6 Witches’ Polenta
“Ditch delivered by a drab, / Make the gruel thick and slab, /Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron/ For th’ingredience of our cauldron.” Macbeth, 4.1
It’s unclear just where Shakespeare’s popular ‘Weird Sisters’ soup chefs came from, or if they were sisters at all, given their physical disparity. Some commentators say they were British natives, others that they emigrated from Sweden or Norway while a few even mention the Mediterranean. In any case, what is clear is that at some point they started working in the kitchen at Holinshed’s Soup, Steak and Salads in Brodie, Scotland. Their talent at spotting future dining trends and adapting the restaurant’s menu to accommodate those changes drew the attention of the then ambitious new head chef of the 5-star Glamis Hotel and Restaurant, Macbeth, who offered them a contract they couldn’t refuse. Of course once Glamis went bankrupt, Shakespeare offered the sisters a much more equitable contract at The Globe.
This version of ‘Polenta’ is set just after Macbeth had in fact bought out the Glamis. Many restaurant critics, mostly men, argue that Macbeth wouldn’t have had the balls to take over the restaurant if it hadn’t been for the sister’s ability to draw a certain flow of well-healed diners – a criticism that seems to try to place much of the blame for Macbeth’s subsequent downfall on the sisters. We think that argument is simply more of the same old lame, chauvinist whining. In this dish Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a big boy who knows what he’s getting himself into and certainly doesn’t need any witches’ brew to induce him into the noted scandals that were to follow. So there. The sister’s enormously successful recent consultancy work at Rawling & Hogwart, the international fast-food chain, proves that they, instead, have retained their popular culinary touch.
The ingredients of the dish:
Salt & pepper
Extra-Virgin olive oil
*Eye of newt can be used in a pinch
The chefs of the recipe:
Brown witch – a chef at Glamis restaurant
Red witch – ditto
Black with – ditto
Blond witch – ditto
Shaved witch – ditto
Afro witch – ditto
Macbeth – owner and head chef of the restaurant
serves many, depending on how much poiso…, er, sauce and polenta you make
Act I, sc. 1
Enter two young lovely witch – chefs, one with red hair, one with black. Their brown-haired sister is already cooking
Brown witch: Look who finally showed. Out again late?
Red witch: Sorry sis. I met this guy,
Black witch: made a date,
Found out he was a real dork, a schmuck,
Red witch: So I texted our sis’ and then I snuck
Out the bar. We met and went to the club,
Black witch: Stopped off on the way for a dinner sub,
Red witch: And danced and danced and danced. A cute guy there
Gave me his cell.
Brown witch: Cute? I want details. Share?
Red witch: Sure. I took the guy’s picture. Have a look.
Brown witch: Nice hair. Nice bod.
Black witch. Nice goin’. You’re hooked?
Red witch: I am. Would you guys mind if I invite
Him over on Sunday?
Brown witch: We’ll have a night,
A sister’s night out and leave the loft free.
Red witch: You guys are the best that there could ever be.
All 3: 6 weird sisters, hand in hand,
Form the greatest cooking band.
To the city we have come,
And as chefs, second to none.
A door shuts
Black witch: O-oh. From his Scottish kitchen slums
Our wicked head chef this way comes.
Enter Macbeth, owner and head chef of Glamis restaurant
Macbeth: Goo’ grief. It’s r-rainin’ again. An’ cold as ‘ell. Wha’ you 3 been up to? Go’ that r-red sauce cookin’?
Brown witch: The tomato’s in, and I just sent the others to the fridge for the meat.
Macbeth: That’s good, ‘caus it’s go-a’ cook for ‘ours before it’s r-right ‘n r-ready. (Comes up behind the cooking sisters, smells the sauce, then pinches the red witches rear) Ah, that’s gotta’ taste r-right nicely. Oh, an don’ for-rget to get the noodles and pur-ree r-ready for my r-ravioli. An’ peel the veggies to. (Exits)
Red witch: I swear some day I’m gonna’…
Black witch: Chill, young sis.
Don’t worry. He’ll get his. But until this
Market gets better, just go with the flow.
Red witch: I get so pissed when he does that, you know?
Enter chef witches 4, 5 and 6, Blonde, Shaved and Afro, carrying the meats
Brown witch: You guys find everything?
Blonde witch: I got the sausage,
Shaved witch: I the ribs and feet.
Afro witch: And yours truly has the rest of the meat.
Brown witch: So let’s do it.
The 6 witches form a circle around the large boiling pot and circle around it, putting in the ingredients one at a time
Red witch: Round about the cauldron go
First some oil in do throw.
Black witch: Then the sausage with a sizzle
Once it browns, in a drizzle
Blonde witch: Remove the fat, add the cloves
Dice them of course, to the stove
Shaved witch: Onion, herbs and red
Tomato, with sunshine fed.
Meat of lamb and pork and veal
Afro witch: All or one, for this meal.
Add warm water, when it needs,
As its flavor the fire feeds.
All: Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Brown witch: Near the end, check the flavor
Add hot pepper, if you savor,
Take the solids from the dish,
As a second, if you wish,
Pour the sauce over corn meal,
Or polenta, as you feel.
Black witch: Now that the sauce is taken care of, that leaves another bizillion things to do for Mr. Macbogus. Sis, you wanna’ give me a hand with the veggies?
Shaved witch: Sure.
Blonde witch: Me, too.
Afro witch: So, who’s this guy you’re so into?
Red witch: Well, for one thing, get this: he owns a restaurant. His name is MacDuff.
Brown witch: Another Scott?! Oh no…
Exit all. Exeunt recipe
The real recipe:
3 pork sausages
3 pork ribs
3 beef or veal ribs
3 lamb ribs
Extra -Virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 bell pepper
3 celery sticks
3 garlic cloves
3-4 large cans of crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
serves up to 8, depending on the amount of polenta you make
serves 4 as a second course
In a pan, fry up the whole sausages for 5-10 minutes in a little olive oil, then remove the fat. In the largest pot you have, sauté the cleaned and diced bell pepper a few minutes in some oil, then add the roughly chopped onion on medium-high heat a minute or two, then add the roughly chopped garlic, and then after another minute dump in the tomato. Add salt, some pepper, and either enough sugar or honey or bicarbonate to take away the canned tomatoes’ acidity. You could use fresh tomatoes if you want but it’s a bit of extra work.
Anyway, once the sauce is boiling add the cleaned carrots and celery, whole, then the ribs – the pork is the most important meat ingredient and can be used by itself – then the bay leaves and less than a tablespoon full of rosemary and finally the sausage. Lower the heat, and let it cook. And cook. And cook, adding water from time to time as needed. You could probably cook it for a week if you wanted but do let it slowly bubble away until the meat falls by itself off the bone, about 3 hours. Add a bit of good cinnamon near the end of the cooking process if you like the taste. Make as much polenta is needed, (80-90 grams of cornflower per person), mixing in a ladle or two of the sauce as the flour thickens if you use traditional long cooking instead of instant polenta. Then remove the solid chunks of meat and vegetables from the sauce. They can be used as a 2nd course or as a delicious meal the next day. Serve the polenta and the rest with a hearty red wine, maybe a Morellino di Scansano or good Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. As an option you could deep-fry a few Snickers bars for a Scottish desert. Then again, a simple Tiramisu would taste a lot better.
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