Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mushy in Middlebury

The Village Inn
107 S. Main St.
Middlebury, IN

What do you think of when you hear “country cooking”?

I think of hearty, comfortable food. Stuff that’s good to line your stomach for a long day of combine riding and barn raising. Food far from the clutches of San Francisco nanny-state politicians who want to regulate my daily salt and transfat intake.

In other words, food that tastes good. And fills you up.

Food like mush.


Yeah. I never heard of it either. Tells you what I know about country living.

But I found the perfect place to learn at The Village Inn in the tiny town of Middlebury. Up here among the snow covered corn fields of far Northern Indiana, just a few miles from the Michigan line, you can get your mush, soups and sandwiches – and most importantly – pie.

The Village Inn is the local small town gathering spot for families and old guys in John Deere trucker caps. “Home Town Taste with a Home Town Feel”, is the saying underneath the sign out front.

This is the kind of place where you don’t even have to ask if it is homemade.

How the heck else are you going to serve mush? It’s not like Sysco carries it frozen in the back of their delivery trucks.

Homemade soup and a sandwich appealed to me on this bitterly cold and snowy winter day.

My “stuffed pepper” soup was a hearty mishmash of finely ground beef and rice with a few flecks of green pepper thrown in. It offered up just enough spice to keep me warm and interested.

For my sandwich, I opted for the tenderloin.

Tenderloin is one of those culinary terms that can lead to confusion. It means different things depending on where you’re standing.

If you are in Texas or out West, tenderloin means fillet mignon. In the South and East, tenderloin is a nice cut of pork.

But here in the Midwest, when you order a tenderloin, you’re about to be handed a giant breaded, deep-fried pig patty on a bun. Think German Weiner Schnitzel on steroids.

The Village Inn’s version certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (that would be in Iowa – just between you and me), but it wasn’t bad. How bad can a tender piece of deep fried pig be?

But it was a bit dry and a bit forgettable.

Of course, there is only one real reason anyone comes to a place like the Village Inn.


My lemon meringue was delicious. So cold and lemony it made my teeth hurt.

I felt extra proud of myself because I got the last piece of the day.

No doubt about it. I was satisfied enough to face an afternoon of stall cleaning, fence mending, corn shucking – or business meetings.

But I just couldn’t leave without trying that mush.

Mush is an ancient colonial American food that dates back almost 350 years. Hearty American colonial pioneers would mix cornmeal and water and cook it into a porridge.

And eat it.

Yeah. You couldn’t just call Dominos in 1670 when the cupboard was bare.

What is really interesting is that three and a half centuries later, some country folks still eat the stuff. Then again, I’m pretty sure there is no Dominos franchise in Middlebury, which might help explain it.

The Village Inn’s version of mush is poured into a pan, hardened and then cut into rectangular pieces and lightly fried.

It sort of reminded me of fried grits or polenta – only without any taste. A little maple syrup helped to liven the mush up a bit. But definitely not going to make my top ten list any time soon.

And what about that name? Mush?

The mush industry could use a better marketing team. Maybe they should look to hire the guys that came up with the name polenta.

Same basic food item. Much more interesting name.

But then again, the overalls-wearing farmers around Middlebury probably would never order anything called polenta. They want their mush, just like each of the twenty generations that came before them.

And that’s why they call it “comfort food”. There’s comfort in knowing that there are still places in the American countryside where some things never change.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.
Village Inn on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment