New Castle News

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August 3, 2013

Culinary Conversation: Polenta, conversation lead to fun evening

NEW CASTLE — Very seldom do I get cravings for any type of food.

When I do, it’s for something I haven’t had in a long time.

So when I had a chance to order polenta at an annual Italian church festival in Youngstown, I did. For those who may not be familiar, polenta is a dish made with cornmeal. It is usually prepared by placing it in a pan while warm, then allowing it to firm up as it cools. Sometimes, cooks cut the firmed polenta into squares and sauté them in a pan. And usually it is served with sauce.

Why would anyone get so excited over what some simply refer to as mush?

Well, for one, I never make it because my husband doesn’t like it. He grew up in an Italian household where his father prepared homemade pasta and sauce every week, and also made the aforementioned polenta. It just wasn’t up Doug’s gustatory alley along with his dislike of anything “custardy.”

The vendor where we purchased the polenta was generous with the serving size. I told myself to only eat half and take the rest home. I ravaged it all, leaving not one crumb on the white Chinet plate. We sat at a table with a group of older, self-proclaimed Italian ladies who were entertained by my enjoyment of what they consider everyday food — all the while asking how many children did we have and how long had we been married.

As we prepared to go see other attractions, I had to guess the age of each woman. The answer was, in counter-clock fashion from where I was seated — 88, 77, 90, 93 and 76. I was astonished because these women looked amazing. It must be the polenta. Or the olive oil. Or the sauce. Or all of the above.

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