Andie, if you grew up on a farm in Western Kentucky (I grew up on one in West Tennessee, and I'm not sure why one is "west" and one is "western," but that's the case), you are certainly familiar with the very exacting measurement -- the "mess." Which, of course, is enough to feed however many there are for dinner, a "big mess" being enough to do so and have leftovers.
I always heard "mess" used to refer to vegetables, fish or game birds; never to domesticated animal flesh, and only rarely to fruit (I believe I remember hearing about a "mess" of fried apples). Not sure why that was so.
Yes, a mess of fish, crawfish, frog legs, or squirrels, a mess of greens or green beans, etc., usually referred to a batch of fairly small foods that was sufficient to feed several people. Game birds were in "braces" but squabs were a "gaiter" (gather) consisting of a dozen and a term I think was confined to the area where I grew up in Livingston county (once the gateway to the Illinois territory). My ancestors settled there in pre-revolutionary times and I think carried their terms for things from Virginia and North Carolina. They are descended from Jamestown Colony "adventurers."
Edited by andiesenji, 16 January 2010 - 01:06 PM.