My connection to pashofa comes through my father, James Garfield Smith, who was born in 1897 in Oklahoma Indian Territory. He was a Chickasaw Freedman and was given an allotment of land by the Department of the Interior (click on document below) The Chickasaw Indians were part of the Five Civilized Tribes (Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creek) who were removed from the Southeast to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. One of the characteristics that made the five tribes "civilized" was that they engaged in the ownership of African slaves. After the Civil War the U.S. Government required that each tribe manumit (free) their slaves and recognize them. The only tribe which steadfastly refused to do so was the Chickasaw Tribe.
The Birth of Pashofa
Pashofa, the national dish of the Chickasaw Nation, is a stew made from cracked hominy corn and pork. For hundreds of years pashofa has been central to a ritual or ceremony intended to heal the sick. This is how it came to be.
In the winter of 1540-41, Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto and his retinue of soldiers, horses and pigs had an exchange with the Chickasaw Indians in what is now northern Mississippi. After crossing the Tombigbee River on rafts they made, the Spaniards promptly did what they were already good at when encountering a new people -- they took some prisoners and demanded food (corn) for themselves and their animals. They bivouacked there from December to March when they prepared to continue their trek north to the Mississippi River. They demanded that the Chickasaws provide two hundred warriors to carry their equipment. That proved to be one request too many for the indomitable ones. On March 4 the Chickasaws set fire to their encampment. In the melee, the Indian bowmen shot twelve Spaniards and fifty-seven horses. One hundred pigs survived.(1) After regrouping, the ragtag group of surviving Spaniards made it to the Mississippi and were never heard from again. 150 years passed before the Chickasaws encountered another European. Corn+pork+water=pashofa.
(1) Arrell Gibson, The Chickasaws, 31-32.
Pashofa corn can be ordered from Keys Grocery
in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Their telephone number is: (580) 223- 8821.
1 lb. Pashofa cracked corn
3 qt. Water
3 lb. Neck bones (pork or beef)
6 Rashers of Bacon (optional)
Soak the corn in salted water for 1 day. Drain and rinse. Cook the corn with the 3 quarts of salted water for 1 hour. Quick release, add the meat and cook again for 1 hour. Fry the bacon and crumble over the pashofa.
In Mexico the story was roughly the same except it took place earlier in 1518-19.
All of Mexico loves pozole. The Aztecs were boiling meats with cacahuazintle (hominy corn) before the Spaniards got there. But it wasn't until they unloaded oregano, onion, garlic, limes, radishes and pigs from their ships that the real pozole came to be created. Every state or region has it's version of the stew, but in Mexico the state of Guerrero owns pozole and in the state of Guerrero, the town of Chilapa owns pozole where it was supposed to have been invented in honor of a visiting dignitary.
Pozole is so integral to daily life in Guerrero, that on Friday, if one person asks, "What day is it today?", the other person will say, "It must be Friday, because we had pozole yesterday!" It is Mexico's version of Phó.
Compared to pozole, pashofa is simple and austere -- you couldn't have less ingredients and still have it be something. Pozole is like a lovingly painted and bedecked girl for her Quinceañera.
The word pozole comes from the Aztec word for blossom because the corn is soaked in slaked lime (cal) and boiled for many hours until it looks like popped pop corn. Dried hominy corn is to pozole as dried garbanzos are to hummus -- sometimes the soaking and the cooking and the taking off of the skins is just too much dang trouble and it's ultimately easier to open a can and start from there. Mexican oregano is key here, the flavor is earthy. To me, Greek oregano has a floral note. It is available where Mexican products are sold.
3 lb. Kurobuta pork butt*
3 qt. Water
1 oz. Garlic, smashed
2 Tbs. Salt
3 Bay leaves
4-5 Garlic cloves
2 Cans pre-cooked hominy, drained
3 oz. Guajillo chilies
2-3 Garlic cloves
¼ Green cabbage, finely shredded
½ Onion, finely minced
1 Tbs. Mexican oregano
1 Bunch radishes, sliced
3 Limes, quartered
1 doz. Corn tortillas
3 cups Corn oil
Cook the first four ingredients in a pressure cooker for 1 hour. Put the garlic cloves, crumbled bay leaves and the roughly chopped 1/2 onion in a blender and process until you have a paste and the bay leaves are in tiny pieces. Add a little water, if necessary. Quick release and take meat out with tongs and place on a platter. Cut the meat into cubes and return to the pot along with bay leaf mixture and the hominy. Bring the pressure up again on the pot and cook for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, spread the chilies out on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 350˚ oven, turning them one or two times. The chilies will turn dark and get puffed up. Don’t let them burn. You’ll know when they are done by their aroma. Out of the oven, let them cool for a bit and then take the tops off, dump the seeds out and plunge them into a bowl of hot water to cover. Let them steep for about 10 minutes. Take the chiles out of the soaking liquid and place in a blender along with the garlic. Process on HIGH with a little bit of the soaking liquid until very smooth. Fry this mixture in a couple of tablespoons of oil and taste for salt. Set aside.
In a pan just large enough to hold the tortillas, fry them, one at a time, in hot but not smoking oil. They should be fried until they are hard and a little brown. Drain on paper towels standing up.
*Available at Uwajimaya Market in Seattle, Washington.