The History of Corn is amazing

Or is it more properly ‘a-maizing’?
Either way, a few pictorial highlights – and a recipe – for a Wicked Wayback Wednesday from a talk I gave on a dark and stormy night for the South Shore Locavores.

corn

The audience was all ears!

In a nutshell –

Corn has been around for thousands of years in the America, in Europe not so long. In the 16th century maize was new and fashionable, but since it was easy to grow, and grow well, it became more and more common and less and less fashionable…..case in point – polenta.

Murillo - the Polenta Woman -17th century - notice how she's not fashionable

Murillo – the Polenta Woman -17th century – notice how she’s not fashionable

Pietro Longhi - Polenta - notice that it's being pored onto a cloth, from which it will be eaten

Pietro Longhi – Polenta – notice that it’s being pored onto a cloth, from which it will be eaten. This is the 18th century when ‘The Poor’ become romanticized. Their romantic  image is fashionable, not the poor actual selves .

made in Italy Gio Lochetti

In Made in Italy Giorgio Locatelli describe making polenta that is right out of the 18th century painting. He also writes of the irony of cooking the food his family ate to stay warm and fed in Italy in  a high end restaurant in London for people to pay a pretty penny to try. Polenta is now fashionable!

Click here for the recipe of Polenta in Chains – Polenta with Beans and kale and spinach that I brought. It’s from Michele Scicolone  The Italian Slow Cooker Italian slow cooker book

Polenta in Chains bears an uncanny resemblance to 17th century English  pottage, which was made with maize instead of oats when Englishmen came to North America, changing things to keep them the same.

Esau and Jacob Mathias Stom, 1640's. That's a Mess of Pottage in the bowl

Esau and Jacob Mathias Stom, 1640’s. That’s a Mess of Pottage in the bowl. The bread is pretty great, too.

Almost all the pottage in 17th century images include Jacob and Esau

Almost all the pottage in 17th century images include Jacob and Esau

A re-created 17th century English Pottage by Elizabeth Pickard

A re-created 17th century English Pottage by Elizabeth Pickard

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4 Comments

Filed under Autumn, Italian, Perception ways

4 responses to “The History of Corn is amazing

  1. Kind of an aside, but shall we have a Michele Scicolone fan club? A Fresh Taste of Italy is one of my best-used and loved books.

  2. Reblogged this on Foodways Pilgrim and commented:

    Polenta, grits, SAMPE – different words for the same corny goodness. Sampe Fest 2015 is Saturday and Sunday at the Plimoth Grist Mill. Come over and try our cornbread and our Pottage Without Herbs, which is made with sampe and tasty good.

  3. Thank you, I have recently been looking for info about this subject for ages
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  4. A couple of generations ago, people in rural areas across the U.S. lived on — and loved — cornmeal mush. When I was interviewing one retired farmer for my book on this history of corn, she shared a recipe for cornmeal mush with me, then turned over her recipe card to show the notes on the back, which related how to use almost the same recipe to create polenta — major difference was using broth instead of milk and water, plus a few tablespoons of grated cheese. It amused me to think that all the trendy diners out there who would never consider eating something called cornmeal mush were eating virtually the same thing, but with the name polenta.

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