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Cooking Out–Ioway Style

Summer is coming to a close. Over the past weeks, many people have been grilling food for picnics and barbeques to celebrate the last of the great weather. Even our 1700 Ioway historical guides were cooking outdoors to celebrate the nice weather. What were they making at the Ioway Farm? Fish! Do you like to eat fish? The Ioway word for fish is hó.

WalleyeWhen the Ioway Indian people lived here 300 years ago, they would get fish from the rivers near their homes. In the larger rivers of Iowa like the Mississippi, Missouri, and Des Moines, the Ioway people could find up to 20 types of perch (like the walleye in the picture on the left), 12 types of sunfish, 10 types of catfish, 3 types of pike, 2 types of bass, and 1 type of trout (like the brook trout seen below). Learn more about the different types of fish native to Iowa here.brook trout

The Ioway would use woven nets or bone fish hooks to catch the fish. Once a fish was caught, there were many ways that it could be cooked. One cooking style involved leaving the fish whole, scales and all! After cleaning out the inside organs, the whole fish would be covered in clay that was gathered from the river banks. In the example below, you can see a whole fish, head and scales included, covered in wet clay!

Cover fish with clay

The clay-covered fish would be placed on top of hot coals from the fire and then covered with more hot coals.

Place on hot coalscover with hot coals

As the clay heated and dried, it would cook the fish inside. When the clay began to crack, the fish was done cooking.cook until clay cracks

The clay would then be cracked open and the meat could be removed. The fish’s scales would be left stuck in the clay.scales come off with clay

The bones could easily be removed from the meat and the fish would be ready to eat!