Linda Nguyen and Mitchell Kissinger

Columbian Exchange on Food : Corn

Origin of Corn:

More properly called maize, corn is a staple that now provides about 21% of human nutrition across the globe. Despite its popular use, the origin of corn remains unknown. Evidence suggests that cultivated corn arose through natural crossings, perhaps first with gamagrass to yield teosinte and then possibly with back­crossing of teosinte to primitive maize to produce modern races.

For the western civilization, the use of corn began to spread through Christopher Columbus’s voyages in 1492 when his men discovered this new grain in Cuba. There is some uncertainty as to when corn first went to Europe. Some say it went back with Columbus to Spain, while others report that it was not returned to Spain until the second visit of Columbus. Regardless, by 1575, it was making its way into western China, and had become important in the Philippines and the East Indies.

Three Dishes:

(1) Ugali - the basic starch constituent for the people of Kenya, most common staple starch featured in the local cuisines of the eastern African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa; a porridge made of maize, usually eaten with meat or veggie stew.

Ingredients: Maize (White Corn Flour) about 2 cups, Water, Salt (Optional), One also needs a Mwiko


Bring water in a pan to a boil (about 4 Cups)

Reduce heat to medium and put flour, gradually stirring until the consistency is stiff. Stir continously, and cover for about 5 minutes.

Stir again and form into a mound. The ugali will be done when it pulls from the sides of the pan easily and does not stick. The finished product should look like stiff grits

Cover the pot with a plate and invert the pan so that the Ugali "drops" on the plate.

Serve with meat stew.

(2) Polenta - cornmeal boiled into a porridge, and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled; originated from Italy; the recipe derived from earlier forms of grain mush, for maize was not cultivated in Europe until the early 16th century; historically been a peasant food

Ingredients: 5 cups water, 1 cup coarsely ground polenta, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste, 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, or to taste, 2 Tablespoons sour cream (or creme fraiche if you feel fancy)


Bring the water, garlic and salt to a simmer in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (2 quarts should do it). Whisk in the polenta slowly and stir until the water returns to a simmer. Knock the heat down until the polenta bubbles occasionally (think of your seventh grade science class' volcano video, it should bubble like the lava, once or twice every few seconds), and cook uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently, to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom and scorch.

(3) Fufu - a staple food of the Asante and Fante peoples of the Akan ethnic group of Ghana; is made by boiling starchy food crops like cassava, corn, yams or plantains and then pounding them into a dough-like consistency; a staple for the inlanders but not consumed as often by the coastal Africans


White yams -- 2 pounds

Butter -- 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper -- to taste


Place the unpeeled yams in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the yams are cooked through and tender. Drain and let cool somewhat.

Peel the yams, chop them into large pieces and place them into a large bowl with the butter, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until very smooth. Alternatively, put the yams through a potato ricer and then mix with the butter, salt and pepper.

Place the fufu into a large serving bowl. Wet your hands with water, form into a large ball and serve.

Works Cited:

Comment Stream