friday feast: did you want horseradish with that?


If you’re a vegetarian, please go away.

If you’re a rapacious omnivore who’d rather eat a pig than dine with one, toodle-oo.

Just to be on the safe side, if you tend to giggle, guffaw, or snort uncontrollably at the slightest provocation, better go back to your little corner until we’re done here.

I simply can’t be held responsible for people who like to laugh for no good reason. And, please, in the name of decency, make sure your feet are clean before you read this poem. (Was that a smile? Stop that, immediately!)


is the usual thing to say when you begin
pulling on the toes of a small child,
and I have never had a problem with that.
I could easily picture the piggy with his basket
and his trotters kicking up the dust on an imaginary

What always stopped me in my tracks was
the middle toe — this little piggy ate roast beef.
I mean I enjoy a roast beef sandwich
with lettuce and tomato and a dollop of horseradish,
but I cannot see a pig ordering that in a delicatessen.

I am probably being too literal-minded here —
I am even wondering why it’s called “horseradish.”
I should just go along with the beautiful nonsense
of the nursery, float downstream on its waters.
After all, Little Jack Horner speaks to me deeply.

I don’t want to be the one to ruin the children’s party
by asking unnecessary questions about Puss in Boots
or, again, the implications of a pig eating beef.

By the way, I am completely down with going
“Wee wee wee” all the way home,
having done that many times and knowing exactly how
it feels.

~ from BALLISTICS by Billy Collins (Random House, 2008).

Startling Confession #2468: I’ve never eaten horseradish. Am I missing something?

Please trot on over (and wee all you like) to Adventures in Daily Living for today’s Poetical Roundup.

40 thoughts on “friday feast: did you want horseradish with that?

  1. First, I love Collins and simply giggled over this poem. But more importantly than poetry (sorry Billy!), I ADORE horseradish! I make cranberry relish every winter for the holidays that’s chock full of it. It is spicy and will clear your sinuses in one quick bite. Mind you, this is not horseradish sauce. You want grated horseradish. Think wasabi … only not green.

    (I blame my German upbringing for this and my love of all things vinegared!)


  2. the implications of a pig eating beef

    Hee. This reminded me of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. Lilo says she’s late to hula class because she was feeding her favorite ocean fish, Pudge, and they were out of peanut-butter. All they had was tuna. “Do you know what tuna is?” she whispers conspiratorily to her kumu/teacher. “It’s FISH!” And giving Pudge tuna would be “an abomination”. 😀

    As for horseradish – I’m not big on spicy food in general, but I have had it in homemade cocktail sauce (for dipping shrimp): bottle of Heinz chili sauce + horseradish = cocktail sauce of whatever hotness level you prefer. Give it a try!


  3. Pigs dining on bacon….

    Them is George’s words (world)….

    Everywhere there’s lots of Piggies
    Living Piggie lives
    You can see them out for dinner
    With their Piggie wives
    Clutching forks and knives
    To eat their bacon!


  4. Wee wee wee! Oops!

    Thanks for the giggles this morning! I’ve often wondered about nursery rhymes when I was a child, but have stopped and gone along with whatever nonsense I read. But when someone can ask questions the way Billy Collins can, well, everyone should read it. Thanks for sharing. I have a Billy Collins today too.


  5. Love Billy Collins. Love that book. Like horseradish a lot. It’s what gives the heat to cocktail sauce, so I suspect you’ve had some somewhere along the line. Boars Head also makes a horseradish cheddar that’s amazing.

    I’ve not eaten it on roast beef, though. I’ve had it on matzoh at Passover, and in cocktail sauce, but that’s it.


  6. I demand that cranberry horseradish recipe!!

    I love horseradish with prime rib. A classic. I ate it the night my son was born.

    Btw, it doesn’t look like you scared very many people off with that opening. We all must be tough. Hee.


  7. Re: Wee wee wee! Oops!

    You’re right — no one sees the world, especially the “everyday,” ordinary things in it, like Collins. I was drawn to this poem because, like him, Little Jack Horner speaks to me deeply. Sigh.


  8. Okay, this poem prompted a moment of self-revelation: in short, I AM a person who giggles, guffaws, and snorts uncontrollably on relatively slight provocation! It started the moment this page loaded, and I found myself stared down by all those bare feet.

    How does Billy Collins do it? I’ve never yet read one of his that I don’t like.

    I like horseradish on roast beef. A little goes a long way.



  9. We hadn’t heard about the cranberry horseradish until my husband found the recipe online and decided to try it. It turned out pepto bismo pink and has horseradish, onions, cranberries, sour cream, etc in it. It sounded and looked super weird, but it’s really yummy on turkey.

    Thanks for requesting an ARC of my picture book from Shen’s! How fun!


  10. from Laura at Author Amok

    Awesome post, Jama. I love Collins’ sense of the ridiculous. My favorite of his poems is “The Lanyard.” I’ll have to post it one of these days.


  11. Let me put it this way: horseradish is not an “Asian” condiment thingy. Wasabi, soy sauce, chili peppers, garlic, yes. Horseradish? None of my relatives ate it. We never had it at home. Just like lamb. Just wasn’t exposed to it.


  12. Oh, I figured as much. It’s just that with you being as adventurous an eater as you are, I’m surprised that, say, cocktail sauce hadn’t sneaked in there somewhere along the line.

    If you can handle kimchi, you can handle horseradish, btw. (I like both, but not together. Not that I’ve tried them together. But still.)


  13. Your post made me smile from the beginning when I saw the cute lil feet to the end of the poem! At least this little piggie didn’t have a ham sandwich!
    Kelly Polark


  14. Clearly, I haven’t spent enough time with Billy Collins’ new book. Unforgivable. Must make amends asap. While eating roast beef. (hold the horseradish — I don’t get into that sinus-clearing thing Tricia touts — I’ll take mine with some brown mustard)


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