Polenta was the staple of the southern Italians’ diet long before they immigrated to America. It was all they had; a food that was lacking calories and vitamins, eaten just to fill, the hunger returning quickly after the meal.

Polenta before the 'gravy'

Pullend before the ‘gravy’ was added

When my grandparents came to America from Pollutri, they continued to eat polenta, now not as frequent, perhaps once a week.
I remember grandmother ladling the porridge (it reminded me of the Three Bears) on a slab of wood, one used to knead the dough for pasta.
Nevertheless, once it was slabbed, my grandmother pushed a crater into the small mound and spooned in the gravy, a red steaming sauce with its meat base.

To me, the polenta was unappealing, dry, pasty and tasteless. The gravy I loved, especially when it floated the meatballs.
“Ed-a-wood, try the pullend”… that’s what they called it… pullend. Their dialect.
I just could not unless I had a pile of gravy along with the polenta on my spoon.
“I don’t like it, Grandma.”
“Mah, why? Itsa gooda for you.”
“Nope, I can’t.”
“Anna, this kidd-a no eat. Howsee gonna grow?’

My mother gave up. She knew I would never try it.
Today, they get $14 for a dish in a restaurant. I love it. Could it be that they use the ricotta as filler?
Or could it be that it always was good, especially for those peasant southern Italians who had little else.

© 2015