A Secret You Probably Didn’t Know about Polenta
I won’t beat around the bush. Here’s the secret: It’s just cornmeal. And water.
That’s the polenta conspiracy. Why buy ready-made polenta in a plastic sleeve for $3 when it literally takes 15 minutes and 40 cents' worth of cornmeal to make?
Another, more telling secret: “polenta” is the Italian name for old-fashioned Southern/Midwestern cornmeal mush. It just sounds bougier than “mush” so Trader Joe’s (and Whole Foods, and every other yuppie store) can market it effectively. Cornmeal mush has African roots and is eaten in South America, and was probably brought to North America by enslaved Africans. Yet another example of how white Americans tend to elevate Western European food as “cuisine” and completely ignore the culinary traditions of BIPOC and the American South more generally. Don’t get me started about the rich history and versatility of cornmeal. Michael Twitty has written an excellent book on this topic, if you care to delve a bit deeper into Southern food history. And for goodness’ sake, don’t believe the polenta hype. Italian food already has pasta and arancini; it doesn’t need our mush too.