WNC History Timeline

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www.childers-shepherd.org, 31 Dec 2008
                                          Corn Meal Mush

According to my father, Roy Childers, corn meal mush was a mainstay dish for the Childers family on
Couches Creek. When they had little else, they usually had some dry corn they could take to the mill
to have ground into meal.

(The Italians make a similar dish, which they call Polenta. This, seasoned in Italian ways, has become
very popular in Italian restaurants everywhere.)

As best I can remember, Daddy said that they ate their cornmeal mush in two different ways. For a
savory dish, Grandma Bertha might add some bacon or ham drippings if she had them. For a sweet
version, perhaps made from leftover mush, Grandma Bertha might slice the cold mush into strips, fry
them in lard, and pour some molasses over them.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cornmeal

Time: 40 - 60 minutes, depending on whether plain or fancy

Servings: for about four people, as a main dish

Bring the water to a boil in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Add the salt, stir, and bring the water back to
boil. Now reduce the heat to a simmer and begin pouring in a thin stream of the corn meal while
stirring constantly. Continue until all the corn meal has been added. (Using a wire whisk while adding
the meal, instead of a spoon, will help avoid lumps.)

Now use a wooden spoon and continue constantly stirring over very low heat as the meal and water
mixture thickens into mush. It will begin to bubble, so be careful to avoid being burned when the
bubbles pop. (For a thinner mush, more like a cooked cereal, this process will take about half an
hour. To make a thicker mush, especially if you want to let it congeal for slicing later, keep cooking
and stirring for about another twenty minutes or so until it is quite thick and begins to pull away from
the sides of the pan.)

To serve it immediately, pour the mush into a serving dish and add over the top whatever
seasonings you like. Here are some possibilities: sauteed onions and/or garlic, sauteed mushrooms,
tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes, and any grated cheese you like. Or, to go to the sweet side, you
could dot it with butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon, and then drizzle maple syrup or molasses over it
all.

If you want to keep the mush for later use, then pour it into a flat square pan and let it cool. When it
is firm, you can slice it into squares or strips. These can then be fried until crisp and brown, or the
slices can be arranged in an oiled baking dish, seasoned with some tomato or other kind of sauce,
topped with grated cheese, and baked in a preheated 350-degree oven until browned and bubbly.

Use your imagination in the seasoning, and in "remembering" the scenes around that big table in the
Childers house on Couches Creek.

                                                                                                         -- Dwight Childers