"frybread" "fry bread" (fwd)

Tue Aug 31 22:22:10 UTC 1999

My husband's contribution below.

Ellen S. Polsky (Ellen.Polsky at Colorado.EDU)

>Can anyone help with this?
>Dan Goodman
>dsgood at visi.com
>Whatever you wish for me, may you have twice as much.
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 14:11:45 EDT
>From: CherylStJ at aol.com
>Reply-To: prock-research at mail-list.com
>To: prock-research-d at mail-list.com
>Subject: [prock-research] frybread and comfy
>Generous listmembers--
>I need immediate help with a line edit that I must return ASAP.
>The copy editor noted that Webster's says "frybread" didn't come into use
>until 1950.  My characters are Cheyenne and the year is approximately 1885.
>She also divided it into two words: fry bread
>Can someone offer information?  And if I can't use frybread as a staple, what
>other dish made from grain would my character prepare for a meal?

I don't know if Webster's is referring to the date of the citation or the
date of the item, but I'm sure their citation is too recent, unless a
different term was used earlier.  I'll see if i can find out anything.  In
the meantime, I believe that frybread, whatever it was called, came into
use with reservation living and government distributions or store
purchases, which introduced wheat flour and lard as staples.  For the
Cheyenne I think this had started by the 1870s or so, but I'm rather vague
on this sort of thing without consulting a suitable history.  The Cheyenne,
of course, a fairly well documented, and you must have access to such

There were aborignal forms of bread in North America, corn-based of course,
but something like corn bread is, I think more of a southeastern dish.  It
wouldn't have baking powder to raise it, of course.

Dorsey and Fletcher & LaFlesche on the Omaha discuss cooking and various
dishes, though for a group much more settled than the Cheyenne before
reservation days and after the late 1700s/early 1800s when they abandoned
their last settled villages.  The Omaha of the late 1800s had something
they called by the same term they apply to breads and cakes today.  The
term is, if I recall correctly, a loan from a Muskogean language.  I think
it was a mixture of cornmeal and water, baked or maybe boiled, generally
with beans included.  It would be more of a stiff mush or pudding, or maybe
a very crumbly, hard cornbread if baked.  You can refer to the books
mentioned for details.

I'm not sure if there are comparable references for the Cheyenne, but you
should definitely check, if you want to depict Cheyenne domesticity c.
1885.  Most nomadic groups in the 1700s and 1800s traded for corn and other
crops with more settled groups, so I'd guess that the Cheyenne used corn
opportunistically throughout the 1800s, in their nomadic phase, but I'm not
sure they had a means of grinding it.  Mortars and metates are both rather
heavy and take a lot of labor to make.  You might want to think in terms of
boiled corn mixed with beans or meat (or not).

John E. Koontz
NIST 895.05

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