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Understanding What a Pone is

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People in the southeast US are probably familiar with the word ‘pone’. It is often used in reference to corn pones. However, many people don’t truly understand what this food is.

I realized this when I saw a question asking if a pone could be made out of anything besides corn. The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

The word comes from an Algonquin word, ‘appoan’. An appoan is any small, oval-shaped bread. This means that the bread can be made out of cornmeal, and would thus be a corn pone, but it could also be made out of any other kind of flour. 

Pones also weren’t unique to the Algonquin tribe. Many other tribes had their own versions. For example, the Modoc Indians of southern Oregon and northern California made pones out of cattail or Ipos flour. (Cattails are known as bulrushes in some parts of the world and Ipos is a type of reed.) The Modocs didn’t call them pones or appoans, but that is because they spoke Modoc and not Algonquin. However, these small oval loaves of bread would still fall into the category of pones.

The Cherokees had their own version that was Cherokee spoon bread, but since it wasn’t cooked in small ovals, these weren’t actually pones. Still, they used different kinds of flour to make them.

Corn was only used in areas where it was widely available. In fact, the original pones were made from maize and not corn. (These are two separate things, though, in some parts of the world, corn is called maize.)

In fact, what is commonly made in the southeast US today and called corn pones aren’t pones at all. They are simply small squares of cornbread. What is shown in the picture is called a corn pone today, but since these are not oval, they aren’t actually pones.

  • Did you know that a pone could be made out of something besides corn?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve never heard of corn pones
    • I’ve seen small ovals of bread but didn’t know that they were called pones

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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