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“The joys of the table belong equally to all ages, conditions, countries and times; they mix with all other pleasures, and remain the last to console us for their loss.” (Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)

Talk about a kid in a candy store. As soon as my copy of Joys of the Table arrived, I polished my silver soup spoon, donned my nattiest bib (velvet trim, don’t you know), licked my chops, then ever so intently sipped, munched, chewed, relished and savored each and every poem in this tasty tome.

What a marvelous feast! The 100 or so poems (some with recipes) by 75 poets from around the country are served up in six courses: Amuse Bouche, What We Eat, Food and Love, Geography of Food, Kitchen Memories, and Food and Mortality. It was nice to see quite a few familiar favorites (Diane Lockward, Sharon Auberle, Barbara Crooker, Andrea Potos, Jacqueline Jules, Susan Rich, Annelies Zijderveld), as well as discover many new-to-me poets whose delicious verses left me craving more of their work (Lisa Kosow, Eric Forsbergh, Katharyn Howd Machan, Dianne Silvestri, Anne Meek, and Christie Grimes to name a few).

“Interior with Phonograph” by Henri Matisse (1924)

In a publisher’s interview, Editor Sally Zakariya was asked why she decided to put together an anthology of food poems:

I wondered that myself more than once! But really, food in its many aspects—personal, sentimental, sensual, universal—is a natural subject for poetry. I realized I had written a number of poems about remembered meals, nurturing cooks, and food as a symbol of communion and contentment, and I found that other poets I know had, too. And because food is so basic to our relationships with family and friends and lovers, I thought many poets would like to have such an anthology on their own shelves—and perhaps to give copies to their favorite cooks.

There certainly was no shortage of submissions — Sally received hundreds of additional poems worthy of being included — but ultimately her criteria for selection was subjective. I do like her taste in poems, noting that there was a higher percentage of poems that resonated with me in this anthology than in others.  (more…)

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via Food Socialist

Sometimes there’s more to a brownie than meets the eye.

A really good brownie could become your identity, your touchstone, your raison d’être.

A dark chocolate fountain of creativity, the right brownie is your heart of hearts and knows where you live.

Just ask Judyth Hill.

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BROWNIES
by Judyth Hill

I got famous for them, brownies,
adding nuts and all my attention,
9 years of my life, to the batter.
The recipe reads:
Stir with all your desire to be a poet.
Break 27 thoughts about God, children,
and postgraduate degrees.
Beat till thick with ambition.
Fold in longing and chocolate, hot as the tar roof
on 101st & West End.
Mix just till you remember all the words to Mac the Knife,
Add nuts and the words Jonathan wrote on the boxing gloves
I got for Christmas:
Words from Catallus, Odi et Amo:

I hate and I love.
You ask how that can be.
I know not, but I feel the agony.

He gave me sporting equipment a lot,
though I don’t do sports.
He always remembered to add the words.
I do words.
I do brownies.
I do variations on brownies, cantatas of brownies
sonatas of brownies, quintets of fudge.
And short compositions featuring chocolate
as if it were a bassoon.

Perhaps I am the Picasso of brownies.
My blue period, the year I cried over every batch.
The way the one eyed woman can eat a brownie
and still be in my painting — a trick I discovered
and it became a genre.

Perhaps I am the Seurat of brownies,
dots of primary flavor
deep, sweet, salt,
an illusion adding up to the spectrum of dessert.

I am the Einstein of brownies,
discovering how the more chocolate you eat,
the later it gets.
Discovering how Poem x the Speed of Light² = Brownies.
Discovering that mass, brownies, and time are infinite.
Discovering that the energy of the universe
will go into each pan,
and it’s still brownies.

Maybe I’m the Martin Buber of brownies.
Climbing 10 chocolate rungs to grace.
Or the Albert Schweitzer of brownies,
giving brownies to everyone,
whether they need them or not.

What if I’m the Donald Trump of brownies,
building a cocoa empire.
Blocks of fudge, whole towers of semisweet,
bittersweet and Swiss, bullions of brownies,
chips of profit and loss. Or Lenny Bruce.
Hilarious and obscenely chocolate.
Chocolate so good it’s dirty,
and we can’t talk about it here.

Perhaps I am the Chanel of brownies,
designing a brownie for every outfit,
accessorizing brownies with shoes and bags,
a suit, a rich dark color that goes with everything.

~ from Written with a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay & Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2002). Posted by permission of the author.

Chocolate Chanel Purse Cake via Certified Foodies

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Judyth says, “At the time I wrote ‘Brownies’, I owned and ran the famous Chocolate Maven Bakery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am the original Maven! The bakery has gone on to be a huge success, and I sold her to pursue my career as a Poet/Author.”

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“I think of myself as a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” (Bob Dylan)

Just as he’s done for more than five decades, Bob Dylan is still releasing new albums (the latest is “Shadows in the Night,” a mellow collection of standards recorded live with his five-piece band), performing around the world with his Never Ending Tour, and receiving more honors and accolades (2015 MusiCares Person of the Year).

To promote “Shadows in the Night” he gave only one interview — to AARP Magazine, where he discussed his creative process and influences, revealing that he’s a big Shakespeare fan, and had he not become “Bob Dylan,” he would have liked to have been “a schoolteacher of Roman history or theology.”

When receiving his MusiCares award, he delivered a riveting acceptance speech crediting his sources of inspiration, thanking his various and sundry supporters, and even confronting his detractors. To those who would criticize his singing voice, he reminded them of what Sam Cooke said when told he had a beautiful voice:

Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.

The voice of our generation — plain, real, everyman — endures. We need to hear and will always value the hard truths good poets tell.

Enjoy this bountiful three-course feast honoring Bob, who’ll turn 74 on Sunday, May 24. :)

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I’m doubly excited to welcome Baltimore-based author Erin Hagar to Alphabet Soup: her very first published children’s book hits shelves today, and it’s about one of my favorite people, Julia Child!

Though there have been several good picture books about Julia published in recent years,  solidly researched middle grade biographies about her are few and far between. Not only is Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures (DuoPress, 2015) a lively, engaging read, it contains six beautiful full-page watercolor illustration sequences by Joanna Gorham interspersed between chapters.

Erin traces Julia’s life from her childhood as a fun-loving prankster in Pasadena to her death in 2004 as a much beloved cookbook author, teacher, and television celebrity. We read about how Julia met and fell in love with Paul Child while working overseas for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), how when they moved to France Julia discovers her life’s passion and attends Le Cordon Bleu, how she started a cooking school and collaborated on Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Simone Beck Fischbacher and Louisette Bertholle, and finally, how she launched her television career on WGBH Boston.

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Just in time for growing season, here’s a brand new anthology that serves up a delectable cornucopia of poems celebrating the food we eat and where it comes from.

Edited by Canadian poet Carol-Ann Hoyte, Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems (CreateSpace, 2015), contains over fifty verses by thirty-four poets from seven countries, with fetching black-and-white photographs by Norie Wasserman. Along with praise for the hardworking farmer, the global menu offers much food for thought with topics such as composting, urban gardening, food activism, vegetarianism, honeybee collapse disorder, free-range vs. caged hens, food banks and fair trade.

Kids 8-12 will enjoy the tasty assortment of poetic forms, styles, points-of-view and flavors of emotion, from light-hearted to reverent to joyous to pensive. They will delight in J. Patrick Lewis’s dancing mushrooms, Ken Slesarik’s nude root veggies, and Cindy Breedlove’s and Conrad Burdekin’s diatribes against peas. They will likely find April Halprin Wayland’s personal narratives about picking figs or buying a frog at a farmers market fascinating, and thanks to Matt Forrest Esenwine, Buffy Silverman and Frances Hern, think about familiar foods like pumpkins, corn, squash, beans, and peaches in new ways.

I was happy to see nine Poetry Friday friends in the line-up and be introduced to many new poets, three of whom I’m featuring today. Philippa Rae rhapsodizes about her favorite vegetable, Helen Kemp Zax extols the wonders of the farmers market, and Matt Goodfellow’s lyrical farmer’s song exalts the agrarian lifestyle upon which we all depend. I think their poems will give you a nice taste of the delightfully different voices and styles included in this toothsome collection.

I thank Philippa, Helen and Matt for allowing me to post their poems, for providing a little backstory about writing them, and for sharing recipes and food notes. Grab your forks and enjoy the feast!

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