Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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polenta a kind of thick maize porridge, solid when cold, which is a staple dish in N. Italy. Its history as a maize dish dates back to when maize was introduced to the region by the Venetians from America in the mid-17th century. However, it is thought that even before then polenta was being made with chestnut flour, and that in this form it goes back to antiquity. Moreover, since polenta in classical Rome meant pearl barley (Ayto, 1993), a barley version is probably lurking in the historical background.