Last weekend 13 of my male relatives gathered to share their annual experience strength and hope. The oldest is 83, the youngest, a nephew’s youngest son, came from the rocky coast of Maine. He is 6. Another came from Paris where he lives and two came from Bermuda. We apparently are a tribe of wanderers.
The first night dinner was take out from Big W BBQ and was eaten and picked at for most of the weekend.
On Saturday night we went to a new restaurant, the Iron furnace in Verbank and had a good hearty meal which included slumgullion. My father used to love the word and would say things like, let’s have slumgullion for dinner.
So I looked up the word and even Mark Twain had something to say about it.
“The word sounds vaguely unpleasant, a good example of form matching meaning, since Americans have for more than for 150 years used it for a variety of things that are unpleasant to various degrees.
Dictionaries often say this was its first appearance in print:
Then he poured for us a beverage which he called “Slum gullion,” and it is hard to think he was not inspired when he named it. It really pretended to be tea, but there was too much dish-rag, and sand, and old bacon-rind in it to deceive the intelligent traveler.
Roughing It, by Mark Twain, 1872.
A slang dictionary two years later defined slumgullion as “any cheap, nasty, washy beverage”. Another, roughly contemporary, memory is this:
The meals are all alike — a potato, a slice of something like bacon, some gray stuff called bread, and a cup of muddy, semi-liquid coffee like that which the California miners call “slickers” or “slumgullion.”
Travels in Alaska, by John Muir, 1915, describing a trip he made in 1879.
Today it means a cheap stew made by throwing anything handy into a pot with water and boiling it, an improvised dish which has had many other names, such as Mulligan stew and Irish stew.”