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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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mamaliga an important dish in romania, closely resembles polenta, being a mush of cornmeal (see maize) cooked until solid and then cut into pieces which can be served in any of various ways.

The name ‘mamaliga’ is derived from malai, now referring to a kind of cornmeal bread but originally meaning millet, which had been a staple food in Romania.

Lesley Chamberlain (1989) writes with eloquence on this subject and comments that ‘In Romanian folk history the tools for making mamaliga—the iron kettle, the fire, the wooden stirring stick—are hallowed objects.’ The stick in particular had symbolic significance, being often carved with the name of the family and with decorations. Chamberlain adds the pertinent comment that ‘Mamaliga perfectly complemented the three or four flavours most prominent in Romanian cuisine: sour cabbage and pickles, bacon, sour cream and cheese.’