Cape Cod Writers


sounding board, reflection, conduit;
writers gather to bear witness;
cajole & grow together




While at the pool today, I atypically struck up a conversation with a mother whose son recently joined the Navy. She was chattering away and slipped into the conversation how she had red blotches on her face “too” and it turned out to be merca. She quickly recommended the steam room to me as a way to treat and resolve this red skin problem. A question mark started to develop but I wasn’t quite sure where it would lead. I finished my swim and headed to the showers and changing room. After donning my street clothes I glanced into the mirror and noticed that my nose looked bright red in a triangular shape, much like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

I hustled out to the parking lot and studied my nose further in my rearview mirror. “Strange” I thought.  I happened to look down and noticed bright red marks also appearing on both arms. My mind raced to thoughts of the bottle of antihistamine still rattling around in my purse from a previous use. It seemed likely I was having an allergic reaction and I quickly downed one of the pills.  I also realized that I was a quick drive away from the only emergency room on Cape Cod, but once I drove home, I would be heading in the opposite direction.  I decided to then take my chances and drive home.

My second strategy was to phone my husband and let him know what was going on in case I soon became unable to talk. I calmly relayed my concerns and told him I would see him soon. I started to feel unwell on the drive and wondered if I should pull over. Just keep going and I did.

I arrived home and laid on the coach, elaborating on the details of how I had noticed the “hives” and perhaps I was reacting to the pool chemicals, etc. filling my husband with details should I become commatose.

As I was explaining, I put my hand over the red marks on my arms and noticed it felt hot to the touch. Hmm, as though sunburned. My husband asked if I had by any chance spent time outdoors today. Wa-wa-wa. I never spend time outdoors at work, but it just so happens that today, we did have a one-hour meeting at the outside table in full sun.


Nature – Nurture

Teenager Me: “Nona, I am on a diet and trying to lose weight.  I can’t eat that.”  
Nona sweetly and with a chuckle: “The place where I come from, everyone eats this and no one is fat.”

It doesn’t take more than that for me to dig in. Soft mounds of yellow cornmeal pillows await, surprisingly light for being heavy, alternating with a slightly browned, nutty butter, and freshly grated hard cheese – also known as “Polenta Cunciata.” Occasionally the browned butter is seasoned with fresh sage from the garden.

What my Nona didn’t mention was the fact that she lived in the Alps in northern Italy at more than 10,000 feet of elevation. There were few cars or appliances. The wash was done by hand. The rugs were beaten with a long handled broom to clean them. The few recreational activities included skiing and hiking. People worked hard to survive and calorie dense meals such as this sustained them.

I once offered to make this traditional Northern Italian peasant food dish to share with my co-workers. One woman hesitated before commenting that she avoids cornmeal because it is a food used to fatten pigs before slaughter.  

Polenta Cunciata – will YOU join me???