friday feast: strolling down the “Produce Aisle” with Rebecca McClanahan

via AHA

by Rebecca McClanahan

The artichoke keeps her distance.
She has been taken too many times. Now
the armadillo armor hides her secret heart.

Everyone counts on the onion, staple of stews
and pottage. But deep in the crowded bin, her skin
is thin as moth wing. It peels away before their eyes.

Green peppers are modern women who take
their muscles seriously. They hunch their shoulders,
broad, shiny beneath a fluorescent sun.

Close by in cellophane the carrots keep for weeks,
the last to lose their figures. All legs,
tapering to slim ankles–and above,

wild profusion of hair. They gather in knots
of conversation and whisper about the apples,
those aging showgirls who didn’t know when to quit,

redheads buffed an unnatural blush, a shine
that shouts forever while inside the white flesh softens.
In the center aisle, bananas in bunches

curl like firm young girls in sleep. Soon they will turn
like their half-price sisters, learn the bruise,
dark print that begins beneath the skin and grows.

Oh to be the avocado! She ages so well.
Time makes love to her daily, finding her sweeter
the softer she grows. Beside her the potato,

peasant woman in brown, comes into her own slowly.
She stays in the shadows, blindly remembers
her place. Come to me! I will make you whole!

coos the eggplant mother. And from the corner bin
a chorus: Oranges, Oranges, Oranges, Oranges.
We are what we seem. We speak our own name.


~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 1989 Rebecca McClanahan, from Mrs. Houdini (UP of Florida).


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Well, grocery shopping will never be the same. I mean, who knew? 🙂

Love the whimsy in this poem, but also the relatable truths. What lies beneath, when you peel away the layers? Many of us are simply not what we seem. Since the items described here are all female, do you think women conceal more of their true selves than men do? And what interesting statements about aging — for sure, I’d like to be an avocado.

I can think of someone I know in real life who matches each of these fruit and vegetable personality types. Which do you most identify with?

While you’re contemplating that, enjoy this little gallery of reimagined fresh produce:

Portraits by Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive



Cafe M Food Sculptures by Carl Kleiner



via Techno-crazed









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Rebecca McClanahan’s tenth book is THE TRIBAL KNOT,: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND A CENTURY OF CHANGE. She has also published five books of poetry and a suite of essays, THE RIDDLE SONG AND OTHER REMEMBERINGS, winner of the Glasgow prize in nonfiction. Her three books of writing instruction include WORD PAINTING: A GUIDE TO WRITING MORE DESCRIPTIVELY, which is used as a text in numerous writing programs. For more, check out her official website.

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Big Congratulations to Diane DeCillis! Her debut poetry book, STRINGS ATTACHED, was just named a 2015 Michigan Notable Book! Hers was one of 20 books selected for this honor by the Library of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education. You may remember when I shared “Music from Another Room” and “Last Night I Dreamed I Stole the Croissants” from this book as well as Diane’s hummus recipe. If you still haven’t seen STRINGS ATTACHED, treat yourself to a copy to celebrate the New Year. It’s a rich, sumptuous feast of words, impressions, and ideas sure to satisfy your literary palate.

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poetryfriday180The lovely and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Is she an onion or an orange? Stroll over to peruse the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week. If you go grocery shopping this weekend, be sure to pay close attention to the tomatoes.

Yours truly,

Miss Potato, née Banana



Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

62 thoughts on “friday feast: strolling down the “Produce Aisle” with Rebecca McClanahan

  1. I *always* read your posts featuring Rebecca’s wonderful work. You’re right–we’ll never look at the produce aisle the same again. I have Rebecca’s book, Word Painting, and it’s excellent.

    Thanks for letting us fresh-vegetable-starved winterlings see those yummy photos. Candice, who wants to be a carrot but is, alas, a potato.


    1. Hello, fellow potato! Actually I think this is the first Rebecca poem I’m sharing here — just received my copy of Word Painting, which I’m anxious to dig into. She tells me there is more mention of food in her essays than poetry — so I’ll definitely have to read more of her prose. 🙂


  2. Oh my, Jama, I will linger in the produce next time at the store, reveling in those wonderful women, unique and colorful. Love this, and especially “modern women who take/their muscles seriously”-know a few young women who do talk about their abs! Also love that final potato pic, & all the foody art-clever! Thanks much!


  3. I’m not sure whether I’m a carrot, potato, or orange. Love every bit of the poem! And those illustrations are amazing — that avocado with a flower between his teeth! What an adorable beet elephant!


    1. I know what you mean — there are bits of me in most of the descriptions. I do love that elephant — best use of red cabbage I’ve ever seen too :).


  4. After this poem every Farmers Market I go to will be like a sorority gathering! I love the attitude of the oranges (not only because they are my favorite color and flavor), but because they are who they are. I especially love the picture of the pear mouse – will show that to my 11 year old daughter. Thanks for another exceptionally fun post, Jama! =)


    1. I like that about the orange too — what you see is what you get. That’s a great description — a sorority gathering — maybe we should wear our school colors whenever we go grocery shopping. 🙂


    1. My bikini-clad potato has goosebumps today. 🙂 It would definitely be fun to research other fruits and veggies and come up with personalities. Hmmm, I’ve always wondered about persimmons . . .


  5. Ok, I admit it – I liked the produce poem. 🙂 Also loved the produce artwork, the way it can be carved and arranged. I think the banana dog was my favorite, although the bikini potato was awfully cute, too.


  6. P.S. I think I’m a cabbage, though the poem doesn’t mention it. Layer after layer after layer, the core hidden. And the cabbage begins as a “head” and ends up pickled/fermented for sauerkraut. Yep, definitely a cabbage.


  7. Poetry Friday teaches me so much, Jama! I didn’t know the ju-ju of Rebecca McClanahan so I want to collect a harvest basket of her fruits. What fruit or vegetable? Hmmmm. Ruby red grapefruit, methinks, with my choice subject to restocking/revision. A great MLK, Jr. holiday to you.


  8. Oh my, I am in love with that poem! How very clever and insightful. The all-legs carrots whispering about the apples in “knots of conversation” is just perfect. Fantastic Magritte portrait, too. Another colorful post full of all the best eye and ear candy! Grazie, Jama.


  9. Jama, like you, I especially love the combination of whimsy and spot-on observation in the poem — it’ terrific!


  10. Those green pepper shoulders cracked me up — what a great comparison! My kids were big fans of the Gus and Button books when they were little. All of the characters and backgrounds are made from food. Adorable books!

    Jama — we have a food issue of LPR coming out. I’ll have to send you a copy.


    1. Oh, I hadn’t heard about the Gus and Button books — must look for them :)!

      Yes, I’ve been reading about the new LPR food issue. Can’t wait to see it.


  11. I read your post in wonder — how do people come up with these brilliant uses of produce to create art? I have a friend who used to ask her high school French students to recreate a work of art using candy, but the fresh produce takes it to a different level, I think. I’d like to be an asparagus — long, lean and elegant!


    1. Hello Ms. Asparagus! 🙂

      I’m in awe of these food artists too — in the hands of a true creative, almost anything can be considered raw material.


  12. My produce basket overfloweth! Like Linda, I especially love the green peppers line; like Renee, the Veggie Magritte; and like Bridget, the mousy pear! (And being an asparagus sounds pretty good, Keri! I can’t decide. I’m probably a bag of mixed salad.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hooray for bright, colorful veggies on a cold and dreary winter day! The poem will forever change the way I view the produce department, which is where I spend the most time in the grocery store! LOVE the art! The beet elephant is my favorite!


    1. Sounds like your grocery shopping trips are mini parties with your best friends. It *is* the most attractively decked out section after all — beats rows of cans or boxes. 🙂


  14. I can’t decide which I love more: the poem or the photos. Who knew people were so creative with fruits and vegetables? I’m partial to the banana dog, who bears a striking resemblance to my beagle, Lucy, and the orange cat, who looks a lot like the one curled up in my lap. Thanks for brightening up this dreary morning!


    1. Thick-skinned Penny. Definitely necessary for those who write. And I do appreciate your sunny countenance and sweetness. Yes, you’re a good orange!


  15. I had to read and reread a couple of times to find even more to love with this poem – beautiful! I think when I grow up I’d be the artichoke – elegant, forbidding, and shrouded in secrets. 🙂


  16. Such a clever poem – Rebecca certainly doesn’t pull any punches! And as always, I love your photos – especailly the elephant (of course) and the banana dog. Must try that!


    1. Yes, that elephant is quite irresistible. There’s just something about elephants I find endearing somehow. I’ve yet to see a bear made from fruits and veggies. Will have to keep looking.


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