Mulligan stew (food)
|Place of origin||United States|
|Main ingredient(s)||Meat, potatoes, vegetables|
A description of mulligan stew appeared in a 1900 newspaper:
Another traveler present described the operation of making a "mulligan." Five or six hobos join in this. One builds a fire and rustles a can. Another has to procure meat; another potatoes; one fellow pledges himself to obtain bread, and still another has to furnish onions, salt and pepper. If a chicken can be stolen, so much the better. The whole outfit is placed in the can and boiled until it is done. If one of the men is successful in procuring "Java," an oyster can is used for a coffee tank, and this is also put on the fire to boil. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that California hobos always put a "snipe" in their coffee, to give it that delicate amber color and to add to the aroma. "Snipe" is hobo for the butt end of a cigar that smokers throw down in the streets. All hobos have large quantities of snipes in their pockets, for both chewing and smoking purposes. A "beggar stew" is a "mulligan," without any meat.
The earliest known attestation is in 1899.
"Mulligan" is a stand-in for any Irishman, and mulligan stew is simply an Irish stew that includes meat, potatoes, vegetables, and whatever else can be begged, scavenged, found or stolen. A local Appalachian variant is a burgoo, where the available ingredients might include squirrel or opossum. Only a pot and a fire are required. The hobo who put it together was known as the "mulligan mixer."
In popular culture
- The verse to the song "The Lady Is a Tramp" by Rodgers and Hart begins: "I've wined and dined on Mulligan Stew, and never wished for Turkey."
- A phrase in a line from the 1967 song "Rejoyce" by Jefferson Airplane "Mulligan stew for Bloom."
- The song "Old Pigweed" on the album The Ragpicker's Dream by Mark Knopfler describes a mulligan stew being prepared and ruined by adjunction of old pigweed.
- A line in the song "Jitterbug Boy" on the album Small Change by Tom Waits is written as: "I've burned 100 dollar bills, I've eaten mulligan stew" in reference to the wildly varied and most likely fabricated experiences of the narrator.
- A line in the song "Whistlin Past the Graveyard" on the album "Blue Valentine by Tom Waits; "Cooked up a mess o' mulligan and got into a fight". The opening verses of this song contain railroad/hobo-related imagery.
- The song "The Bum Song No. 2" by Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock has the line "Some folks like their high class stuff and lots of service too, but give me a shady jungle and a can of Mulligan Stew."
- In the Criminal Minds episode "Catching Out", the homeless men invite Rossi and Morgan to a bowl of mulligan stew.
- In the Mad Men season six premiere "The Doorway", Betty shows a group of squatters how to make goulash, using ingredients they have stolen and scavenged. Because the house they're in and others around it lack running water, the vagrants substitute snow for water.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Earshot Xander asks what is Mulligan Stew anyway while talking about the food in the school's cafeteria.
- In Shel Silverstein's poem "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too", the character Tickle "serve[s] coffee and mulligan stew".
Another iteration of Mulligan stew is "Community Stew", a stew put together by several homeless people by combining whatever food they have or can collect. Community stews are often made at "Hobo Jungles" or events designed to help homeless people.
Originally, during the Depression, the homeless would sleep in "Jungles". [Campsites near railways for the homeless] Traditionally, the "Jungles" would have a large campfire and pot into which each person would put in a portion of their food, thus giving each person a portion that was, hopefully, more tasteful and nutritious than his original portion.
Usually, they would afterward enjoy themselves with story-telling and, sometimes, the drinking of alcohol.
- Brunswick stew
- Irish stew
- Stone soup
- Booyah, a social stew popular in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin
- "said to have originated among tramps." A Dictionary of Americanisms, citing You Can't Win (1926): "He's crazy as a bed bug and the best 'mulligan' maker on the road."
- "Weary Willie on His Travels." The Sunday Oregonian, vol. 19 no. 3. Jan 21, 1900. Portland, Oregon.
- Oxford English Dictionary, Third edition, March 2003, s.v. 'mulligan', citation from the Atlantic Monthly of November 1899, p. 673
- "...made of meat and vegetables -- whatever is available or can be begged or stolen. It is an American term, honoring an Irishman whose first name has been lost but who may have made a tasty Irish stew." Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
- Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends (Harper and Row, 1974)
- The New Food Lover's Companion, 2nd ed, (Barron's Educational Series) Sharon Tyler Herbst, ed., 1995.