Monday, December 22, 2014

Polenta Gat' (or: Quantum Cookery)

[dedicado a Danilo Salamanca, hombre culto y erudito]

                            "Méfiez-vous du rêve de l'autre,
                            parce que si vous êtes pris dans
                            le rêve de l'autre, vous êtes foutu."

                                                     (Gilles Deleuze)


Father had two friends, Sicilians & stonemasons,
with skills long ago lost in New England.

Nowadays they would be Mexicans.

They were slow friends and fast—amici.

When they got together Father would
always bring up the small matter of polenta gat'
& they would all have a hearty laugh.


Lenny was from West Virginia
& one of the two best hunters
in the wide world.

The other was a bear hunter, mostly Kodiak and Grizzly.

“I always kill cats when I am in the field
after small game,” Lenny said.

“I see them as competitors”, he said,
“and better hunters than I am.”

“Do you eat them?”

A strange look and at that moment
a garter snake slithered through green tomatos.

Lenny started.

“A snake!”, he said, “Kill it!”.

“It's a garter snake and it eats insects...”

“A snake is a snake—you can't trust a snake”,
Lenny said.

“Well, I suppose if you grew up where there
were rattlers and depended on unthinking

Soon enough we were at polenta gat'.

“What's that?”, said Lenny.

“Cornmeal mush with cat.”

“With cat?” said Lenny.

“With cat.”

“Have to be real hungry to cook that,” said Lenny,
“let alone look at it and eat it.”

And they all had a hearty laugh.

The bear hunter never ran into domesticated cat.

Wolves & coyotes & cougars ate them.

Who knows, maybe bears too.


It had selectmen
so it was a town
but very large
and west of Boston.

Before Suburbs
there was one
Chinese Restaurant.

The Cantonese family
lived on the second floor.

When he got his driver's license
his friend, the son, every morning
picked up the cook in Boston
and drove him back every evening.

The cook, also Cantonese, was paid
a very healthy salary.

The food was very good.

Everyone ate there, sometimes once a week,
other times once in a while.

The running gag was that
chicken was sometimes cat.

“Flied lice with cat,” my father said,
“like the Sicilians.”

They all had a hearty laugh.

The Cantonese never serve cat for chicken.

It is considered too much a delicacy
to waste on most roundeyes.


The older and larger Chinatown
in Chicago is Cantonese.

Many of the families came to the city
after building the transcontinental railroad.

They were very close-mouthed & clannish.

There were rumors that there was a whole lot
of gambling going on in the large building
that housed the Brotherhood Association.

There were occasional raids
by disinterested police.


The charges never amounted to much.

What do betting slips for Mahjong look like?

After the Yankees climbed into their helicopters
from the roof of the embassy in Saigon,
large numbers of Vietnamese arrived Chicago.

Some of the Vietnamese were Chinese,
but from Vietnam.

Soon they were speaking three tongues.

Soon there opened a Chinatown North,
with mostly restuarants advertising Chinese,
and one or two serving recipes of 'Nam.

Soon the rumor ran through all the old neighborhoods,
to wit:

when the Vietnamese moved in, all the cats and dogs

even pigeons,

& Vietnamese could even be seen collecting
the fruit that fell on public sidewalks
in large plastic bags.

Polenta gat' came up again.

“With cat?” she said.

She had learned a limited amount
during a year in Italy.

“Sicilians”, he said.

“The French and others will always
mention the World War,” he said,
“The Sicilians never bother, for
what does war have to do with it?”

And they all had a hearty laugh.

The Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown North
was superb.

According to a professoress of German,
on a good day and if you knew someone
you could get dog.

Of course immediately after the war
the Germans for some time ate almost

It is not recorded how quickly and easily
the Vietnamese discovered U. S. beef
to be quite tender.

Or did they already know?


Some years ago
long before the Olympics
the mayor of Beijing
decided there were
too many dogs
in that fair city.

He ordered that all dogs owned as pets
be killed.

Food dogs were excepted.

Surely because transient.

Patriotic Beijingers complied & killed
all their pets on the same day.

And then they....


It is a Korean restaurant
with Chinese horoscopes.
on the placemats.

“Look,” he says, “it is the year of the Rat!”

“The rat?”, she says.

“For the Chinese the Rat is a sign of good luck.”

“The rat?”

“The Rat—shu in the third tone. Look at the character--

See the head with its jaws and teeth? See its legs and tail?
Graphically it aims at something like 'the Gnawer'...”

The rat?”, she says, “Good luck?”

The ancient Chinese had no cats,” he says,
The domesticated cat originates in Egypt
and spreads to Europe. But the Chinese
got it very late. So the rat is a sign of luck.”

The rat?”

Naturally. From much stored rice and grain
arise many rats. So rats are a sign of prosperity.”


The Thais and many other people in Asia eat rats.
Which adds another aspect—animal protein.”


Not city rats. Country rats and well-fed
at that, like squirrels.”


The Romans were very fond of honeyed dormice.”



Do Koreans eat rats?”

Well, this beef is too tough to be dog.”

And they all had a hearty laugh.

E. A. Costa Granada, Nicaragua 22 December, 2014

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