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POEM: The Last Polenta

September 10, 2014

As Mother Nature is pulling down the shade on summer and a cold front is moving through Wisconsin, I have been thinking about polenta on this evening of rapidly dropping temperatures.  For my taste buds, polenta is the conssumate Italian comfort food–especially during cool or chilly weather.  Just a few days ago, I enjoyed some polenta.  If you refer to my blog post of April 6, 2013, you will find my dad’s recipes for polenta and bagnetto so that you can also enjoy some polenta.  Meanwhile, I invite you to read the following poem which I wrote on January 8, 2012, and which was inspired by the last polenta my dad made for my sister, my younger nephew, my mother, and me.

 

 

The Last Polenta

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

The second son of four,

my father first developed his culinary skills

when my amazingly strong grandmother was uncharacteristically ill

for about one year.

From Tank Destroyer in World War II

to firefighter, chief fire and safety inspector–

my father cooked for our family and more.

 

At a robust and cheery 84,

he was still cooking—

preparing meals for and caring for my mother

whose business mind had drifted to a softer place.

On that October, Hoosier day of 1997,

from far-off states–

my sister, my younger nephew, and I

gathered for what was—

unbeknownst to us—

the final polenta

made by my dad.

As usual, he stood in front of the stove,

with his six-foot/one Army posture and wooden spoon in hand,

and turned the cornmeal into polenta.

After setting a special board atop the dining room table,

he covered the board with a special linen cloth,

then sprinkled some dry cornmeal on the checkered cloth.

At just the right time,

my dad dumped the steaming polenta onto the sacred cloth.

Once again—success!

The polenta slowly oozed to the edges of the board

to form a beautiful, sedate mound of polenta.

Of course, he made the wonderful tomato and egg sauce,

which we call “bagnet,”

a rosy pink to top the sun yellow polenta

which was lovingly surrounded by salada, chicken cacciatore

and green beans fried in butter and oil

and crowned with the white diamonds of Italy—

Before the cerebral hemorrhage that struck one month later

came this polenta

that will stick to my bones, my heart, my memory

 

At least four years passed

before I could eat polenta without tears;

however, now I always eat polenta

with thoughts of my father

and with thanks to him–

forever thanks to him.

 

NOTE:  As I remember my father on this evening, I also think of his older brother–my Uncle Charlie–because this September 10 marks the 103rd anniversary of Uncle Charlie’s birth.  (You will read more about the four Massa brothers in a future blog post, late this autumn.)

 

On this eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11,

God bless all around your table and God bless America–

 

Alice and Zoe

 

September 10, 2014, Wednesday

 

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7 Comments
  1. The flavors of life never leave the pallet of the living. God bless those tasteful memories of your father. I hope you’re able to savor them through all eternity.

    Another wonderfully, thought provoking post my dear. Thank you so much. dp http://www.dplyons.wordpress.com

    • DP–Thanks again for a wonderfully-worded and much to kind comment. I look forward to your “stamp” on my blog. Take care–Alice

  2. Alice, what a beautiful remembrance of your father. Before a cerebral bleed claimed my late husband’s ability to cook, his specialty was mashed potatoes, done by hand, not with an electric mixer, with just the right amount of milk, butter, and seasonings, the best mashed potatoes I’d ever eaten. I hope you continue to make such wonderful food memories.

    • Abbie–Thank you for an especially nice comment. Oh, yes, those mashed potatoes sound delicious! I appreciate your sharing a special food memory. Take care–Alice

  3. The picture I have in my mind of that day is not the polenta, but rather the image of our dear mother and dad standing in the big window of our enclosed back porch waving good-bye to us as I turned the car around in the driveway to begin the drive back to Milwaukee. I could see that soft-hearted Dad was crying, and so was I. I had no idea at that moment of all the tears yet to be shed only a few weeks later.
    Love, Mary

  4. I have many, many wonderful memories of your family home, and of the delicious food. One of the most memorable of polenta for me was when there was a long table of family and friends enjoying the hearty meal, among many meals together, at Aunt Zita’s.
    Uncle Jimmy was a great cook and a fabulous uncle! There are many things to celebrate, past and present, about our families.

    • Carole–Thanks for a very well-crafted cousin’s comment. Yes, we have shared so many happy meals and times together. Take care–AZ

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