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Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


Except for breakfast, which was eaten at sunrise, meals were not eaten at regular times. People ate when they felt hungry. Visitors were fed immediately upon their arrival. The term for breakfast is walus (N). Waluma (N) means to get breakfast. Apparently, these terms are derived from the term walisu (N), meaning daylight. The term uwu'a (N) means to eat. No spoons, except occasionally of river mussel shell, or other implements appear to have been used to convey the food to the mouth.

Stone boiling in baskets, boiling in steatite vessels, baking or steaming in the earth oven, parching with hot coals in a basket, broiling over coals, and roasting in hot ashes and coals were the principal methods of cooking. The following terms apply to these processes:

tcusu (C), to boil with hot stones in a basket.

yatcu (N), yatce (C), to parch in a basket.

ulup (N), ulu (C), to cook with steam in the earth oven, without a fire built on top. Earth oven, kume (P, N), ulup (N), ulu (C).

hubuya (N), to cook in the earth oven with the aid of a fire built on top.

hupu (C), to cook in hot coals or ashes.

hina (C), to broil on hot coals, as a salmon.

The larger mammals were skinned and sliced with the obsidian knife, and broiled on the coals of the open fire,9 though sometimes boiled. The smaller mammals were sometimes roasted directly on coals or in hot ashes, either whole or skinned and eviscerated. In the latter case coals were placed inside to make the cooking more rapid and even. The fresh skins of various mammals were singed, then cooked in hot coals, which caused them to pop open. Tidbits were then nibbled from the crackling.

Birds and fishes were usually roasted whole in the ashes, and picked or skinned after cooking. Sometimes they were opened first and live coals placed within to facilitate the cooking.

One method of cooking dried fish was to smear them with acorn mush and broil them on sticks over a fire. Acorn “biscuits” were eaten with the broiled fish.

Turtles were killed with a stone, then roasted in ashes, when they split open. The intestines were removed after roasting. Lizards (cakkadi, C) were gutted and roasted in hot ashes.

River mussels were cooked by sticking the mollusks in sand so that they projected, covering them with grass and brush, and igniting the inflammable material.

Bulbs, greens, and grasshoppers, were cooked in the earth oven, which was a pit in the ground. This was thoroughly heated and lined with a layer of hot stones, over which was placed a layer of green leaves, preferably of Wyethia helenioides (notopayu, C), sometimes grape leaves, Vitis californica (mū'te, P; mü'te, N; tolmesu, C), or green tule. Upon these a thin layer of the food was spread. This was covered with more leaves and then a layer of hot stones, then more leaves, more food, more stones, and so on until the pit was filled. Finally a layer of earth was heaped over the pit and often a fire built on top of it. The baking proceeded throughout the night, or sometimes for twenty-four hours. This oven, with the heated stones interspersed so as to evenly distribute the heat, would remain at a reasonable temperature for many hours, and the food would be hot and delicious almost any time during the following day. Sometimes water was poured around the edges of the oven in order to steam the food. If several families cooked in one oven the lots of food were separated.

Hot stones for boiling or baking were handled with two wooden sticks, pointed at one end. The pointed ends were used to hold the stones. The pair in Plate XXXI, figs, 6 and 7 are about five feet long and an inch in diameter. A second pair (1-9917) in the University’s collection are about two feet long.

For old people with few or bad teeth dried meat and fish were pulverized in a mortar.

9Horse meat was cooked in this fashion, after the animal had been introduced by the whites.

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management