[Sca-cooks] Sca-cooks Digest, Vol 7, Issue 73

Suey lordhunt at gmail.com
Mon Nov 27 17:40:16 PST 2006

Are polentas grits my entries on polentas are as follow but a friend 
told me someone came to her house and prepared grits, as her mother but 
her friend made them yellow and put cheese on top and called them 
polentas. They were much better than the 'grits' she ate in her youth. 
Are polentas the same as grits?
Polenta, grits? My entries on it are:
*polentas*, polenta, couscous proper also called /gachas/. /Polenta/ is 
a corruption of the Roman predecessor /pulmentum/, a soft and pasty mass 
of dough made with grain boiled in water or milk to which cheese and 
honey or other dressing was added. Traditionally these were prepared in 
a thick creamy porridge with chicken broth and almond milk used 
exclusively by peasants and poor villagers throughout medieval Europe. 
There is a recipe for it in Sent Soví calls for flour and water. Oil 
salt and sugar or honey are optional. Throughout history there have been 
few variations. In Al Andalus cookery, anise seed could be added. In 
León, it was made with barley or chestnuts to which cheese and a broth 
from stew or pork fat could be added. On fish days, eels, crab or other 
fish used instead of animal products. See /alcuzcus/ and  /gachas/. 
[Anón/Grewe. 1982:CXI:138; and García del Cerro. 1990:17]

*alcuzcuz, cuzcuz*, Ar/. al-kuskusu-, kuskus/, Medieval Europe 
/polentas/, Eng. couscous. The word alcuzcuz could comes from Magheb, 
derived from the Ar. /al-kuskusu-/; this, in turn comes from the 
expression /kaskassa/, to grind or pound or from or from /kuskus/, the 
rattling and rushing sound of couscous grains when rolled in the hand. 
It is disputed whether it originated between 228 and 149 BC or if it was 
a Berber invention from the 8th or 9th C following the introduction of 
durum wheat in North Africa. It did come from Northern Algeria and 
Morocco to Al-Andalus by the 10th C when durum wheat began to be 
cultivated. Then durum wheat was necessary to make couscous, which was 
cultivated in Spain from the 10th C. From the 13th C, couscous was 
common particularly in Estremadura, Murcia, Mallorca and El Castillejo 
de los Guajares. The dish consists of granular particles 1-2 mm in 
diameter of semolina from100% durum wheat that requires slow steaming 
over hot water. Like rice, it is served under or around a stew. Between 
the 14th and 15th C. recipes for couscous evolved into what the dish is 
today. Basically, fatty meat with vinegar was added. As fat was then 
synonymous with sweet, this was another sweet and sour dish in Arab 
style. The classical couscous consists of grains, the size of an ant's 
head, made with flour from durum wheat, barley, acorns, bulgur wheat or 
bran. Other ingredients include beef, large cow bones, lamb, chickpeas, 
dried fava beans, onion, eggplant, zucchini, turnips, carrots, 
finnochino and cabbage with salt, olive oil, water, saffron, turmeric, 
ginger and parsley. To insure husbands' faithfulness, wives cooked 
couscous and pieces of meat from lamb's tail in a broth flavored with 
cumin. Then the couscous was shaped into little balls and popped into 
the mouth. In Andalusia, the dish was not called couscous until the 13th 
C. Prior to that is was referred to as harira or gachas (couscous 
grains), which is confusing as harira today is a soup consisting of 
finely mashed wheat, well spiced and sometimes served with lentils or 
another legume. Hen or lamb can be added. It is boiled slowly for a long 
time. With couscous, gachas and harira, in Spain, became generalized 
dishes after 12th C. See /polentas/. [Anónimo/Huici.1966:203-204:370; 
ES: Morse. Mar 27, 03; ES:Wright. "What." Jun 19, 01; and Gázquez. 
2002:78:87; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:83-85; and Perry. 
"Couscous." 2001:235-238]

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