Polenta & banosh – maize culture all over the world!


Some 7000 to 10,000 years ago maize was first domesticated in Mexico. Afterwards it quickly spread throughout the Americas and only when Columbus returned to Spain from his visit to the New World, it was introduced to Europe.


In addition, its positive qualities, this heathy grain was mostly used by poor population, therefore became so widely present in many national cuisines all over the world. For this week’s I•ATE post we unveil for you the variety of ways to prepare Nelson Mandela’s favorite food umnggusho, fine Italian polenta and delicious banosh from the Carpathians.


To demonstrate the love of Italians to polenta the parish priest from Northern Italy wrote: “The village of Darfo consists of 784 souls… of these, most in the morning eat polenta and a good part of them again eat it in the evening.” The high consumption resulted also in a number of proverbs devoted to polenta like Li separa il filo della polenta – they are separated by a polenta thread (=they are very similar) or Mescolare la polenta con le dita e poi lamentarsi che scotta – use your fingers to stir polenta and then complain that it’s hot (meaning someone is very stupid).

There are hundreds of excellent recipes of polenta that differ over the region like “polenta cròpa” cooked in cream, or “pulenta uncia” with garlic and alpine cheese. For example, the Sardinian cornmeal polenta is served with sausage, pecorino cheese, lean bacon and such vegetables as garlic, onion, carrot, celery and parsley.


Maize has a special place in South African cuisine as well. For example, Wednesday is a traditional umnggusho day for many Xhosa households. The word itself means samp, but for the Xnosa it is the whole meal which is a dried maize and bean mélange served with a meaty stew. It is also favorite Nelson’s Mandela food. Worth trying, doesn’t it?

Banosh is considered to be one of the most popular dishes in Hutsul region of northwestern Ukraine. Traditionally, it was cooked by men in the open air and the sour cream was kept 3 days in a cellar before using it for preparation. Banosh is accompanied by mushrooms, shkwarky (scrunchins) and traditional goat cheese- brynza. The dish should be served hot. According to the legend, Banosh was the name of a merchant who sold the cornmeal to the master for the first time. When the master was cooking it, he added cream to make the meal tastier. His wife liked the maize meal so much and the husband told her that it was bought from merchant Banosh.


Finally, maize is a universal food: Caribbean, South and East Asia, Africa and America all have included it in their cuisines. If you have another unique recipe of your national cuisine to share, we will be delighted to hear it. Смачного!




Written by Yuliia Kusa– Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit, Master Student in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg.

Post prepared by Katerina PalamiotiTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.


  • If I could (18 April 2013) Umngqusho – Enjoyed by millions of South Africans for generations.  Available at: http://bit.ly/2st14Ca (Accessed 22 June 2017)
  • Italy Heritage, Polenta Available at: http://bit.ly/2sUHjnX (Accessed 21 June 2017)
  • Ivan, Magey (November 11, 2013) Banosh is a huzul dish. Transcarpathians online. Blog Available at: http://bit.ly/2rYeS49 (Accessed 22 June 2017)
  • Major M., Goodman (1988) “The History and Evolution of Maize”, Vo.7, Issue 3, pp. 197. Available at: http://bit.ly/2sUizw2 (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • Ndoyiya, Xoliswa (2011) Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen, pp.49. Available at: http://bit.ly/2ts1BCQ (Accessed 21 June 2017)
  • Ukrainian Recepes, Banosh with Brynza. Available at: http://bit.ly/2rBGVGX (Accessed 15 June 2017)
  • South Africa Xhosa cuisine. Available at: http://bit.ly/1TGubFH (Accessed 19 June 2017)