks, trains, or airplanes to bring food from other places. Ioway moms and dads could not go to a grocery store to buy food. Families had to find food in the prairies and woods around them. The Ioway people grew plants to eat. An Ioway garden had corn, beans, and pumpkins growing in it. How many different ways do you think there are to cook and eat corn, beans, and pumpkins?
Actually, there are a lot of ways to eat these plants. During the late summer, the Ioway could eat the corn right on the cob like we do. Some of the corn would be cooked slightly and dried to eat later. Corn harvested later in the fall would be hung up in the sun and dried out. The dry corn would last a long time. Dried corn could be ground up and used as flour for bread or used to plant the next year. Beans could be eaten green in summer. In fall, the beans dried out on the vine and were shelled. Dried corn and beans were cooked in soups and stews. The soup water made them soft again.
Do you like soup and stew? If you were an Ioway child in 1700, you would eat a lot of soup and stew. Why? It was an easy meal to get ready and keep hot. Each Ioway family prepared their own daily meals. There was often no set meal time. Men and women had different chores and might be too busy to eat together. Food would be prepared and kept warm for each family member to eat when they had time.
There were times when members of the tribe would come together with each other and with other tribes to have feasts. Especially in late summer and fall when the garden was ready, the Ioway would celebrate together! Visitors were almost always treated to food. It was considered impolite to refuse food offered to you.
On July 12th, the 1700 Ioway Farm at Living History Farms will be making a pumpkin corn stew to celebrate Ioway Culture Day. They will have samples to share. Modern Ioway dancers will also be showing off their talents. Come join us for the celebration! If you can’t make it out to see us on Saturday, you can work with a parent to make an Ioway stew in your kitchen. Try this recipe! The Ioway did not have plastic or glass measuring cups, so the amounts are by the handful.
Meat from an animal the Ioway would have hunted (1lb of bison or venison (deer) is good, but beef works too–even though the Ioway did not have cows to hunt. Ground bison is available from some grocery stores and health food stores today!)
Couple handfuls of fresh or dried corn (1 can of corn will work)
Couple handfuls of dried beans
Broken up pieces of dried squash or pumpkin (bite sized slices or small chunks of fresh acorn or butternut squash or pumpkin work too!)
Handful of dried wild onion (dried or fresh regular onion may be used)
Maple syrup (a couple good squirts or a tablespoon or so should be enough)
Put everything in pot, add enough water to cover everything well (more water gives you a soup and less water gives you a stew), hang over fire (or medium heat on stove) and let cook for a couple hours (it is ready when the beans and squash are soft and meat is cooked through). Eat when you are hungry.
*Add more or less of each item based on how many you are feeding. Any type of bean and squash/pumpkin can be used or even multiple varieties of each can be added (or you can leave one out if you prefer). Each time you make this you can try different combinations of items and you will get different flavors.