writes, re my
><< quagmires of translation >>
>I apologize for what appears to be trivialization. I've been attempting to
>create some recipes for some more widely recognized foods (a modern "polenta"
>type dish is more appealing to the modern tastes than a porridge)that the
>average feaster would appreciate.
I fear there's been some misunderstanding here. I wasn't trivializing, but
pointing out that translation of cookery is not an exact science. Also, as
I said, in Italian the word polenta refers to a mush made of grain; while
this is relatively specific as to a process it leaves quite a bit of leeway
as to the ingredients. It's only in the past 150 years or so that the grain
has become fairly fixed on corn, though I saw a recipe for polenta that
called for grano saraceno (buckwheat) not long ago.
Italian cooks today are masters at making do with what they have at hand
and I'm certain that the Romans were just as good at it. For this reason
dishes change in charracter and flavor while maintaining the same basic
format from one place to the next. As a modern example, think of the
variations in pomarola (tomato sauce) throughout the country -- Tuscans and
Neapolitans begin with the same ingredients and finish with very different
tasting sauces, both of which a Tuscan would likely call pomarola. A
Neapolitan would quite possibly call both something else, because
Neapolitan and Tuscan are linguistically quite distinct.
Given all this I'm hesitant to say polenta was made with this grain and
puls with that one, or make other fine distinctions along these lines.
People made do with what they had at hand, and the people of Roman Italy,
which was a politically unified patchwork of various cultures (much like
modern Italy), likely made just as extensive a use of local idoms as modern
Italians do. One person's puls could easily have been the next person's
polenta, or even something else.