6.17.24 4

A Mess of Mushrooms

I made stew beef for dinner last night – and a mess of mushrooms to go with it.

Have you ever heard that term before? A mess? Mamaw used to say it all the time. She was always making a mess of beans or mess of fish.

If you’ve never heard it used this way, you’ve probably heard of a mess kit or a mess hall. Both of these military terms relate to food. But why?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the phrase comes from the Old Latin “missus,” meaning a dinner course. By 1300, the French had adopted the word “mes” to describe a portion of food.

The definition hasn’t changed in 724 years. A mess still means a quantity of food large enough for a meal. It’s not a definitive amount, though. A mess of taters for a family of two will be smaller than one for a family of four.

You don’t hear the term to describe food much anymore – especially in the city. But out in the country, folks still put it to good use to describe greens.

It makes me smile. I can’t help it. It reminds me of Mamaw, standing over the stove with pots boiling and the aroma of ham hock wafting through the house.

Am I nostalgic? Yes.

And why not? Just saying I cooked up a mess of mushrooms conjures up memories of a time when meals were more than food; they were a gathering, a celebration of abundance and family. It brings to mind kitchens filled with laughter, the clatter of pots and pans, and the comforting smell of home-cooked meals.

Leave a Comment


  1. NAVOR LEDESMA wrote:

    Nothing beats a mess of southern vittles like a stew of beef, gravy, and mushrooms!

    Published 6.17.24
    • Cassie wrote:

      You got that right!!

      Published 6.18.24
  2. Tipper Pressley wrote:

    Yum that meal sounds so good! And yep we use mess just like that. Neat to hear the history of the usage.

    Published 6.26.24
    • Cassie wrote:

      I love that! I wish it was more common where I live now.

      Published 6.30.24