The Making of Mămăligă

Transimperial Recipes for a Romanian National Dish
The Making of Mămăligă book cover
$65.00 / €55.00 / £47.00
$24.95 / €23.95 / £20.95
Publication date: 
226 pages, 20 illustrations, 2 charts, 2 tables, 8 maps

Mămăligă, maize porridge or polenta, is a universally consumed dish in Romania and a prominent national symbol. But its unusual history has rarely been told. Alex Drace-Francis surveys the arrival and spread of maize cultivation in Romanian lands from Ottoman times to the eve of World War One, and also the image of mămăligă in art and popular culture. Drawing on a rich array of sources and with many new findings, Drace-Francis shows how the making of mămăligă has been shaped by global economic forces and overlapping imperial systems of war and trade.

The story of maize and mămăligă provides an accessible way to revisit many key questions of Romanian and broader regional history. More generally, the book links the history of production, consumption, and representation. Analyses of recipes, literary and popular depictions, and key vocabulary complete the work.

List of Maps, Graphs, Tables 

Introduction: The Land is Waiting 

1. From the Caribbean to the Carpathians: The Coming of Cucuruz, c.1492-1700 

2. Conquerors, Cultivators, and Collaborators: Maize at Empire’s Edge, 1700-1774 

3. Climate, Conflict, Contagion and Commerce: The Triumph of Maize, 1774-1812 

4. Maize, Raki or Death: The Revolt of 1821 Reconsidered 

5. Mămăligă 2.0: Maize on the World Market, 1821-1856 

6. Independence, Capitalism, Disease and Revolt; Or, Why the Mămăligă Exploded, 1856-1907 

7. Manna valachorum: Recipes at the Interface 

8. ‘The sparrow dreams of cornmeal, and the idle man of a feast day’: Mămăligă as Metaphor 

Conclusion: The Land is Waiting 

Appendix: Words and Things 



Illustration Credits 



Erudite, convincing and thought-provoking, this book places the Romanian relationship with corn at the centre of the historical agenda as well as the table.
"The extent of the research is fantastic. Drace-Francis 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."
Alex Drace-Francis’s book is more than just a history of maize and mămăligă in the Romanian lands. Starting from the question of images, the author finds it not just in merchant caravans and peasant cauldrons, but also in the minds of people, in representations central to the national history. Maize and mămăligă are ideal entry points into Romanian cultural issues, but also into ones of social change and revolution. A remarkable, important book.
"This is not only a masterfully written account of Romanian modernity seen from a “mămăligocentric perspective,” but also a thorough analysis of the interrelations between gastronomy, politics, economics, national identities, and social perceptions."