Polenta Traditions and Memories
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Cooking the polenta
Thoroughly clean and wipe the wooden board used to make pasta. You will also have prepared the preferred sauce. When the polenta is well cooked, pour it down on the board. With the wooden spoon spread it quickly until still hot in a thin, regular layer all over and season with ragout or other sauce, and lots of grated "pecorino" cheese.
Seasoning for the Polenta
- In Fontavignone it is cooked in milk, in the period of Lent it is seasoned only with oil, garlic and red pepper. The most traditional seasoning is however a pork meat ragout, made with tomatoes, minced meat, small pork chops, sausages.
- In Pereto, a village on top of a hill under a high tower, it is seasoned with snail sauce. Elsewhere also with a so called "fake sauce" (the sauce of poor people without meat, the "poor sauce" as they say in Tuscany).
- In Pettorano sul Gizio (where women until not very long ago wore a costume using a white linen cloth folded in a peculiar triangular fashion as a head cover) on New Year's Eve a polenta festival is held, which should better be called however a sausage festival, since the polenta is only a kind of surface where the tasty local sausages are placed.
- Another perfect seasoning is the "white sauce" made with mushrooms and sausages: the sausages are peeled, fragmented and passed in a pan then the previously cooked mushrooms are added with some broth in case, and everything is thoroughly mixed.
History of Polenta
The highest point in the polenta tradition is to consume it on the wooden board, placed on the common table with all the family around, like it was at the time of the traditional patriarchal families. Polenta is eaten, if spread on a dish, in a circle starting from the outer part and proceeding all around until the final little piece in the center is reached. If all are eating on the spianatoia, each one proceeds consuming the slice in front and moving towards the center (or sideways towards a sausage).
- AAAAAahhhh polenta - such sweet memories!!! My father slaves over the stove cooking it very carefully to make sure it's perfect with no clumps. I still go over for dinner when he makes it, usually in the winter. We don't eat it on a board or anything but he tells me that's what they used to do back in Pietracamela, Teramo where he was born. (Elda Giardetti)
- My mother was from Civitella del Tronto, in Teramo, and we ate polenta off of a wooden board, a big one. It was topped with a Bolognese sauce and a lot of grated cheese, when you were done, it looked like a map. (Giovanni)
- I remember my Father, from Lettomanopello, serving polenta on a big platter which we all ate from on occasion. He used to say something like we were sharing food together or family togetherness. I can't really remember, but it was a very special time. (Frances Toppa Moy)
- Polenta! We called it "pooland," and my dad spent what seemed like hours on a Sunday, carefully, slowly, pouring the watered cornmeal into the boiling water so there would be no lumps. The firmed "pooland" was spread on a board and rolled out with what looked like a windowshade roller, then Mom made grooves along the sides and they poured the sausage-based tomato sauce on top. A little Parmesan cheese, and nothing was so delicious! Wonder what our rural Ohio neighbors would have thought... (Emily Webster Love)
- I remember my grandfather serving up Polenta on Ash Wednesday Eve, or Fat Tuesday, He and My Grandmother would cover the dining table with these large serving boards and the Whole Family would gather there, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, about 25 in all, they would top it with tomato sauce and all kinds of meat. Everyone would tunnel their way to the middle of the table. (Richard Chiarilli)
- We had a large family - fifteen in all. My father would cook polenta. It was a yellow corn meal. Very simple, but delicious. he cooked it in a large pot. It was served as though it was a pudding, he didn't use dishes. It was served on top of the table, he indented the center of the serving and added sauce and a little piece of meat. When we finished eating all he had to do was wipe the table clean. And we were happy for that meal. This was our "happy meal" (Lou Dandrea)
- As I was growing up my mother would put it on big platters and we would all have to share with each other. Being the youngest I always had the pleasure of sharing with my dad. It was always a race to see who got to the middle of their platters first. The losers had to do the dishes that night. When I tell other Italian friends how we ate it in our home they never heard of it. I am glad to know that the sharing and racing was part of my mother and fathers memories that they brought with them to America. (Judy Liva)