The Miwok people’s diet varied with the season. Many of the seasonal foods were dried or prepared for storage and for consumption in the other seasons. Acorns were usually gathered in enough quantities and stored well enough to last through all seasons.
The Miwok diet consisted of greens, bulbs and corms, fruits and berries, nuts, fungi, insects and meats. Although the diet varied with the seasons, the Miwok had preferences in the foods they ate.
Figure 1: Miwok Preference of Vegetables
Figure 2: Miwok Preference of Meats
Figure 3: Miwok Principal Foods by Season
Bulbs and corms in general are called olutcu (C). Spring was the season for greens. Clover (kokkachi, Elena McCauley or Nick Villa Sr.)and watercress were popular. In late spring, the green pine burs of the Bull Pine were gathered to eat, called elaachi in Miwok.
Seed were the main food source during the Summer. Seeds in general are called tū'yū (C, S). Bernice remembered the older people living at Jackson Valley eating tū'yū as a child, she ate it with them. After contact, melons became a regular part of the diet during the summer months.
In the Fall acorns were gathered. At the lower elevations many varieties of acorns were eaten, including the Blue Oak, Live Oak and Valley Oak acorns. Black Oak acorns were sought for by the people at all elevations for storage throughout winter.
In late Winter to early Spring, Nick Villa Sr. would gather mushrooms called helli. They are a white mushroom with pink under belly and grow in the shade of the oak trees. Nick would have his wife Bernice prepare the mushrooms by frying them in a cast iron pan.
Foods at Big Times (Kutcha)
The newspapers documented some of the foods eaten historically at Big Times.
The following is an excerpt of an article in the Evening Mail of Stockton on May 19, 1902 about a dance at Rich Gulch, Calaveras County:
“Eating seemed to always be in order. The rabbits, which had been hung on the bushes, out of reach of prowling dogs, exposed to blow flies and rapidly being converted into maggots, were taken down cast upon the coals and devoured with a relish. A sweet tea made from dried manzanita berries is a favorite drink and boiled water cress and acorn mush, together with crackers, cheese and such other plain food as can be purchased by those having money, constitute the diet.”
The Stockton Daily Evening Record described the food for a gathering being held at the Tuolumne Rancheria on November 17, 1923 as “The “eats” are mostly barbecued meat pie and coffee.”
Bernice Villa remembered some of the foods that were prepared for Big Times at Yangputee in Jackson Valley. They would eat acorn of course and a stew called Chikka. Chikka is made with any kind of meat, Bernice remembered it being made with deer, rabbit, raccoon or squirrel depending on which meat was available. With the meat they would add salt and pepper for seasoning along with other items such as potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery.
Dolly Suehead talks about the foods at Big Times held by Jim Dick
Jennifer Bates and Renee Wessell tell about Mary Cox hosting a Spring Dinner at the Tuolumne Rancheria
Louise Fuentes talks about Big Times.
Louise Fuentes talks about Big Times at George Anderson’s in Tuolumne County
The recording of Louise Fuentes is part of the Oral History Series at the Columbia College in Tuolumne County.
More Information About Specific Foods, includes audio/video of Miwok people accounts: