There are certain foodstuffs that you can't find in Ireland. Most are of the processed or convenience variety but also southern things we Texans take for granted—chipotle peppers, pickle relish, decent bbq sauce, tomatillo salsa, cream corn, and cornbread. The cornbread is key here because I need it to make my mother's cornbread dressing. Thanksgiving cannot happen without the dressing, as everyone knows. Mother usually sends me boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix but we both forgot it this year. No problem, I thought. I knew I'd had it at someone's house once, didn't I? Now all I had to do was find it. I rang a few shops and was rewarded when I tried SuperQuinn. "Oh, yes. We have it….yes, in a square, yes I will hold them for you." So far, so perfect.
It was with this happy cornbread acquisition song in my heart that I arrived at SuperQuinn on Friday morning. In I went to collect the golden ingredient for the Thanksgiving table's best supporting star. It all fell apart when the girl brought out three loaves of multi-seed bread. Not a square, not golden yellow, not cornbread! I tried to remain calm, suggesting maybe she'd brought the wrong bread over to me….surely this wasn't the cornbread that had been put on hold for me. "But that's not cornbread", said I. "Oh, yes it is. This is cornbread" said the Lithuanian bakery girl. Please! Don't argue cornbread with a Texan. I know from cornbread and I will not be fooled.
It was with this that Sofia and I left SuperQuinn. Me practically in tears, she embarrassed by her American mother's stuttered protests to the Lithuanian baker. "It's okay Mommy. What's the big deal about cornbread anyway?" Oh, dear. I have got to get this girl back to Texas and straight away! What's the big deal???!!! Thanksgiving cannot go on! I am ashamed to admit that on the way home in the car, I cried. I gave in, I gave up, I was beaten by the lack of cornbread.
And then I got home and Paul, as usual, talked me off the ledge and I did what I knew I would do. I figured it out. I rang a friend to ask if she knew where I could find it. No. I googled it and found that corn meal or maize is called polenta in Europe. It seems so simple and logical that I can't believe I never realized it before. All this time I had been doing without corn muffins with my chili when all I had to do was go to the health shop, buy some polenta and whip up a batch of golden bread.
On the way home from the health shop I was listening to the radio (I seem to do that a lot don't I?) and had a dose of reality. There were floods in the west of the country, people's homes were ruined, and anymore rain would spell more disaster. This was a genuine problem. Not as easily solved as googling the origin of maize. I felt terrible for being so dramatic about such a small thing in the midst of real suffering. Snapped back to earth, I came home, counted my blessings, and got on with it.
I worked away making it all and it has never been easier or more fluid. By Saturday afternoon when our neighbors arrived to celebrate with us I had it all done, cool as a cucumber. Thanksgiving went on. And what a lot to be thankful for—a warm, dry house, more than enough food, a loving family, terrific neighbors, every day ahead to make the most of and to make cornbread out of polenta. I am thankful to Ireland for all these life lessons.