One of my favorite nibbles is the corn meal dish called "polenta." This is finely ground yellow or white corn meal that is cooked in boiling water until it thickens. It can be eaten as is, or leftover polenta can be baked or fried. "Polenta" is an Italian word derived from the Latin pulmentum, a term used to described various crushed grains. Ancient Romans ate versions of it known as puls. It was with the introduction of corn from the New World in the 16th century that modern polenta came into being. Prior to that time the crushed grains used included such items as flour and millet.

Polenta is known as a peasant food; and it is usually served with a sauce. Today it is eaten world-wide. In southern Austria it is eaten for breakfast; along the Adriatic Coast is is called pura or palanta and is usually served with fish. In Hungary it is prepared with sweetened milk. In South Africa, it's eaten as a cornmeal mush called mealie pap. In the southern U.S. it's popular as a dish called coosh, cornmeal mush that is sliced and fried and topped with maple syrup.It is also traditional in Brazil, Uraguay and Argentina, where many Italian migrated to in the 19th and 20th century.

I prefer polenta with stewed chicken or gravy. But you can serve it with sausages, mushrooms, roasted vegetables, just about anything. Given below is the traditional way of making polenta. All you need is corn meal, water and butter. Nothing could be simpler, or more satisfying.


3 cups boiling water
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

1. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil.
2. Combine the corn meal with the cold water, stirring to break up any lumps. Add this gradually to the boiling water, stirring constantly. Add the butter and salt and continue cooking, stirring about 15 to 20 minutes until the polenta achieves a smooth creamy texture.
     Yield: about 8 servings.