Anne's Blog

La Polentata: Cornmeal Communion

Date: January 25, 2011 - categories: , - 2 Comments

polenta in pot while cooking

polenta

Breaking of bread together denotes communion, sharing, in Judaic and Christian traditions. In Italian tradition, the most communal food is certainly polenta, when spread out on a wooden board (lo spianatoio, literally “the spreader”) down the center of a long table, diners on both sides scooping up the polenta with big spoons. A meal of just polenta, la polentata - best savored with a robust red wine – reminds today’s Italians of those bygone days of la miseria (best translated as “poverty”) when cornmeal cooked in boiling water – and maybe served with meat sauce (a treat) – filled the stomachs of many a farm family.

Italian gastronomical traditions mirror the history of Italy and polenta is no exception. Polenta is as old as Italy. The first ingredients were indigenous: ground barley, farro (spelt), beans, and peas and the Etruscans, Greeks and Saracens brought their own versions of dishes made from these ground legumes and grains. The Romans called such dishes “puls”and later “pulentum”. “Pulentum” nourished Roman soldiers as they set out to conquer the known world. Cornmeal arrived from the New World on the ships of Cristoforo Colombo and took over rapidly as the star ingredient of polenta.

Caloric and filling, polenta is a winter dish. Nowadays, in vogue in gourmet restaurants (even in the States), it’s hard to image that once poor farmers here hoped they’d never see another spoonful of polenta! The best place to enjoy a true polentata is at Ristorante Da Giovannino in the Assisi countryside, where Serenella takes turns stirring the huge pot of polenta with her mother Rosella. When ready, they spread the steamy polenta out on the spianatoio and sprinkle pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) on top. Ladlefuls of a rich meat sauce (la miseria long gone!) – made with local veal, ground pork, sausages, ribs, and mushrooms – follows. Parmigiano adds the finishing touch before Serenella’s son Fabio proudly carries the long spiantoio to hungry guests at the long dining room table. Spoons in hand, students are ready to share this cornmeal communion!

” I really enjoyed the sense of community of the meal, which was apparent in the presentation of the polenta as well as the stories we heard ……… The fact that it is run by the same family……….also evokes a warm sense of community. Sharing the experience with classmates and professors was an important aspect as well.” (Kirsten)

“I could really feel a sense of pride in family. It was a truly wonderful and unique experience to hear the history of the restaurant ……….. then getting to experience the food first-hand. The “family meal” was an absolutely fantastic experience that will surely stand as one of my favorite meals in Italy, and a memorable experience that I will treasure for a lifetime.” (Michaela)

“……….definitely a highlight of my stay in Assisi I really enjoyed meeting the workers and chefs as well as seeing all of the fresh ingredients first-hand. Of course, eating the polenta was an extremely delicious experience! What a treat!” (Michele)

“Our experience at Giovannino’s ristorante was truly unique…………The polenta was delicious, and I loved how everyone just ate right off of a communal board in the middle of the table! ” (Matthew)

“Giovannino’s provided a fabulous experience. It was amazing to see how peasant culture and traditions have been preserved to inform today’s culture. Polenta starts as such a simple dish, but can be transformed into something really fantastic.” (Benjamin)

“Who knew “peasant food” could be so tasty? I have had polenta before but none quite like this! It was especially memorable eating it in the “peasant” family style. It provided a deeper look into the Umbrian culture. When I bring my parents to Italy in the future, Giovannino’s will be a must. ” (Collin)

Click here
to read about Da Giovannino as meeting point for wild-boar hunters!

Click to enlarge photos



2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website www.annesitaly.com
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
TYPE OF DATA TREATED
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address anne@annesitaly.com

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)