Funche/Funchi/Polenta

On my first visit to St. Thomas, Virigin Islands, many years ago I visited a small restaurant half way up a winding road called Ma Folie ( = My Madness) - why it's not in Danish or English they never told me. In any event, the owner of the small restaurant advised me that the specialty of the house was funchi which was made with corn meal. It was breakfast time, so he served it with eggs and bacon. It looked to me to be a Caribbean version of the Italian polenta. (By the way polenta was a favorite dish of Pope John XXIII.) Later I was introduced to almost the same thing in Puerto Rico, only they called it funchi, and still later in Aruba where it was called funchi.

In Puerto Rico:
Bring to a boil in a large pot: Whisk in, stirring constantly: Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for another 15 minutes, or until it is thick enough to hold its shape. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan. Let it cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with almost anything, but fish is perfect.

In Aruba the method of preparation is pretty much the same, but the funchi is either scooped out into little balls with a small gourd or molded in a bowl. This could accompany a spicy gumbo, made with giambo ( = Eng. okra; = Span. Quimbomb├│) and ham hocks, fish and other heady stuff.

In Italy polenta reaches epicurian heights with the addition of one or more of the following:

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