My Polenta Story

My Polenta Story began years ago...
My Polenta Story began years ago…

Okay,  here is my polenta story, as promised.

My dad worked long hours, and when he wasn’t home for dinner, mom had greater latitude in what she prepared – dad was strictly a meat an potatoes type of guy – as a non-Italian, he definitely preferred his childhood favorites – he was Austrian.

So on one of the days he was working late, my mom’s excitement over her evening dinner started in the early afternoon – she was RAVING about having polenta – as a child, it was one of her family favorites.

Funny, my brother and I had NO IDEA that she liked polenta, and much less an idea what polenta actually was. My mom explained that it was a cornmeal based side dish that my grandmother would pour on a board in the middle of the table, then cover with spaghetti sauce, and each would “dig in” serving themselves, family style.

The anticipation mounted – mom made her polenta, poured it out onto our wooden cutting board, and slathered on the sauce and cheese…..and it was time to eat.

It was unanimous: YUCK!!!! My brother was always the most vocal about his dislikes. I on the other hand was more quiet, yet I still couldn’t understand why a person would waste a perfectly good ragu on cornmeal.

Mom’s only comment was, “hmmm, maybe it wasn’t that good after all. Don’t worry, I won’t make it again.” And she never did.

My Polenta Story Continues…

Fast forward to a few months ago. While pouring through Pinterest pages, I discovered the most beautiful polenta spreads, served on long wooden planks (much like we see six-foot hoagie sandwiches at a football party. I simply had to give polenta another try – after all, southern grits taste good, why would polenta be any different?

Polenta is now becoming a fast favorite of ours. It definitely is the Italian version of American Southern grits, and it can be served with nearly anything and you can see why it is difficult to keep up with my writing.

What I learned is that, like most cooking, and specifically Italian food, technique is everything. Two people can use the exact same ingredients and one dish will be delicious and the other nearly inedible. I wish that my mom realized that simple fact, all those years ago. Rather, she second-guessed her memories and the result was another “food memory” erased from our families food legacy.

Just so ya know, I’m not a purist, who insists that the only way polenta can be cooked is in a specific Italian copper pot called a paiolo. I use my Instant Pot® pressure cooker – don’t judge me.

And as is becoming apparent, my writing and need to write is soon going to consume me. Yes, I promise a posting or two on polenta ingredients, techniques, ways to serve, and the culinary history of polenta in both Italy and the US.

For now, back to cooking, because it’s all about the food.