Saturday, July 13, 2024

Cornmeal Mush


I like cornmeal mush. It was one of our favorite breakfasts growing up on the farm. I liked it best with a splash of cream from Grandma’s favorite milking short horn cow, Libby. That old cow…

We got her after Grandma’s sweet black cow got hit on the railroad across from the farm. Libby was ornery and didn’t like anyone milking her except Grandma. She did eventually tolerate having me milk her, but she didn’t like it and neither did I. I did, however, really liked her milk. After refrigerating her milk overnight there was usually more than enough cream floating on the top for our cornmeal mush cereal. Grandpa tried milking Libby, and after he caught her hind hoof in his hand a time or two as it was aimed at his chest, he put a pair of cow kicker hobbles on her. He only did that once.

Cow kicker hobbles are two bent pieces of flat metal with a chain holding them together created to keep a cow from kicking. In my opinion they only work as a reminder to a cow that they ought not step, or kick and they only work on very docile cows at that (of course, I’m not a dairyman, so my opinion carries about as much weight as cotton candy).

Grandpa settled one of the two bent pieces of the kicker over Libby’s left hind leg just above the point of the hock, dangled the chain in front of her hind legs for a moment, standing beside her, butt poking way out to avoid giving her a target, then he settled the second piece of bent metal over the right hind leg just above the point of the hock.

Libby stood quiet even though her head was turned in the milking stanchion and she was giving him a white eyed glare. He gave a sigh of relief, stood up, placed his hand on her right hip just below the backbone. That old cow leaned away from his hand, started to take a step, felt that chain tighten across the fronts of both hind legs simultaneously pinching the tendons at the back of her hind legs and she went wild. Ignoring the grain under her nose and her head locked in the manger’s stanchion, her back end went all over the place. The barn shook, Grandpa jumped back watching that cow’s hip hop rump bounce up and down. And she continued to bounce until those cow kicker hobbles jumped right off her hind legs and went flying. She stood there, glaring at Grandpa with wall eyed intensity swishing her tail. That’s how Grandma found them. And Grandma wasn’t happy. She glared at Grandpa. He left the barn with his head low, a sheepish look on his face and a handful of sprung bent metal. That old cow, in all her kicking, had almost straightened out those bent pieces of metal that once were cow kicker hobbles.

It took about two hours for Grandma to calm Libby down so she could be milked, and Grandma didn’t get as much milk as usual because Libby was so stressed. Consequently, there wasn’t as much cream for the cornmeal mush the next morning.

Cornmeal Mush

¾ cup cornmeal                                                            1 cup cold water

2 cups water in a saucepan-bring to a boil                      Dash of salt (optional)

Salt the water in the saucepan if desired. While waiting for the water in the saucepan to come to a boil, mix cornmeal with the cup of cold water in a small (cereal) bowl. When the water in the saucepan comes to a boil, with a spoon ready, add the cornmeal to the water a little at a time, mixing all the while, keep the water moving so the cornmeal won’t stick to the bottom of the pan making lumps. After all the cornmeal water mixture has been added, stir constantly until the cornmeal becomes thick and starts to bubble. Pull off the heat before the ‘popping hot’ mush pops out and makes a mess. Serve with a splash of cream or evaporated milk or a dab of butter. 

In 2000 Michele Priddy left the work force to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Being a one-income family in today’s society meant she had to learn to budget quickly. Food became a priority early because she wanted the children to have the best nutrition, she could offer them even on a budget. She also taught cooking classes on how to stretch the food dollar with simple ingredients at various churches in her community. Michelle has put her kitchen strategies and recipes in booklets, her church newsletter and also in her hometown newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel. We hope you will enjoy her strategies, stories, and recipes. You can contact the Leavenworth Echo at or 509-548-5286 if you have any questions or comments for Michelle.


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