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Italian girl problems

Anna Boarini | Thursday, September 15, 2011

Every once and a while, you have to do something that you absolutely dread. For me, that day came last week. My grandparents were in South Bend visiting my great aunt and my Nonie (grandma in Italian) wanted to cook me dinner. Being the Italian girl that I am, I was envisioning her homemade sauce and meatballs, gnocchi and a warm, fresh, crusty loaf of Italian bread. Instead, I got the only food I really hate — polenta.

Polenta is disgusting. It’s the Italian version of cornmeal mush — so basically, it’s water and cornmeal boiled together. My Nonie and the rest of the women in my family serve polenta with stewed chicken and sausage in a red sauce. My family is northern Italian and this is a staple food of the region. However, I don’t care. It is the most horrible food ever.

When I hear it’s on the menu at home, I find somewhere I have to be for the better part of the evening. Most foods taste better when you add melted cheese — polenta does not. The worst part of this whole food fiasco known as polenta is my Nonie thinks it is one of my favorite foods. She is under the impression that I love polenta when really I would rather never see that yellow mush on my plate ever again.

So last week when I got to my aunt’s house, I was dreading walking in. I actually had to give myself a pep talk to get through dinner. “You can do this, Anna. You’ve eaten fish with the heads on, you’ve eaten elk, you even ate a cricket at camp when you were eleven. You can eat polenta for dinner.” I know it’s crazy to think I was talking to myself about how I could eat dinner, but it’s true, I actually did.

Anyway, I got to my aunt’s and the dreaded polenta was on the stove. My Nonie had me help her finish dinner and all I was thinking was “I hope this stuff burns.” Then came the dreaded moment when dinner was served. My plate was filled with polenta; I got the largest serving at the table. And my Nonie was so proud that she was able to feed me this food that I loathe. I sat down, stared at my plate, took a deep breath and started to eat.

Oh, I still hate polenta. It’s not like I took my first bite and then realized I had been misjudging this food my whole life and it had become some amazing new food adventure. False. It’s still really gross. But I ate it anyway.

Why, you ask? Why did I continue to eat every last bite of the most disgusting, slimy, tasteless food Italy has ever produced? There’s a really simple answer. I ate my least favorite food because I love my Nonie.

Italian women take pride in their food and they really do cook with love. I ate the polenta because if I didn’t, it would hurt my Nonie. She and my mom taught me how to cook. She is always there for me when I need her. So basically, even though polenta is horrible, I’ll still put up with it — just because my Nonie made it.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Anna Boarini at aboarini@nd.edu