Slumgullion is one of those great words that has meant many things over time, each of them very fitting to the word’s sloppy, goulashy sound. In the 1850’s, California gold miners called the muddy, yucky, waste and tailings of mining “slumgullion.” The same miners used the same word to describe their coffee or tea; Mark Twain didn’t like it at all, saying:
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.
In Moby Dick, a similar sounding word, slobgollion, named the leftover waste from processing whale carcasses.
In later decades, slumgullion came to mean a stew made from whatever is hanging around in the kitchen, or whatever can be had for little money. Most recipes include tomatoes, ground beef, and macaroni…which sounds much tastier than mine tailings, dishrag water, or whale guts.
Much thanks to www.worldwidewords.org for the history of this word, we’d gotten to the stew but knew nothing of the other meanings till now… and to feralkitchen for the tastier-looking definition and image.