About Stuff, and Corn Meal Mush


I have friends who collect all kinds of stuff, and three in particular who are such rabid acquisitors they needed to build barns and sheds or additions to their houses just to store the stuff – old cars, boats, motors, power tools, furniture, you name it. One guy I know can’t keep his hands off lawn mowers – he has more than a dozen mowers in need of some crucial repair, piled into a corner of his barn. Another friend admitted he doesn’t collect stuff, he simply amasses it. A third is much choosier; he buys good old stuff at any yard sale or flea market or antique show he can find, antiques all, and has so crammed his house with this stuff he’d made it a virtual museum.

George Carlin has a famous bit about stuff, right here:

My wife and I probably have too much stuff. It’s mostly my fault, since when I first met her she had almost no stuff at all and I had too much. My stuff was a chaotic amalgam of antique toasters and small appliances, and other cooking gadgets, along wth a small selection antique cream separator advertising signs (talk about a collecting niche!), piles of Indian artifacts including arrowheads, knives, scrapers, metates, manos, mostly from the American Southwest, and heaven knows too many clothes, books, CDs, vinyl records, film cameras and other photography stuff – and that’s just the start of it. I’ve pretty much stopped yard sailing and antiquing because all this stuff costs money and takes up precious space.

Knives are an exception, though. Over the years I’ve collected dozens of crooked knives (pic below), pocket knives, hunting knives, even handmade kitchen knives, with the condition that they all need to be old. They’re tucked away in various caches around the house that I often can’t find, so these former treasures are demoted to the category of just Stuff.

Just so you know: here’s an old crooked knife. Handmade handle and blade.

There’s a saying that “all collectors eventually become dealers” – it’s really the only escape route when you’re drowning in stuff – and I expect my turn will come because I don’t need all those knives and toasters and gadgets. It would be fine for me to have only the stuff that I need, and give away or sell the rest to people who don’t mind having stuff they don’t need.


Traditional Fried Corn Meal Mush

Speaking of traditional Americana, this dish is an American staple, especially in the Midwest and South. And I love it.

This stuff is prepared ahead of time – it needs to refrigerate overnight.

You’ll need just a few things:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • pinch of salt
  • blend of half canola and half peanut oil
  • flour
  • maple syrup (or other syrup)

Get 3 cups of water boiling in a pan. In a bowl, mix 1 cup cold water with the corn meal and salt, and stir the stuff until well-blended.  Pour or spoon the wet meal into the boiling water, stirring constantly (it’s good to use a long-handled spoon because the meal tends to spatter).  Cook the stuff until it’s well-thickened (this happens pretty fast), stirring nearly constantly.  Now cover the pan, and simmer gently for about five minutes.

Spoon the stuff into a nonstick loaf pan, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pour off any water that may have separated from the mush. Slice the stuff into pieces about 3/4″ thick, remove them carefully from the loaf pan, and dust them with flour. Fry in the oil blend (about 3/4″ deep in the pan should do it) over medium heat till golden brown and crispy on outside, using tongs to turn them over once. It takes a few minutes to cook the stuff just right – crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Remove the pieces and drain on paper towels.

Can you hear the sizzle?

Now serve this stuff with warm syrup, and await the “mmm”s and “aaah”s.

My stomach’s growling…

There you have it.

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.