Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Featurning Books I Love: Pass the Polenta

I haven't made a definite decision about this yet, but The Plan is that once a week I will write about a book that I love so much it has become special to me. I am a voracious reader and have been as long as I could hold a book in my own hands and read words. My bookshelves are creaking because for the most part I can't bear to part with them once read. I can look over the spines of the books and have fine reminisces about my reading them. Some I read more than once, others I can barely remember and some just stay with me and become part of my being. The first book I'm going to write about just makes me smile thinking about it. If you love food, love talking about it, love thinking about how it has become part of your life you will love Pass the Polenta by Teresa Lust. The Introduction begins
You need eat only an occasional good meal, or spend a very long stint eating nothing but bad meals, to develop an appreciation for food. Appreciate enough food, and sooner or later you will find yourself up to your elbows in its preparation. From there it is just a short step to realizing food is not merely about calories and minimum daily requirements and metabolic pathways. At its very heart, food is about people. It is an integral part of our social history that has affected our lives since long before Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of lentils...
And the Introduction ends
My mentors are ordinary folk, all of them, going about their daily business of baking bread and pouring hearty wine. The ingredients they  use are not exotic, their techniques are not complex. Yet as they stand over the stove, they manage to do so very much more than just prepare a meal. They taught me that cooking is an expression of art and of love, of family and self, of soil and the seasons. I lift my glass to them all.
And so begins a wonderful story full of humor of the author's history with food, with people, friends and family. Her stories take you on a journey to foreign countries and across the United States. I love the chapter about pie dough and how she introduces it to French pastry chefs who timidly ask if she would show them how she made her wonderful pate brisee . She had in fact telephoned her grandmother in Yakima, Washington for instructions on how she made her pie crust! "No Ordinary Soup" mirrored my own history with what is Leek and Potato soup.

Several years ago in I had a conversation with a Frenchman about what our families would be eating on Christmas Day. I explained to him that I would be making a leek and potato soup for the first course -- because it was a family favorite. He smiled, slightly embarrassed and explained that in France that would be considered perhaps not exotic enough for Christmas. I have since discovered that one of the very traditional soups to be served in France on Christmas is Parmentier Soupe -- which is in fact leek and potato soup and cold leek and potato soup is vichyssoise, which is also hoity-toity!

If you are interested, here are some links: or I am not benefitting in any way from writing about this book.
  • Lust, Teresa; 1998; Pass the Polenta; South Royalton, Vermont: Steerforth Press L.C.


  1. I've only know a couple of Frenchman. I hesitated to believe any answer they gave to any question. The funny thing is I didn't consider them liars. They just had a different truth.

  2. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I love good writing (about food or amything else) and have just treated myself to this second-hand from Amazon.

  3. My copy arrived yesterday and I'm now reading it when I should be cooking :-) Thanks again for the recommendation.

  4. @Perpentually in Transit: sounds like you're enjoying it! It's bound to bring a smile! Thanks for letting me know.


Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!