Simple Soft Vegan Polenta

by Maria Theresa Maggi on April 30, 2013



Polenta is a lot like great tasting silly putty or play dough. If you leave it to sit and cool, it will harden and hold a shape. That’s why so many plant-based cooks like to use it as a gluten-free substitute for pizza crust, lasagna noodles, or bread. I first learned to cook it from scratch in the context of making the pizza in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Then I went on to make Susan’s delicious Polenta Lasagna with Portobellas and Kale. As much as I enjoyed the pizza crust, and the lasagna, along the way I made a surprising discovery: I liked the plain, soft polenta right out of the pan best of all.  It has its own kind of simple, elegant poetry.

I actually think recipes and poetry have a lot in common. They both use language to instruct us in the mysteries of transformation. I’ve long wished to incorporate the language of recipes into my poetry. I first became enchanted with this a long time ago when as an undergraduate I heard poet Robert Hass read at Cal State University, Sacramento.  He admitted that he loved to sneak recipes into his poems whenever he could.  He was introducing what was then a new poem of his called “Songs to Survive the Summer” and he told us about how he was pleased to have incorporated a recipe for onion soup within the poem. I was delighted when I heard it. And a bit envious too.

Later, I taught children poetry in a wonderful program called California Poets in the Schools. One of my students (12 years old at the time and now probably all grown-up and making tons of money) made brilliant use of a recipe format I still envy in the following poem:


1 Empty Desk
3 Pencils Sharpened
1 Imagination

Add ½ Cup of Inspiration,
A ½ Cup of Ideas,
A ½ Cup of Lunacy,
And a Tbsp. of Sasparilla.

Mix thoroughly, heat in microwave until boiling.  Pour on paper, let sit for eternity.  Makes infinite servings.

To my mind, these are hard acts to follow. Nevertheless I thought I’d try to write a poem that would also be a recipe for how I cook my soft polenta. Unfortunately, although it works as a poem, a Shakespearean style sonnet even, it’s not really specific enough to stand alone as a recipe. So you’ll have to read a poem for some of the recipe directions, and then read a recipe that’s sort of like a poem for the rest.

Perhaps together they will entice you to try making your own  easy, mouth-watering fat free soft polenta magic. I hope so.

April has been National Poetry Month, and this is officially the last day. But you can keep the celebration going by heading on over to this link at Finishing Line Press to preorder my chapbook of sonnets if a sparrow. Or ask your local library to preorder it. And while you’re there, treat yourself to The Apple Tress at Olema, New and Selected Poems by Robert Hass.Thanks to everyone who has supported  me thus far toward meeting my goal of 55 preorders by July 12 so my chapbook will be printed in September. And thanks, too, to those of you who will add to that goal in the coming days and weeks.


Maria (moonwatcher)

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi (Bunsofaluminum) April 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Love your polenta poem!

“like sunflower colored dust in your hand” MELTS my heart! very lovely, dear.


2 moonwatcher April 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Thanks so much, Heidi! You made my morning. 🙂


3 Michelle April 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Oh my, you did it a perfect blog on polenta & just after I have found it’s not MWL. Still, something to strive for once the weight is off. Also Hass, I actually recognized the last one. I will read the book you cite too – as Olema is one of my favorite places on the planet. I try to go bird watching there at Point Reyes National Park once a year – how nice it would be to go with my field guides and a couple books of poetry tucked in my ruck sack. One with sparrows in the title and another mentioning Olema. We get a cabin with a kitchen too – so we can cook up a storm as well. Yes, I must save for my next trip starting now 🙂


4 moonwatcher April 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hi Michelle,

Yes, I hope polenta will be something for you to look forward to once the weight is off. Hass was born in San Francisco and I think his poems will speak to you. The Apple Trees at Olema has poems from all his books. Believe it or not, his first book is actually called Field Guide!! (And boy, I really like the idea of if a sparrow being in that rucksack of yours!! And a cabin with a kitchen!! Sounds heavenly. Thanks so much for your comment. Really enjoyed reading what you had to say, as always. xo


5 Beth May 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

Loved the polenta poetry! and the recipe using mushrooms. I’m throwing them in everything lately 🙂


6 moonwatcher May 1, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks, Beth, and welcome! I include mushrooms in stuff every chance I get. They really are superfood!


7 Kathleen May 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Yum. Just finished eating some steamed vegetables on your wonderful polenta recipe. Your imagery was a great accompaniment to the long stretch of stirring. Thanks, as always, Kathleen


8 moonwatcher May 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

You’re welcome, Kathleen! So glad you liked it, and that the imagery was good company while you stirred. That’s lovely to hear.



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