Monday, August 29, 2011

Carnation Mush

A bit of SF history was revealed when the building next to this one got torn down. Now, does anybody know more about "Carnation Mush?"


I have walked by the building that covered this sign for almost every day of the forty years I've lived in the neighborhood and never gave it much thought. But I was walking by a slice of SF history.

Judging by the age of the other buildings on this stretch of Market St., between Van Ness and Valencia, it was probably built between 1907-1910. Even before the big one in 1906, SF had suffered many major fires and I'm guessing that this was part of the rebuild after the 1906 earthquake. I don't think it would possibly predate 1906 as all this part of the city was reduced to rubble. When I have time, I'm going to the archives at the Main library and see what I can find out.

Until it was closed, it was an antique store of sorts. For years, on my way to and fro, I would see an elderly man sitting in the doorway, accompanied by his cat and sometimes I would stop and chat. But in those days, I was too young to appreciate the value of local and oral history - so I never asked him any questions. I wish I had because I am sure there is a story behind those dusty bricks.

Given that I haunted antique stores and was always looking for some little treasure of books or furniture, art or jewelry.  I must have thought that there was nothing there worth buying - assuming you could find anything in the first place. 

The room beyond was in darkness but I could see huge wooded crates piled up as high as the rafters with an occasional chair or chest of drawers pushed up against the wall. The place was dusty and in disarray and showed no apparent signs of organization. I never saw anybody go in and I imagine that it would have been impossible to buy anything.

I don't know when the elderly man left but the building has been boarded up for at least two decades. There were huge gaps in the boards and I am sure that many generations of pigeons roosted in the place. The local homeless were squatting inside for a while until the lower floors were boarded up with steel panels to keep them out.

According to the neighbors, the state had to search forever to find a surviving relative. Apparently they finally did find one who gave permission for the place to be torn down.

Pam (of Zommie Station) and I found the same information about Carnation but nothing more specific about mush:


"Cereal Mills were close relatives to flour mills and most familiar to our area was the Albers Bros. Milling Company. Albers began in Portland and moved north to Tacoma and Seattle. It was purchased by the Carnation Milk Company of Seattle when Carnation was unsuccessful in stopping Albers from using the trade name "Carnation Mush." Albers was able to keep its local mills going right into the 1960s and 1970s by concentrating on pet and animal foods. Today, owned by the Nestle Corporation, they are still in the animal food and cornmeal business but do not have a mill in Washington."

I wonder if what they were referring to as "Carnation mush" was what we now call cornmeal mush or hasty pudding? It was certainly a stand by in my family kitchen, an inexpensive and quick meal. Corn, water or milk and salt was mixed into a thick tasty pudding that you could serve plain or top with maple syrup or brown sugar.

2 comments:

Zoomie said...

Wow, that must be an oldie - I have never even heard of Carnation Mush!

Zoomie said...

I found a couple of references on Google:

"Cereal Mills were close relatives to flour mills and most familiar to our area was the Albers Bros. Milling Company. Albers began in Portland and moved north to Tacoma and Seattle. It was purchased by the Carnation Milk Company of Seattle when Carnation was unsuccessful in stopping Albers from using the trade name "Carnation Mush." Albers was able to keep its local mills going right into the 1960s and 1970s by concentrating on pet and animal foods. Today, owned by the Nestle Corporation, they are still in the animal food and cornmeal business but do not have a mill in Washington." This is from one of the references, the first that pops up, a history of flour milling in Washington state.