breakfast polenta (aka cornmeal mush)

 sweet, nutty cornmeal cooked simply & topped with earthy maple syrup and creamy butter.  our breakfast polenta is a hearty and tasty departure from that daily bowl of porridge!

polenta and cornmeal mush are essentially the same dish that grew up in different parts of the world.  both consist of cornmeal cooked with water or milk until they reach a porridge-like consistency.  both are eaten as a porridge or allowed to cool, then sliced & fried or baked.  and both have their roots in working class, poor communities, as well as with native peoples. the main difference is simply that polenta originated in italy, whereas cornmeal mush was cooked all over the rest of the world, from the americas to africa & india. anywhere corn was grown, this dish was cooked.

it is easy to see why this dish is so universal - it is as earthy, economical and simple as it gets.  it is super hearty, and added to that, cooks up quickly.  plus it's a whole grain and a perfect base for a variety of sweet or savory toppings, but still fantastic on it's own.  wow - can you tell i like the stuff?

growing up, cornmeal mush was a special thing my dad would make on the weekends.  but going back even further, his mother would frequently make it. i have great memories of her standing at the stove, jet-black hair pulled back from her face as she stirred the bubbling pot & explained the recipe to me.  

and so, perhaps because of the nostalgia or perhaps because of the greatness of this humble dish, it has become a favorite, one that i make frequently.  one day, when helena is all grown up, i hope she'll have equally fond memories of making cornmeal mush - or polenta, depending on how international we want to be! 

recipe: breakfast polenta (serves 1)


  • 1/4 c cornmeal  (quaker brand is fine)
  • 1 c + water
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1 - 2 tsp maple syrup (generous drizzle)


  1. combine the cornmeal, salt & water in a small saucepan 
  2. cover & cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking - a small whisk is perfect, but a spoon works!
  3. cook for 10 - 15 minutes, until the cornmeal has absorbed all of the water and will slightly come away from the sides when the pan is gently tilted
  4. remove from heat & pour into a bowl
  5. immediately add the butter on top & drizzle on the maple syrup.
  6. *the polenta will thicken as it cools.  if you prefer a looser consistency, add 1.4 c more water and cook until the water is just absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  7. enjoy!


h & s