Friday, August 8, 2008

A Tribute to Alison or How to Make Mush

My friend Alison has been a busy mom lately and she contacted me yesterday to ask about starting a lifestyle blog. Imagine her surprise when I told her I already did and it wasn't even that hard (although since this is a work computer I can't add pictures).

Anyway, Alison has money issues. Okay, the biggest issue is her sponging lazy in-laws and she wanted to include some money saving tips in her blog (how to prepare a dinner for 10 for $20) so this is for her.

Mush has a bad reputation thanks to the Little Rascals. You remember the scenes ("oh no, mush again" or "don't drink the milk, it's spoiled"). And across the pond it has an even worse reputation where they call the stuff gruel. But if you ask the average person they don't even know what either one is. Well, all this stuff is basicly the same thing as porridge, or farina, or grits or pudding or the countless of other names given to a thick pasty mixture made up of mostly water and a grain (even polenta counts).

The basic difference between all these different names is the grain used. Porridge is made from oats. Gruel can really be made from anything. Mush is made from ground corn meal and grits from ground hominy which is just dried corn treated with an acid (which basicly pre-digests your food for you). These are actually some of the cheapest, healthiest, easiest eats a person can get. Generations of people quite litterally survived the plague on this stuff. Where the gentry quite literally died from malnutrition due to a diet that consisted mainly of rotting proteins, the peasants managed to both work in the field and survive on this stuff (that could be whipped up in minutes and stayed good for days). Okay so I wouldn't want to have it every day for the rest of my life, but I can definetly see having it every weekday for a year.

Would you believe I was actually introduced to Mush by my "Tia Broncha" when I stayed with her in Puerto Rico. I was in my early 20's at the time and I couldn't believe that somthing so simple, easy and delicious had such a bad reputation.

Okay, I'll try and give approximate amounts here, but realize, like any traditional cook, I have no idea about measurements unless I'm following a written recipe (and my aunt certainly didn't write this down for me). But give it a try.

She put about 1/2 cup of corn meal (masa maize) into a pan on the stove. In a microwave safe dish she would put about 1 cup of water with raisins and 1/2 a cinnamon stick and heat until just under a boil. Once the water was heated, she would slowly pour over corn meal while stirring vigerously so you don't get lumps. In this case, it's important not to let the raisins drop into the mix until the end. Once smooth, she would add milk to get the right consistency (a thinnish oatmeal consistency) while heating the pan over the stove which made it thicker. Then she would sweeten (usually with sugar), but now is the time to add really anything you want and truly make it your own. Add vanilla, or more cinnamon, or cardamon, cumin, should know the drill.

Okay, do you want to know the best part of this, as it gets cold, it thickens into a pudding. No, not the jello box kind, the real pudding stuff, blanche mange, the stuff they used to eat in Little Women and housewives used to make at home until Jello spoiled it all. All I can say is wow, and it's worth it.

Really give it a try. It'll make you happy and you can now eat pudding for breakfast too (and you don't have to be British or Irish and worry about the pigs to do it).

1 comment:

Allison Hatfield said...

you are correct, the grande dame is none too fond of the puppy. but surprisingly, the real hater is bogey. oh the troubles of the middle child -- he never sees his day