Each Thursday, Emily Vikre (a.k.a fiveandspice) will be sharing a new way to love breakfast -- because breakfast isn't just the most important meal of the day. It's also the most awesome.

Today: In defense of mush -- or, in other terms, pumpkin breakfast polenta. 

Pumpkin Mush from Food52

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Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you: mush!  

If you find the idea of eating mush too off-putting to handle, you can call this pumpkin breakfast polenta. But, before you do that, can I first briefly come to the defense of mush? (I think The Defense of Mush may also be a little-known philosophical treatise from John Locke, but anyway.) You see, there is a difference between mushy and mush. Mushy implies that something that was supposed to have some other texture -- perhaps firm, or crispy -- has lost said preferred texture and is now mushy. Mush, on the other hand, is supposed to be mushy. Mush is mush! Mush is everything warm and fuzzy and comforting. It is the best attributes of mashed potatoes and pudding and cuddly bunny rabbits all rolled into one. It is “goodnight mush,” at the end of Goodnight Moon.

Also, in case you need any more convincing that mush has merits, may I point out that this particular mush comes from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book? I had long heard Marion spoken of in the warmest terms by a number of different people, and when it was decided I should start writing about breakfast, I thought it would be a work liability not to own my own copy of The Breakfast Book. So, I sallied forth and bought it. It’s a charming book full of classic breakfasts like pancakes and all kinds of eggs. It is also peppered with evocatively named vintage recipes like “lemon zephyrs,” “heavenly hots,” and “breakfast baps,” as well as gems of wisdom from Marion. An example: “Because everyone is defenseless at breakfast, there should be no contention or crossness.” So true.

This is actually the first recipe I’ve gotten around to trying from the book (shame on me!). It’s January, and January calls for mush. Really this mush is very much like a creamy polenta, made extra plush from pumpkin puree. Marion states that, “served hot, with a pat of butter and a spoonful of brown sugar, this is good.” May I humbly submit my own suggestion and say that served hot, with a pat of butter, some nuts and dried fruit, and a rather generous drizzle of maple syrup, this is GOOD. 

Pumpkin Mush from Food52

Pumpkin Mush

Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Makes 3 cups

2 cups milk (non-dairy milk substitutes like almond or coconut milk also work well)
1 cup puréed pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (grits)
1/3 cup cold water
For serving: butter, maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar, toasted nuts, dried or fresh fruit (you can also take this in a savory direction with Parmesan and eggs) 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emily Vikre

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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.


Caitlin G. October 7, 2015
this is pretty much an any-time-of-day delicious meal. will def try!
Barbara October 5, 2015
Do you mean canned pumpkin puree? Or fresh??
fiveandspice October 6, 2015
Either works just fine.
Bryan C. November 18, 2014
My wife's relatives are the northern Italy area of Friuli. Pumpkins and squash (zucce)are grown in abundance there. Polenta is also a staple in the Friulian diet. The natural progression was to combine the two. They call it zuffe or jouffe in the Friulian dialect. Sounds better than mush.
Rocky R. January 26, 2014
I've loved this sweet cookbook ever since it came out in 1987. Another great recipe using mush is the old New England classic Indian Pudding. We all know about baked apples but the recipe for Baked Stuffed Pears is a winner for breakfast or a plated dessert at a dinner party.
Fairmount_market January 24, 2014
Thanks for sharing this recipe. I would never have thought of this combination of ingredients, but it looks delicious.
fiveandspice January 24, 2014
AntoniaJames January 23, 2014
Great column. Can't wait to try the recipe, too, with homemade vanilla-nutmeg almond milk! ;o)
P.S. What a wonderful Cunningham quote. My mother (a night owl) had this rule: Please don't talk to me about anything important before 11 AM. She'd have loved that.
fiveandspice January 24, 2014
Mmm, sounds wonderful. Your mother sounds a bit like my husband! Nothing important before 11am or 4 cups of coffee, whichever comes first.
Kenzi W. January 23, 2014
This feels like a treatise for my life.
fiveandspice January 24, 2014
Haha, you and me both!
Nicholas D. January 23, 2014
Best thing I've ever read on mush.
fiveandspice January 24, 2014
That's quite a compliment, given the extensiveness of the mush literature! :)