The local polenta man, Franco (who has been making polenta for over 50 years) came to our house, set up on the front yard & made polenta in the old traditional style over a fire & hot coals in a big copper cauldron!
It was a special night for us - having our first polenta festival & watching up close how it has been made in this area for centuries...but also for Franco - he was born in our house 67 years ago. He had not been back to visit for over 20 years - I took him up to the room where he was born where he silently cried, it was really very sweet & touching. He told me how the layoutof the house used to be & where his grandmother slept, where the padrone (the owner) and his family slept, etc. The ghosts stirred a bit as we heard first hand old stories of our house!
Back to polenta...
He explained to us that the men would head out into these
exact woods for hundreds of years, they would hunt for dinner & the women would make a deliciously meaty sauce out of what was brought home. Then the men would build a great fire & slowly cook the polenta mixing it by hand for about an hour. (Note the photo above & that he is holding it with his hand - that pot is screaming hot! That is the sign of a pro)
To watch him recreate this meal was surreal - to think how far have we really come? - here we are in the country eating the exact same meal that hunters of this area have eaten forever -using the same techniques today, as the men before us.
After the polenta was ready, he poured it onto a table topped with a wet sheet (so it wouldn't stick) & let it dry out a bit.
Then cut it into pieces using twine (my aunts in Oklahoma do this to cut pastry dough for their famous cinnamon rolls too - it reminded me of sweet memories of my late great Aunt Lucile).
He then laid the chunks/slices of polenta into the biggest baking dish I've ever seen - layering polenta, the most delicious meat sauce (using 3+ different types of meat) and cheese.
He made enough for 50!!
Franco, this little old man can eat - seriously, you'd never know looking at him - but he finished not one or two but 3 plates of polenta & then headed for the antipasti/contorni table filled with salads & vegetables - again 3 times! Where does he put it?!
(He really is friendly, but this picture just cracks me up!)
He did let me in on a little polenta eating secret - don't drink (water, wine - nothin') while you are eating the polenta - only after can you quinch your thirst. I wish I had listened to him because after one full plate of polenta, I was T.K.O'd - done! Thank god for leftovers!! We must thank our dearest friends & neighbors Gaggi e Rossana for helping us put this evening together!