Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sex, Drugs and Rockahomine, Three

Part 3 of 3

Drawing by John White

During the first years of the eighteenth century, John Lawson became familiar with the customs of the Native Americans in the Carolina backcountry. In the midst of a long list of native foods, Lawson mentioned:

Rockahomine Meal, which is their Maiz, parch'd and pounded into Powder.

In other words, hominy grits.

A classic of southern cuisine.

Here’s the entire paragraph, the whole menu, from “An Account of the Indians of North Carolina” in A New Voyage to Carolina:

Venison, and Fawns in the Bags, cut out of the Doe's Belly; Fish of all sorts, the Lamprey-Eel excepted, and the Sturgeon our Salt-Water Indians will not touch; Bear and Bever; Panther; Pole-cat; Wild-cat; Possum; Raccoon; Hares, and Squirrels, roasted with their Guts in; Snakes, all Indians will not eat them, tho' some do; All wild Fruits that are palatable, some of which they dry and keep against Winter, as all sort of Fruits, and Peaches, which they dry, and make Quiddonies, and Cakes, that are very pleasant, and a little tartish; young Wasps, when they are white in the Combs, before they can fly, this is esteemed a Dainty; All sorts of Tortois and Terebins; Shell-Fish, and Stingray, or Scate, dry'd; Gourds; Melons; Cucumbers; Squashes; Pulse of all sorts; Rockahomine Meal, which is their Maiz, parch'd and pounded into Powder; Fowl of all sorts, that are eatable; Ground-Nuts, or wild Potato's; Acorns and Acorn Oil; Wild-Bulls, Beef, Mutton; Pork, &c. from the English; Indian Corn, or Maiz, made into several sorts of Bread; Ears of Corn roasted in the Summer, or preserv'd against Winter.

Through his travels and his writings, John Lawson promoted cultural understanding and peaceful cooperation with native people, but fellow Europeans paid little attention to his message. Ironically, during a 1711 uprising near the Neuse River, Lawson was taken prisoner by the Tuscaroras and was later burned alive by his captors.

He was 37 years old.

In the closing pages of “An Account” Lawson expressed his opinion on relations with Native Americans:

They naturally possess the Righteous Man's Gift; they are Patient under all Afflictions, and have a great many other Natural Vertues, which I have slightly touch'd throughout the Account of these Savages.

They are really better to us, than we are to them; they always give us Victuals at their Quarters, and take care we are arm'd against Hunger and Thirst: We do not so by them (generally speaking) but let them walk by our Doors Hungry, and do not often relieve them. We look upon them with Scorn and Disdain, and think them little better than Beasts in Humane Shape, though if well examined, we shall find that, for all our Religion and Education, we possess more Moral Deformities, and Evils than these Savages do, or are acquainted withal….

Thus we should be let into a better Understanding of the Indian Tongue, by our new Converts; and the whole Body of these People would arrive to the Knowledge of our Religion and Customs, and become as one People with us. By this Method also, we should have a true Knowledge of all the Indians Skill in Medicine and Surgery; they would inform us of the Situation of our Rivers, Lakes, and Tracts of Land in the Lords Dominions, where by their Assistance, greater Discoveries may be made than has been hitherto found out, and by their Accompanying us in our Expeditions, we might civilize a great many other Nations of the Savages, and daily add to our Strength in Trade, and Interest; so that we might be sufficiently enabled to conquer, or maintain our Ground, against all the Enemies to the Crown of England in America, both Christian and Savage….

Whilst we make way for a Christian Colony through a Field of Blood, and defraud, and make away with those that one day may be wanted in this World, and in the next appear against us, we make way for a more potent Christian Enemy to invade us hereafter, of which we may repent, when too late.

The Death of John Lawson, a drawing by Baron Christoph Von Graffenried


Anonymous said...

Absolutely fascinating. No subject could be dearer to my heart than grits, whether daintied-up in a porringer or steaming in a pot hanging over the fire.

Good grits, new grits, more grits and collards;
life is good where grits is swallered.

I must beg to demur on the wasp larvae, however


GULAHIYI said...

You probably know this already, but some people think Lawson crossed the Yadkin near Morrow Mountain and went up the Uwharrie in 1701.

Recently, I saw a film from the 70s that was all about grits, and what a great film it was. I can't understand people who bad-mouth grits.

I grew up with the Lawson book (and those John White drawings)in the house, but I don't think it dawned on me that he had (possibly)traveled through Albemarle. It's a fine book deserving a celebration of its 300th anniversary.

Anonymous said...


I have not seen the book myself, but it is about to join my reading "to do" list. Got to finish with Admiral Horthy's memoirs first.

Ive also seen your post on rock assemblages, and my mind was arrested in mid-thought and catapulted to a creek off the Uwharrie River that had an odd arrangement of stones. Yet another thing to do.