Thursday, March 29, 2012
“The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!” (from Thomas Merton’s autobiography of faith, The Seven Storey Mountain, 1948, Harcourt, Inc.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
My German grandmother, Lizzie Fuchs (1897-1983), used to cook cornmeal mush for the dogs. I have no reason to believe that the contents were anything more than cornmeal brought to boil in water and cooked for awhile. Maybe she added bacon grease for a little flavor. That sounds like something she and lots of other country folks would think good for the hounds. Nice and filling and fragrant and tasty.
So Grandma’s cornmeal mush came to mind today while I was making polenta to go with the chicken and sausage gumbo I cooked yesterday. I know, gumbo calls for white rice. Some south Louisiana traditions call for a big dollup of potato salad plopped into the middle of a bowl of gumbo. I first experienced that on a visit to south Louisiana following Hurricane Rita. In my German-English heritage, we always had white rice.
Last night, when I finished cooking my version of this cajun delectable, the thought of polenta held the promise of pleasing my palate. Luckily, I found a pound of stone ground yellow cornmeal in the freezer. The recipe for polenta: 1 part cornmeal to 3 parts water. Bring the water to a boil, stir in the cornmeal, sans salt, and cook over a low temp for 30 minutes. Cornmeal mush! Now wouldn’t Grandma Fuchs shake a puzzled head to hear that her hound recipe is—and has been for a long time now—a favorite in upscale restaurants here in the States known for what I call their New American cuisine. Granted, by definition, polenta is nothing more than mush—gruel, porridge—traditional peasant food in Roman times.
After cooking my gruel this morning, I let it set for a few hours in a glass pie plate. Then I slathered it generously with a soft spread blend of olive oil canola oil and baked it for 30 minutes. Lots of people brown polenta in a skillet and top it with all sorts of appetizing sauces.
Here’s to you Grandma! Cornmeal mush is not just for the hounds. Were you ahead of your time, and could your dogs possibly have known how hip you were filling their dishes with polenta. I suppose not. I do know this, however. A slice of my baked-to-golden brown polenta nested in the middle of a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo was about as fine as anything from my stovetop in a long time. For a treat, in a couple of days I just might offer some of the leftovers to the pooches who call this 200 acres home here in Leon County Texas. Casey and Yager, one a purebred Blue Heeler and the other a purebred Rat Terrier, are in for a treat. No doubt, they will know.
Grandma’s Cornmeal Mush—Normangee, Texas (March 28, 2012)
R. Harold Hollis
Spring 2012 has produced an abundance of blooms on the roses here on our land in Leon County, Texas. Pictured: Old Blush shrub (c. 1752) and Old Blush climber. “Old Blush “...also known as Common Monthly, Common Blush China, Old Pink Daily, Old Pink Monthly, and Parsons Pink China, the myriad of names of this semi-double hybrid of R. chinensis attest to the friendly familiarity with which it has been grown for over two hundred years.” (information from the Antique Rose Emporium, Independence Texas)
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Bignonia capreolata s a vine commonly referred to as Crossvine. The common name refers to the cross-shaped pattern revealed when the stem is cut. This membrane is of a sweet, pleasant taste. According to Wikipedia, the Cherokees would “crop these vines to pieces, together with china brier ands sassafras roots, and boil them in their beer in the spring, for diet drink, in order to attenuate and purify the blood and juices.”