One of my daily routines is to check in with Mark Bittman’s blog (bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/). In keeping with his “keep it simple” casual cooking style he recently did a video about a polenta dish.
I watched it thinking I might be too hard-headed about such dishes like polenta, couscous and hummus. Hummus is not Hummer discharge, but pulverized chickpeas (garbanzo beans). As I write in my book, Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering, guys don’t do couscous or hummus. I was still reserving judgment about polenta.
Polenta is basically a mush made from cornmeal. Parmesan is frequently added. Bittman also added some Italian sausage, suggesting that polenta is very user-friendly. I rarely use cornmeal except for a blended coating with flour for a catfish recipe.
Part of my resistance to dishes like rice, polenta, couscous and hummus stems from a campaign to significantly reduce carbs consumption. PJ and I are not Atkins’ groupies, but Americans’ diets had gotten way out of whack with carb loading. Especially since most Americans don’t run marathons. Even today the infamous food pyramid suggests 300 grams of carb intake per day. Three hundred! Pack that on your thighs and tote it.
Most guys, if wanting the comfort of carbs, will do a half-gainer into a vat of garlicky, buttery mashed potatoes. And none of this girly couscous, hummus, polenta mush.
So with a wary eye I reviewed the cornmeal package. One quarter cup contains 100 calories and 24 grams of carbs. The dietary fiber is less than one gram. There is some dispute about whether cornmeal qualifies as a whole-grain, something PJ and I need to consume more of.
After reviewing the other whole-grain candidates: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, rolled oats (too much work because after you buy oats you have to drive your car over them), and popcorn, we going with the popcorn since it also fulfills another food group—guilty pleasures. But only after we soak it in butter or live on the edge by shaving some parmesan over it.