The Making of Mămăligă by Alex Drace-Francis

The Making of Mămăligă by Alex Drace-Francis – Transimperial Recipes for a Romanian National Dish – is a fascinating book. Mămăligă is polenta, while mălai is corn meal. This is a cereal that was brought over to Europe from America. It is interesting to see how corn became such an important part of Romanian culture and history, maybe more than it is in the US. It is so much part of our heritage that we didn’t think too much of it, despite it being a national symbol. I am glad that Drace-Francis did this amazing research because the topic is worth reading about.

Food is never just food, it has connections with our past and history. It is an integral part of the social norms and culture. Even the words used to describe the dish or who in society eats it changed over time.

The Making of Mămăligă by Alex Drace-Francis

Drace-Francis covers the period since the arrival of corn and the spread of maize cultivation, from the Ottoman times. The connection between corn and important events in Romanian history are more linked than I imagined. Even more, the last chapters are about the mămăligă’s representation in art and popular culture. The extent of the research is fantastic. He covered so many different aspects, from old recipes, to the 1848 Irish famine and their refusal to eat corn (so they don’t turn out black), to the Crimean War, and to different revolts. The links between corn and the Ottoman and russian occupation are covered too. It’s a short book, but filled with interesting facts and presented in an easy to follow and nice narrative. I highly recommend it.

The Making of Mămăligă by Alex Drace-Francis

Details about the picture: In the picture is Mălai dulce, a Romanian recipe.
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Central European University Press
Year it was published: 2022
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – European
Pages: 226

About the author: Alex Drace-Francis is Associate Professor of Modern European Literary and Cultural History in the Department of European Studies. He studied at the Universities of East Anglia (BA) and London (MA, PhD). He taught at the Universities of London and Liverpool, before joining the University of Amsterdam in 2011.
Website & Social Media Links: –

4 thoughts on “The Making of Mămăligă by Alex Drace-Francis”

  • You’re right, food is never just food. It has history and meaning in our cultures. I know there are differences in milling, types of corn, preparation, etc. and for me, this becomes grits. It sounds like a good book.
    Kelly recently posted…2023 extras #6 📚My Profile

    • It is a very good book. I think you might like it due to the links to US. I would be very interested in hearing how grits are seen in US, if there is social stigma attached to it or if it’s viewed as a peasant/poor people’s food. There are so many sayings relating to corn and polenta, are there similar sayings in US? It’s fascinating, more than I would have imagined before buying the book, I have to admit.

      • I’ve never really noticed any stigma associated with grits. Actually, I was always surprised how many people from other parts of the country didn’t even know what they were. They’re ubiquitous in the south. The “southern” food I’ve encountered the most prejudice toward is black-eyed peas. I remember one person from the north saying that was something only good for feeding hogs. Their loss since peas (black-eye, purple hull, lady peas, etc) are all delicious! I think much (if not most) southern food has its roots in slavery. Soul food.
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        • Black-eyed peas, how peculiar. Beans are very popular in RO, but there is no stigma attached to them, despite them being cheap and thus consumed by poor people.

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