In recent times, any unsuspecting person who has decided to dine at an Italian restaurant may have found themselves confronted by an ever-more bewildering list of exotic dishes, usually containing something sun-dried or balsamic, ingredients which appear on the menu with no adequate explanation of their nature or origin.
Such a beast is polenta, an Italian maize meal foodstuff which has become the mashed potato of the Millennium for trendy TV chefs. Polenta, in its traditional Italian form, is boiled into a sort of porridge-like goo, usually in vast quantities. It consists almost entirely of pure carbohydrate, and its gut-bloating potential is further compounded by the addition of artery-wrecking quantities of butter and parmesan cheese. It is then spread in what can only be described as a dollop on a large wooden board and attacked communally by those present, usually a large family.
Polenta has also started appearing on Italian menus, usually in a much daintier and more expensive form. More fashionable diners can often be seen nibbling small slices of it, left to cool, then char-grilled and served with day-glo lettuce with unpronounceable names. One often wonders if they know it's just boiled corn.