My friend Debbie was in the south recently, on vacation. I called her to check in and asked her if she had filled up on grits. "Well, yes, actually, I love grits,"she said. She grew up in the Imperial Valley but her family was from Oklahoma originally and grits were a staple.
I am not a big grits guy, they are made from hominy, but I have my own secret. I love mush.
When I lived in Texas between 1964 and 1968 we were pretty poor. At least for a two year stretch. We had a huge family; Liz, Barbara, Donna, David, Robert, Rusty, Gail, Buzzy, John Matthew, Adelle and Don. That makes eleven. Lot of mouths to feed.
We never went hungry that I can remember but we definitely ate very simply and cheap. Lots of beanie weenie out of a can. Minute steaks. Fish sticks. Endless casseroles. And corn meal mush. Lots of mush. Guess they call it polenta now. We bought it by the big sackful.
Resourceful kids that we were, you found ways to doctor up what you ate if it was an everyday staple. Create a little diversity, relieve the gustatory tedium. Started with butter, then honey but in the end we settled on melting cottage cheese in the mush at just the right time to get a nice cheesy counterpoint.
Now Leslie and I eat polenta on fairly frequent occasion. Polenta is your fancy, five dollar Italian word for corn meal. She melts smoked gouda in it which is similar to what we did but a little stronger and not quite as pleasing to me.
I grew up in the Valley too. It was one of the last places in the mainland US to be exploited for farming and had almost no original inhabitants. Both poor White and Black people came because there were jobs in agriculture, including Dust Bowl refugees. Foods like grits and biscuits could be found in local cafes into the ‘70s from my personal experience.
I remember the mush days, later in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is still something I can eat with low-key joy. Thanks for the memories bro.
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