"Wow! If the mush that Mom made for winter breakfasts tasted like this, I would have eaten and enjoyed it!" Mark said as he scraped the last remaining vestiges of his lunch off the plate. Mush. Cornmeal mush. Grits. Indian pudding. Gruel.
Not today, though. Today we encounter the city cousin, the relative of cornmeal mush that is exotic and elegant: polenta. However, if you are Italian or have spent any time in Italy or know anything about Italian food, then you know the truth: this city cousin is just a country cousin that "done good."
Polenta is peasant food in Italy just as grits are here. (One must wonder if grits are revered anywhere other than the United States...) I love polenta in all its forms - cooked and spread on a cookie sheet till it is cold and hard, then cut into squares and grilled or griddled... soft and creamy as the base for an herb-infused ragù... or in cakes, tarts and other desserts. In addition to its multiple uses, it also comes in two colors (yellow and white), and in varying degrees of fineness.
When we lived in Maine, we would never have started a fire in the fireplace unless the temperatures plummeted below 30. Here in the Southwest, however, we don't think twice about lighting a fire even if the temperatures are in the 50s.
Today is exactly that kind of day. It is 54 degrees, cloudy and it just might rain. Rain would be a good thing for the desert, although neither Mark nor I ever dreamed we'd admit that! One thing we love about the desert is the expansive blue sky - endless and enveloping, there is nothing like the sensation that I have more fresh air to breathe than ever before in my life.
When considering my penchant for cooking with lots of cream and butter, some friends tell me that they think my heart pumps cream; others say butter or chocolate. I assure them that my blood runs as red as theirs and, thanks to pharmaceutical technology, without bad cholesterol and other annoying blockages. Is does not mean that I shouldn't be a little more careful but, when it comes to Valentine desserts, I simple can't help myself!
This Valentine's Day will be shared, as I mentioned last week, with very dear friends S. ('star' of last week's post) and Our Friend Barbara (affectionately known as OFB). They will come over after we get home from work. There will be no big, elaborate, romantic dinner. Instead, we will get hors d'oeuvres from Trader Joe's, serve them in front of the television and hunker down in front of a silly romantic comedy. The movie of choice this year is Down With Love, and along with Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger, Chocolate plays an important supporting role.
As Valentine's Day approaches, Mark and I tend not to think of it as a lover's holiday but more a day in which we celebrate all the people we love - parents, siblings, friends and our family-of-choice (honorary mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts and uncles).
One such person is our dear friend, S. She is a woman of "a certain age" - one that remembers The Great Depression, World War II, and a slew of other historic events. We rarely talk of those events but, having lived through them, she has some of the most incredible stories to share. From the day we met her, we have laughed through many evenings. I have never known anyone who enjoys life more than she, and it is contagious. Many say, "When I grow up, I want to be just like her!" - even if they have surpassed her in years; this isn't about age, it is about state of mind.