Cousin Bill and Fried Mush


My father’s favorite cousin was Bill, ten years his senior and completely opposite from my diminutive, quiet, handsome, intelligent father.  Bill was bawdy, boisterous, tall and husky with a loud, hearty laugh – a loveable rascal.
We have a picture ca 1920 of Bill in a nice suit, neat and clean-shaven…


…but I remember him only in scruffy clothes with mud-caked brogans.  He was a blacksmith by trade and followed the county fair trotting circuit to shoe the horses.  Back in the 1960s, I took my three young children to the Owensville (Clermont County, Ohio) Fair and stopped in a trailer parked on the fairgrounds to visit Bill and his family.  Inside the small trailer, 4 or 5 little kids were seated at a table and Bill’s wife, Mary, was at the wood-burning stove frying mush in a big cast iron skillet.  She would slice the mush, throw it into the hot grease, flip it and then put it on one of the kids’ plates.  For the 15 or 20 minutes we were there, she never stopped flipping and serving slices of hot mush – there was always an empty plate and a hungry child yelling for more.  I’m also a lover of fried mush and so, in memory of Bill and his wife, here is how I make it.


  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Butter for frying

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Combine the remaining 1 cup of water with the corn meal and salt; slowly pour this mixture into the boiling water, stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently.  Cover; continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir and pour into an oiled 9-inch loaf pan.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Invert mush loaf onto a flat surface….


…and cut into twelve ½-inch slices.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add about 2 teaspoons of butter.  Fry the mush slices on one side …

…then turn and brown on the other side.

Serve with butter and syrup, although I prefer it the way Mary fixed it – just fried golden brown without syrup.


Makes 6 servings of 2 slices each

Mush will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

16 thoughts on “Cousin Bill and Fried Mush”

  1. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize fried corn meal mush was just fried polenta! So cool! I’ve never had good fried corn meal mush and you’re making me drool over this homemade stuff. YUM! Love the memories you shared, too.

  2. You prompted another trip down memory lane. We used to visit my great aunt about once a month–it was a three hour drive when I was little; it bacame a 2-hour drive as highways improved and bypassed cities. When it was the longer drive, we would stay overnight, and it was a ritual that she would serve corn meal mush in the morning. Only difference from your recipe is that she put a pinch of salt in some flour and coated the sliced pieces before frying them. I think i’ll have to go make some. 🙂

    1. My mother made corn meal mush often – it was a breakfast staple in our house. That’s a good idea of coating the slices before frying – I’ll have to try that. Lillian

  3. I love those stories and especially the wondful photo! I don’t really remember having cornmeal mush, but my husband had it so many times during his early childhood that he still won’t eat it! I love anything corn, so I think I would probably like it. Thanks for sharing memories with us 🙂

  4. Another wonderful recipe. I remember when I first married my husband talked about this lovely comfort food from his childhood called Polenta. We went to visit his grandmother in Pittsburgh she made Polenta. The first time they make it they poured chicken and gravy over it, they fry leftovers. I was surprised that Polenta was nothing more than cornmeal mush!. We still love it just as you described..

  5. My mom used to make the fried corn meal mush quite often. We poured white Karo Syrup over it. It was really good.

  6. Lillian, I had out-of-town company last week when you published this post…when I read it to them, my brother-in-law said that he remembered his Mama making it and it made him so hungry! I will have to try it!

  7. My husband likes cornmeal mush as a winter breakfast. His grandmother made Maltex cereal in quantity and then chilled the extra in a pan to slice and fry, served with real maple syrup.

  8. Just discovered your blog today, and wanted to let you know how pleased I am with this story. First, because recently my uncle and cousin were talking about how they wished they had learned to make mush and second because my uncle and mother would have been one of those children in the trailer!!!!

  9. I just discovered your blog while doing a google search for William Martin Applegate. I was thrilled to find the photos and story. James Everett Applegate was my great-grandfather, but I never got to meet him or Bill. We have started a Facebook Group for family. If you or other relatives are interested in sharing, come on over to: . Thanks! (My Aunt Mary used to make this mush for me. I love it.)

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