Corn is a food from the New World—it only came to Italy after the discovery of the Americas. But you could never tell the people from the region of Friuli-Venezia–Giulia, the region I hail from, that polenta is not Friulian. So much so that the Friulianos are called polentoni, polenta eaters, much like the Tuscans are called mangia fagioli, beans eaters. Corn is a plant that yields a lot of fruit in relation to the land and attention it needs, and with hunger always prevalent in that area of Italy, corn became a staple in feeding the people and the animals. Soon there were daily cauldrons of polenta cooking in the fogolars, the open hearths of Friuli.
8 cups water, or as needed
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon coarse salt, or as needed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups coarse yellow corn meal