Polenta: It’s Just Corn Meal Mush

As much as I love corn meal, I have to admit that I did not grow up eating corn meal mush. Made by cooking corn meal with water and a little salt, corn meal mush is very similar to grits – with a little smoother texture. I guess if my mother had ever eaten mush she had settled on grits as her breakfast side dish of choice.  Corn meal mush has been eaten in this country ever since the Native Americans introduced corn to the pilgrims and in many other cultures where corn is a staple.

Often eaten for breakfast as a hot cereal, corn meal mush seems to still be popular in some parts of the country. The mush is sometimes poured into a loaf pan, chilled, sliced and browned in a skillet and eaten with cane or sorghum syrup.

The name, mush, may be off-putting to many who are not familiar with this food item. However, we seemed to have had no problem with the very same thing when it became trendy in the 1980s was called polenta. The Italian name just sounded so much more interesting and acceptable. It’s not surprising that the addition of Parmesan cheese, a savory meat or vegetable topping made this new spin on the image of corn meal mush gain wide acceptance!

It is so easy to stir up a pot of polenta, spread in a pan and chill. Then simply cut into pieces and sauté, fry or bake. Cheesy Polenta Fries is a great recipe idea to get you going.

Did you grow up eating corn meal mush? If so, where did you grow up?  Also, I would love to know how you prefer to prepare and eat corn meal mush.

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