Ode to Fried Cornmeal Mush
Oh fried cornmeal mush!
Your sunny color makes me smile.
I wait impatiently as you sizzle in the skillet,
Until you emerge, crispy on the outside,
Your center warm and welcoming me home.
Oh fried cornmeal mush!
Such powerful memories evoked through three simple ingredients.
You are just a tiny piece of my grandfather’s legacy.
I never got to say goodbye, but through you
I share his love and lessons with my children.
I woke up this morning thinking about my grandfather on my dad’s side. He left this world in 2007 when I was 29 years old. He’s not the first loved one I’ve lost but we had a special connection and I feel him watching over me.
You see, I was his oldest grandchild. He taught me how to ride a horse and how to drive a pickup with a clutch. Believe me, when you’re towing a broken down vehicle carrying your stern/serious/impatient/unforgiving grandfather you master the art of “easing” off the clutch very quickly. I’m not sure how old I was at the time but I know I was still a pre-teen. I know this because by the time I was 13 I was driving a tractor (with a clutch and a whole bunch of other gears and knobs to master – someday I’ll tell you about my hydraulic fluid shower) helping him raise alfalfa hay for himself and neighbors. That was the summer my grandfather was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and, as the oldest grandchild (and probably because my parents hoped it would curb my wild side), I got too stay with him and Grandma and accompany him to his treatments over an hour away. To this day I can’t eat an old fashioned doughnut without thinking of him because we would stop and buy those donuts and something to drink at a gas station along the way.
I’ve made more than my share of mistakes but Grandpa never tried to tear me down or made me feel like he thought any less of me. I miss him dearly and remain grateful for the time I got to spend with him.
Anyway, thinking of Grandpa puts me in the mood for cornmeal mush. I can picture him standing in the kitchen, frying up slices. They’re good plain or between two slices of buttered toast.
Recipe from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, (c) 1990.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 4 cups water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Butter a bread pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
Mix the cornmeal with 1 cup cold water. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water and the salt to a boil. Add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 7 minutes or until thick.
Spread in buttered bread pan and refrigerate.
When thoroughly chilled, cut into 3/8-inch slices.
Fry in bacon fat, butter, or oil until golden on both sides.
Drain on paper towels and blot with paper towels to remove excess fat.