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Vegan MoFo day 7 - Polenta inspired by a Lydia Davis story

I read Lydia Davis' Collected Stories a couple of years ago, and while I didn't mind the book, the onion pie - and the story that mentions it - immediately spread to mind when I read today's prompt.

The story involves a couple that serve as caretakers for a French cottage and the dog that comes with it. With little money between them, getting enough food - and even better, getting good food - figures often. When the pair have run out of both money and, they believe, food, they find they can make an appealing meal from the tiny remnants they can scare up in their kitchen.

"...we had no money at all anywhere in the house, and almost nothing left to eat. What we found, when we searched the kitchen carefully, was some onions, an old but unopened box of pastry crust mix, a little fat, and a little dried milk. Out of this, we realized, we could make an onion pie.We made it, baked it, cut ourselves two pieces, and put the rest back in the hot oven to cook a little more while we ate. Our spirits lifting, we walked as we ate and forgot all about the pie as it went on baking. By the time we smelled it, it had burned too badly to be saved...."

I couldn't remember which short story the pie figured in and dived into the book to try and locate it. During the search, I came across Meat, My Husband, a story ostensibly about a woman is trying to make healthier meals for her and her husband by cutting out meat and fish. The meals that she cooks, and that they eat together, are their relationship in microcosm.

The nameless protagonist tries to protect her equally unnamed husband by cooking vegetarian - and likely vegan - meals, while he yearns for the crappy diner food he had before they married or the meat-heavy dishes he cooked himself as a batchelor. As she creates more and more elaborate dishes to mixed or uninterested reviews, she plans a dessert of a chilled pear and some walnuts.

"....When we came to eat the pear and the walnuts, the contrast between the cool, juicy sweetness of the fruit and the warmer, oily fragrance of the nuts certainly excited my husband.. certainly he was more excited about this dessert than he had been about anything else I had served him. But then he was the one who had put the pear in the freezer, and I've learned by now that when he’s involved in preparing a meal, or anything else for that matter, he’s more apt to like it."

Meat, My Husband runs to four pages, but there's a vast amount packed into those few hundred words.

Prior to the walnuts and pear, she serves him polenta and spicy vegetables - a meal that's in the protagonist's regular rotation despite the fact it looks like a "cow patty".  The husband says it tastes better than it looks - something he often says about the meals his wife serves him. He's not enthused about the polenta, the story tells us.

As the chief cook in our house who serves a similar stream of hits and misses to her former junk food addict partner, I couldn't resist making some spicy veg and polenta for Mr Flicking the Vs. Perhaps it would unveil truths about our relationship if I cared to look hard enough.

This is what I made:

There's carrots, broad beans, red peppers, broccoli, courgettes and spring onions roasted with harissa, and served on polenta stuffed with baked garlic.

I didn't manage to get the puddle of sauce around the veg that gives the cow pat effect in Meat, My Husband, but I think the choice of putting black beans in the polenta did definitely put me in mind of vomit. For added echoes of Meat, My Husband, it should be noted I add broccoli to many things, despite Mr FtVs' insistence that it is green, floretty evil.

So, to recap - some unpopular veg on a vomitty puddle. Hopes were not high for a good review, but at least I can claim some authenticity. I put it down in front of Mr FtVs with some trepidation.

"This is pretty good, actually." I breathed out.

Meat, My Husband is in the Collected Stories, but you can read it pretty much in its entirety through Google Books' preview. And if you want to know more about the world's most literarily important onion pie, this New Yorker article is rather interesting. You can also read the story in which the pie features in Collected Stories too.

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  1. I never ever cook with polenta as I always feel I wouldn't know what to do with it so this has got me interested. The onion pie sounds tasty too!

  2. I've never cooked with polenta either and despite your trying to make it look like a cow patty, I thought it all sounded really good -especially the broad beans, I love those. I love the tragic twist on the onion pie, I wasn't expecting them to burn it!

  3. I love it when a good meal comes with a good story! I'm looking up Meat, My Husband right now... But I'm also very intrigued by the sound of that onion pie, too.

  4. Polenta wasn't a dish I had while I was a kid but have loved it since I tried it later in life! I have tried it a few different ways I think my fave thus far was with a vegan cream sauce and brussel sprouts and a bit of sriracha sauce topped on that! Your dish looks and sounds amazing!

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