Tiglio: polenta dolce, comfort food
Over millennia European traditions have been established to help hold together the social fabric in times of trouble, harsh weather, famine. Seasonally, whether pagan, secular or religious, often in the form of winter festivals, they served the purpose of solidarity, developing or reinforcing a sense of community, inspiring hope and sometimes simply chasing the winter blues. Festivals of light, processions or feasts. The feasts by necessity took advantage of the traditional foods at hand in winter.
After what were usually harsh winters with limited provisions, in this area, the chestnut was one highly nutritious food at hand. It was milled, and processed in a variety of forms, one of which is known as polenta dolce, or sweet polenta. The chestnut is legendary for being the food that kept these people from starvation through war or poor harvests. The milled flour is blended with cold water, cooked and stirred. The silky puree that results is nutty with a mild sweetness.
In keeping with many of these ancient European traditions a great feast was held Sunday at the headquarters of the Misericordia of Tiglio, just a day after La Santa Candelora or Candlemas, itself a ritualistic reference point with the hopeful promise of spring. (article here)
Don Stefano, of Barga was a guest of honour and Don Cola, of the Parish of Tiglio, was honoured with a birthday cake for his 82nd birthday. The meal was centred around the chestnut polenta, a filling accompaniment to pork bones boiled in brine, braised pork ribs in rich tomato sauce with locally grown olives, or liver roasted with fennel. The flavour of the chestnut polenta is enhanced with a sidedish of ricotta and the various sauces. Locally produced cheeses and a variety of delicious homemade tarts, filled with figs and pine nuts, or other locally grown fruit were served.
In a cross cultural exchange common to this area there were delicate scones perfectly spread with cream cheese and mirtilli.
Naturally the wine was excellent table quality locally vinted.
A group of about thirty guests gathered in the rustic and accommodating dining room in Tiglio to enjoy the luncheon which began with a prayer and ended with a song, led by Leonello Diversi, and finished with his smooth 106 proof Grappa.
A comforting meal in congenial company.
Article by Kerry Bell