[Sca-cooks] Polenta

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue Nov 28 11:51:57 PST 2006

On Nov 28, 2006, at 1:09 PM, Suey wrote:

> Mark Harris wrote to check out his polenta-msg in Florilegium,  
> excellent
> article, especially thanks to Bear's fascinating contributions but in
> that message Adamantius writes that semolina can be used while Marie
> stated yesterday that, "Couscous is a particular form of pasta and  
> not a
> grain at all...."

I'm probably coming into this late and may have missed a step or two,  

As far as I know, polenta can be made from any of several starchy  
food staples, including maize, barley, hard wheat farina (including  
durum semolina flour), chestnuts, etc. What it is specifically seems  
largely to be dictated by region.

> What is the sticky difference

I'm not sure what this means...

> and why did medieval Europeans call couscous "polenta"?

I'm not sure that they did. Did they? It sounds like a bit of a  
generalization. Are you drawing a link between polenta made from  
semolina and couscous made from semolina? There seem to be to  
processes for making couscous from semolina: one which makes a sort  
of pastina, like little dried lumps of dough, and another method  
which produces more of a cracked durum wheat, something like bulgur  

> Further Mark's message is saying over
> and over that 'any grain can be used' mentioning corn meal but not
> hominy thus distinguishing grits from polenta.

Grits, in Southern US parlance, are generally a reference to a  
moderately coarse-ground hominy, processed with potash or dilute lye  
solution to dehull and tenderize the kernels. Polenta, when made with  
maize cornmeal, generally skips this step, or does it mechanically  
rather than chemically.

It may come down to the varieties of corn used to make polenta versus  
the hard-shelled corn used in the Southern US for making hominy grits.

It may be like the different types of cherries that can be pitted  
mechanically without turning the fruit to mush. Sometimes something  
is too hard to process mechanically, but sometimes it's actually too  

> I think thats a lot of
> grain splitting for a northerner who never remembers eating grits but
> cream of wheat was a breakfast stand by if one could not think of
> something less boring to eat.

Hey, it's a grain like most others. It's no more inherently boring  
than rice, and responds well to spicy sauces, cheese, butter, etc.


"S'ils n'ont pas de pain, vous fait-on dire, qu'ils  mangent de la  
brioche!" / "If there's no bread to be had, one has to say, let them  
eat cake!"
     -- attributed to an unnamed noblewoman by Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  
"Confessions", 1782

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?"
     -- Susan Sheybani, assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry  
Holt, 07/29/04

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list