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My friends and I went to a Brazilian restaurant last night for dinner. One of the dishes we ordered was polenta. The instant I tasted it, memories of Italy came rushing back. The recipe was authentically Italian.

Polenta is an ancient Roman dish, made of hulled, crushed grains, soaked and boiled into mush. Various flavorings make it palatable, but for the ordinary citizen, it was a nearly flavorless staple with chunks of onion or cheese or other tidbits on the side. Cold, it congeals and is easily portable.

Polenta wasn't made from ground corn until later. Its association with pellagra is due to the lack of niacin in corn (unless treated with alkali). Quinoa gives it added protein.

The Brazilian restaurant had made it the way I remember from Italy. Cold, then sliced and fried crispy with bits of prosciutto on the side (for salt, I think). It certainly needs something to spice it up.

Most people in the United States think of polenta as a southern dish, for farm laborers and poor people. It is really quite tasty if cooked and served properly--and made with additional grains.

Our Brazilian dinner was yummy. It's on the list for a return visit.

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