1/8/08

Curse You Polenta! *and you too Chaucer and also the computer printer

It probably isn't very nice to curse the polenta. After all it's more than likely the chef's (meaning me) fault.

A few weeks ago I was watching Lidia Bastianich on PBS. She was making Baked Polenta Layered with Long Cooked Sauces or Polenta Pasticiatta. "Okay, I can do that. You know what, I'm hungry" I thought and went off to the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. I can get a little distracted by my stomach sometimes. Do doctors have a diagnosis for ADD of the stomach?

Flash forward a couple weeks. I'm in the kitchen, I have all the ingredients for dinner, Ipod is on the dock and the music is all cued up. If your wondering what I was listening to I remember some Foo Fighter's were playing. I'm getting ready to tie my apron when I hear...
"Hey Mom, my mission report is done. Can you proof it for me?" Yes. After dinner.

"Hey Mom, the printer's running low on ink." I know.

"Hey Mom, do you know what a franklin is?" A hundred dollar bill?

"No, it's from Chaucer." Well then look it up or google it.

"I did and I can't find anything on it. I emailed my teacher but she hasn't responded. And why don't they fully translate this stuff anyways? Either do a full Old English Translation or a full modern translation. I'm confused when they do both. Also, why...."

"MOM! The printer isn't working." Shit.

All of that was in 30 seconds from 2 different kids. So instead of the layered polenta, dinner became regular polenta with a red sauce over the top, a mixed greens salad with a blood orange vinaigrette, and some bread. Italian comfort food, right. Well, it would've been if I cooked polenta on a regular basis.

Basic Polenta (Lidia Bastianich)

Servings: Serves 6

Ingredients:

4 cups water (1/2 milk, 1/2 water could be used for a richer taste)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons coarse salt

1 1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal

Directions: In a medium cast-iron saucepan or other heavy pot, bring all ingredients except the cornmeal to simmer over medium heat.Very slowly, begin to sift the cornmeal into the pan through the fingers of one hand, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. Gradually sift all the meal into the pan, continue to stir and reduce the heat to medium low.Continue to stir constantly until the polenta is smooth and thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan as it is stirred, about 30 minutes.Discard the bay leaf, pour the polenta into a serving bowl or onto a wooden board, and allow it to rest 10 minutes.To serve from the bowl, dip a large spoon into a hot water and scoop the polenta onto individual dishes, dipping the spoon in the water between scoops.To serve from the board, cut the polenta into segments with a thin, taut string or a knife and transfer to plates with spatula or cake server.

I thought than the polenta wasn't creamy enough and a little heavy. I have heard that when you eat polenta it is suppose to be this transcendent experience. That might be true but it didn't happen for me. I'm not sure if I made it right or if it is texture thing for me. My biggest critics loved it. Even my sister Robin, who is a picky eater but getting a lot better, said it was better than what she expected.


*If you have ever made polenta or know what a franklin is, help me out here.

5 comments:

E. said...

I don't advise trying a fine grained meal instead. When I first began making polenta in the US back when the only available cornmeal in northern states was the type destined for cornbread, it just wasn't the same. Some grit is desirable--maybe you're just not used to polenta or it's not to your taste, though I'm glad your kids loved your efforts. FWIW, the meal I described on SE is wonderful in cornbread when it's soaked overnight, room temperature, in buttermilk. So maybe try soaking the meal you already bought overnight in water.
* * *
I'm surprised you couldn't find references to what a franklin is online or even in a dictionary. Chaucer's character is, by definition, an untitled land-owner. In other words, he ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of class. Definitely below the knight (nobility), but higher in status than the cook. Lives in rural area vs. the merchants, even if he's equally worldly. See if either the prologue or the tale allude to the character's literacy. I kind of doubt he has the ability to read Latin texts, unlike the Clerk and some of the ecclesiastical members of the pilgrimage.

Krysta said...

Thank you for helping me out with the polenta. I'm starting to really think it is a personal texture thing to do with me because all four of my kids loved it and that normally isn't the case. Thank You Thank You Thank You for the Chaucer definition! My daughter is struggling with this book and I haven't ever read Canterbury Tales so right now I'm not a very big help to her. Neither one of us believes in cliff notes because that's cheating! She has four essay questions due soon that are suppose to be no longer than two pages apiece. Plus the chem paper, and the math test and another paper for history. I do not miss high school in least bit!

e. said...

Glad to help. I also admire the values you are instilling in your daughter, though her teachers are probably very aware of the greater temptations online sources offer in doing their work for them. I know full well that it is hard to struggle with an earlier form of English and to spend so much time deciphering what Chaucer is saying; patience is called for. It gets easier and goes much more quickly once you face the challenge, crack codes, see patterns and get used to it. It helps to read out loud--who cares if you're not pronouncing the Middle English correctly? Once you move beyond the difficulties, keep in mind that these stories were meant to entertain, not only in terms of the pleasure the Franklin hoped to provide to his fellow pilgrims, but, in turn, Chaucer's own desire to make audiences happy. (Stories were read out loud in the 14th century, and not silently to oneself.) These stories are kind of like grown-up fairy tales, though they date much earlier. They're like People magazine and gossip pages. Some are explicitly sexual and very funny, some are alarming in terms of values we'd denounce as anti-Semitic today. Tell your daughter to read the prologue's description of the franklin and even see how he interacts with the other members of his party. Then, read the tale he tells. Often the stories we tell reveal more about ourselves than they do about their protagonists. What does the Franklin's story--and its moral--say about HIM?

Krysta said...

I'm going to Barnes and Noble to get a copy today! I never thought to tell her to read it out loud which is funny because I've always told her 1.) things like Shakespeare are meant to read out loud and 2.) she is playing Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Cleopatra and Antony, so it should have dawned on one of us to try to read Chaucer out loud. Duh!

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