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cornmeal mush / hasty pudding

In the U.S., a thick batter or pudding made of Indian meal stirred into boiling water; mush. In England, a batter or pudding formed of flour stirred into boiling water or milk till it becomes stiff; a minute pudding. — Webster, 1882

Eating peas from a two-prong fork is like eating hasty pudding with a knitting needle. — The Monthly Instructor, 1839

In Little House in the Big Woods, cornmeal mush is glorified as hasty pudding, and it’s something Grandma Ingalls cooks and serves (see Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s). It cooks for a long time on the back of the stove, and at dinner time, the family eats it with maple syrup. Hasty pudding is only mentioned the one time and only in that one book. In subsequent Little House books, cornmeal cooked in water is simply… mush. Perhaps Laura (Colby) Ingalls, with her New England roots, did call it hasty pudding, and it was a dish Laura Ingalls Wilder remembered eating at her grandmother’s house as a young child.

Although Laura Ingalls Wilder uses the song “Yankee Doodle” in Little House in the Big Woods, she doesn’t mention the first verse, which includes hasty pudding:

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Good’in,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.

Many recipes for hasty pudding call for molasses, eggs, milk, butter, and a variety of spices. This doesn’t seem to be the dish prepared by Grandma Ingalls. She simply let plain cornmeal sift through her fingers into a pot of boiling water, cooking it slowly until thick and smooth. It was flavored by the maple syrup poured over it.

Recipes for Hasty Pudding, from the time of the Little House Books.

Indian Hasty Pudding. Put in three pints of water and a table-spoonful of salt, and when it begins to boil, stir in about half enough meal; after boiling awhile, stir in more meal, and boil awhile longer, then stir in a little more meal, and boil it till it is thoroughly cooked. — Esther Allen Howland, The New England Economical Housekeeper (Cincinnati: H.W. Derby, 1845), 40.

Hasty Pudding. Boil water, a quart, three pints, or two quarts, according to the size of your family; sift your meal, stir five or six spoonfuls of it thoroughly into a bowl of water; when the water in the kettle boils, pour into it the contents of the bowl; stir it well, and let it boil up thick; put in salt to suit your own taste, then stand over the kettle, and sprinkle in meal, handful after handful, stirring it very thoroughly all the time, and letting it boil between whiles. When it is so thick that you stir it with great difficulty, it is about right. It takes about half an hour’s cooking. Eat it with milk or molasses. Either Indian meal or rye meal may be used. — Lydia Maria Francis Child, The Frugal Housewife (Boston: Carter and Hendee, 1830), 65.

New England Hasty Pudding. Boil three quarts of water in an iron pot; mix a pint of Indian meal in cold water, and make it thin enough to pour easily; when the water boils, pour it in; stir well with a wooden stick kept for the purpose; it takes about an hour to boil; add salt to your taste; stir in dry meal to make it thick enough, beating it all the time. Eat it with milk or molasses, or butter and sugar. This is said to be a wholesome died for dyspeptic patients, and makes a good meal for children. — Elizabeth Ellicott Lea, Domestic Cookery (Baltimore: Cushings and Bailey, 1869), 82.


hasty pudding (BW 8)
mush (SSL 19, 21; PG) – Indian meal boiled in water.
     corn meal / cornmeal (LHP 5, 19; BPC 38; SSL 19)
     fried (LHP 8; SSL 21)
     whole wheat (PG)