Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What is mush?

asked what mush was.

Mush is not a dish. Well, maybe it is, but mush is not certainly not a recipe.

Mush is a state of mind - a way of being and cooking - a style, a mode, a means to an end.

Mush starts with whatever's available in your kitchen. Anything will do, but a carbohydrate base of traditional staples is better - rice, potatoes, pasta, couscous, have all formed the base of mush at one point or another.

Mush is when what you have at hand to cook is chopped up, mashed together, mixed, crushed and (yes) mushed together. No rules, but some rules-of-thumb: moist is better than dry: sloppy better than neat: mixed up better than discrete. Most importantly, 2 shades shy of bland is better than a touch too spicy. It's convalescent food - and, by long tradition, it must taste marginally better than cardboard, but only just, and not for want of trying.

Mush has been many things. For example, sometime back, mush was couscous, cooked plain, with a dab of margarine, and an egg scrambled into it at the last minute. Sometime before that, mush was an entire can of luncheon meat mashed up, fried a bit, and with an egg cracked over the mess at the last minute as well. Come to think of it, there may have been luncheon meat in the couscous as well.

Mush has it's origins with my undergraduate days, when I used to eat pasta with butter, and only butter. It was an ideal undergrad's meal: the whole thing was cooked in one pot, the only thing other than butter you needed was salt and pepper, and eating the whole thing out of the same pot (preferably with the wooden spoon you used to stir it) meant only two things needed to be washed. This, in its own time, had supplanted the meal of choice (and meal of necessity - same thing at that point in time) of my first term in university, which was anything that could be put on a slice of toast, which often meant (by the end of term) butter only.

Coming back home for Christmas probably saved me from malnutrition that year. But I digress. I was about to say that the true origins of mush are probably buried deep in my childhood, when my mother realised that I was un-fussy, and could be happily fed loaves of bread for meals on busy days. I think I liked the purity and simplicity of it all, bread and water (yes, I was a childhood Zen gourmand).

And so, when I'm sick, I reach instinctively for the wholesome simplicity of staple foods, cooked up well, and mushy. That's mush.

And I'm definitely sicker today. I had to hold it together to conduct a workshop this afternoon, but eyes are watering, nose is running and cough is coming back. Bah. Two panadols and strepsils kept me together through the workshop, sparing me the embarassment of being visibly sick in front of 26 new teachers (I looked at them and thought "Was I ever that young?"), but I just want to limp to the doctor's now and get some meds ...

3 comments:

tscd said...

Mush actually sounds like a good way to discover new dishes (and use up leftovers).

Try using some antihistamines (clarityn is good and non-drowsy), and for the sorethroat, gargle and drink soluble paracetamol and aspirin. Buy over the counter, don't waste time lining up at the doctors!

wahj said...

soluble paracetemol's one of my all time favourites - works faster than tablets, and goes down easier. Have never thought of gargling it though - this I must try.= )

cook said...

Yep my partner and kids renown me for cooking up mush. Usually only me and my eldest son partake of my concoctions as being a spicy food lover I tend to make them that way. But not always with left overs, sometimes with uncooked ingredients as well. They usually get me ripping out stinking fxxrts which is an added bonus as well!