How did Tobesofkee Creek get its name?
Tobesofkee Creek is a major tributary of the Ocmulgee River, which flows from northwest to southeast across northern Metro Macon, Georgia. Lake Tobesofkee is a public recreational lake that is a popular camp site for vendors and the annual Ocmulgee Southeastern Indian Festival. By the way, its county-maintained campground has hot showers and clean restroom facilities! Visitors can also bring their canoes or kayaks for a tour of the lake . . . but what does Tobesofkee mean?
Tobesofkee is the Anglicization of the Creek words Topv-Sofke, which in contemporary English would mean “buffet – fancy grits.” In the Oklahoma Muskogee-Creek dictionary, Topv (Topah) is defined as a “hospitality board.” This type of outdoor furniture consisted of wooden boards (made by splitting logs with a wedge) that were supported by a wooden frame. It was not a whole lot different than the buffet table or smörgåsbård (butter board) of modern restaurants.
Sofke or Sofkee is a traditional Creek dish made from hominy grits. The cooks would mix bits of meats, vegetables and flavoring herbs with the grits and keep them simmering over hot coals for hours to provide a warm, nutritious meal any time of day. The version of sofkee that my Granny Rubby made, consisted of yellow grits with bits of either country ham or home-smoked bacon mixed in.
However, typical of many agglutinative words in the Muskogean languages, the two words combined together have a broader meaning. The synthesized word is the name of a type of building.
All Creek and proto-Creek communities of any significant size contained at least one topv-sofke. It could be as simple as a three sided shed or a fairly large bungalow style building that provided cooking facilities and seating space for large banquets. Hunters coming in at odd hours of the day and all visitors to the community would be assured of having a warm nutritious meal at no cost to the diner. In addition to the mainstay of sofke, their menu typically included boiled hominy, hush-puppies, corn fritters, popcorn, tamales, brunswick stew, baked beans, baked winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes baked in coals, boiled green vegetables, seasonal fruits, toasted nuts, batter-fried fish and poultry and smoked meats. It was found that if keeping smoked meats and fish, wrapped in corn husks, above about 140 degree F. , would keep them from spoiling for several days . . . especially in cooler weather. Dried, smoked meats would keep for long periods during the fall, winter and early spring.
As the reader might have already guessed, the menu of the Creek topv-sofke became what is called today, Traditional Southern Cuisine. Undoubtedly, Southern Cuisine began when newcomers from the Old World were offered traditional Southern hospitality by their Creek and Uchee hosts.
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