two scrumptious food poems from barbara crooker’s new book Les Fauves

Ever have this daydream?

You decide to take a break after writing all morning. When you step outside, instead of your ho-hum suburban neighborhood, you find yourself in one of the most beautiful villages in southern France.

Breathe that bracing air! What a gorgeous, deep blue cloudless sky! Love the quaint cobblestone streets, ivy climbing up ancient brick walls, morning glories spilling out of flower boxes. And crusty baguettes in bicycle baskets!

Mmmmm — what’s that heavenly aroma? Following your nose, you spy a charming boulangerie just around the corner. Your prayers have been answered! Give us this day our daily bread — and we would not object in the least if you’d like to throw in a few French pastries. Mais, oui!

Thanks to the inimitable Barbara Crooker, we can visit the boulangerie of our dreams at this very moment. You have to love a country where food is an art form and bakers are revered, where the universal language of deliciousness brings people closer together. There is no finer way to feed the soul than to savor each bite with passion and gratitude.


via Big Mouth Media


Blessed be the breadmakers of la belle France
who rise before dawn to plunge their arms
into great tubs of dough. Blessed be the yeast
and its amazing redoubling. Praise the nimble
tongues of those who gave names to this plenty:
baguette, boule, brioche, ficelle, pain de campagne.
Praise the company they keep, their fancier cousins:
croissant, mille feuille, chausson aux pommes.
Praise flake after golden flake. Bless their saintly
counterparts:  Jésuit, religieuse, sacristain, pets de nonne.
Praise be to the grain, and the men who grew it. Bless
the rising up, and the punching down. The great
elasticity. The crust and the crumb. Bless
the butter sighing as it melts in the heat.
The smear of confiture that gilds the plane.
And bless us, too, O my brothers,
for we have sinned, and we are truly hungry.

~ Posted by permission of the author, from Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017).


by LudmillaNG


If I should wish a fruit brought to Paradise, it would certainly be the fig —
~ The Prophet Mohammed

I was staying in a village in southwest France,
trudging up the steep hill to the boulangerie
for my daily baguette. On the way back, I saw

a young woman I’d met the night
before. In her hands, a ripe fig, which
we split. Dark violet chocolate

with a greenish flesh, blood-red pulp,
it opened with a thumbprint’s thrust.
The seeds embroidered our teeth.

I barely knew enough words to thank her,
my mumbled tongue, clenched teeth, dumb
as the stones under our feet. I crunched the grit,

my mouth filled with fruit and new syllables.
Even the fog, lifting from the river, that had
no language of its own, began to speak.

~ posted by permission of the author, from Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017).


Barbara:  Both of these poems were written during a writing residency at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts’ studio in Auvillar, France. I’d been to France many times (my husband worked for Elf, one of the French gas companies), but had never lived and worked there, and bread was among the many things I fell in love with.

I also noticed how many pastries in the boulangeries had religious names, so I embarked on some research (all of it was delicious!) to try as many of them as I could. Thus the poem took on a slightly spiritual flavor, albeit tongue-in-cheek. At home, I’m always depriving myself of carbohydrates in a somewhat futile effort to stay at the same weight, so I think I enjoyed every flake and crumb even more, because of this.

With “Figs,” the poem is also autobiographical, coming out of that sojourn. I’d met the young woman in the poem at a reception the night before, but her English was halting, and my conversational French is about at the level of a kindergartner, so we communicated through food and gesture. Which is a lovely way to “talk,” don’t you think?


Oh, I can see your mouth watering. When reading “Les Boulangers,” were you trying to picture all the different breads and pastries mentioned? Thought so. How about a little visual glossary to whet your appetite even more? Do you have a favorite among these? Bon Appétit!

Brioche (enriched with egg and butter, tender crumb) via Paprikas


Boule recipe via hummingbird High


Ficelle (similar to baguette, but thinner)


Pain de campagne (sourdough)


Sacristains (sweet treat made with leftover puff pastry) via Sweet Kwisine


Croissants recipe via Ambrosia


Jésuite (triangular flake pastry filled with frangipane cream and topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar). Its shape supposedly resembles a Jesuit’s hat.


Mille Feuille Classique via Cuisine actuelle


Religieuse (2 choux pastry buns filled with pastry cream, commonly mocha or chocolate) via C&Choux


Pets de nonne (deep fried choux puffs). Translates as “nun’s farts.”


Chaussons aux pommes (French apple tarts) via Mes Douceurs





Both of today’s poems are from Barbara’s seventh poetry collection, Les Fauves (“wild beasts“), just released by C&R Press in January 2017. Sections 1 and 4 feature ekphrastic poems — Barbara’s free flowing ruminations/meditations on paintings by Fauve and post-Impressionist artists like Matisse, Derain, Van Gogh, Dufy, Braque, and Bonnard.

She takes a walk on the wild side in Sections 2 and 3, experimenting with different poetic forms, language and wordplay (bold, intense, evocative). Subjects range from living in France, to amusing observations on grammar/word usage, to aging, food, faith, love, passion, and relationships. It is always a pleasure to see her masterful artistry at work, to revel in her sensual descriptions (ooh-la-la), and to note her awe and gratitude for the beauty in the world. A Matisse quote from the book’s opening poem aptly describes her approach:

From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.

This is a poet free and unleashed; don’t miss this stunning collection!


Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Take her a croissant or perhaps a baguette and enjoy the full menu of poetic deliciousness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Mais oui!


Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.





50 thoughts on “two scrumptious food poems from barbara crooker’s new book Les Fauves

  1. Scrumptious, indeed! I am torn between the mille feuille classique and the Jesuite, but would gladly eat any one of these- even the nun’s fart! (Just writing that makes this once good Catholic school girl want to hide her knuckles 😉!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my! This is simply delicious! I find myself yearning to be back in Paris making an early morning trip to the boulangerie. If only I could sit at a cafe with Barbara’s book in hand and an array of sweets before me…


  3. OK, that was just torture, Jama! How dare you? 🙂 I wouldn’t say no to a slice of Mille Feuille right now with my morning coffee. Memories of my first year of marriage 25 years ago came flooding back, as we lived across the street from the most amazing French bakery, French Memories, run by two couples from Paris. Needless to say we put on a few pounds that year! Click here to see a gallery of their goodies. Take that! 🙂


  4. I don’t know whether to run to a bakery or hop a plane to France! Barbara Crooker’s one of my favorite poets either way, so thank you, Jama, for this scrumptious post!


  5. I’m always happy to see you have poems from Barbara Crooker! She never disappoints. I especially appreciate the cyclical nature of “Bless/ the rising up, and the punching down.”
    The sourdough and the sacristains are particularly calling to me this morning.


  6. I have this new book but have only “tasted” a few poems thus far. Oh if I had such a boulangerie down the street, it would be quite wonderful. There is one French bakery here I visit sometimes, and I don’t think they use the French names, but I usually purchase something like the Jesuite. Perhaps time to go again? Thanks Jama, love “The crust and the crumb.”


  7. Love her poetry, with its humour and sensual descriptive details! I can feel my cholesterol rising just reading this stuff. M especially loves baguette with brie because it reminds him of his mother who studied medicine in Paris before coming to Canada.


  8. Yes, I was drooling even before the pictures. I had not planned to bake bread this weekend, but now….And those figs! I’m thrilled to discover that our two fig trees survived yet another Indiana winter and the first green shoots are sprouting up from the roots.


  9. You have successfully made me hungry. I love bread and one of my favorite smells, next to coffee is freshly baked bread. I make bread just for the smell of it. This took me traveling. I have never been to France, but this bit of daydream i think is something I want to experience in reality. And figs, this poem made me realize i have never eaten fresh figs. That goes into the bucket list.


  10. Clearly, I need a writing residency in France.

    Yum. Thank you for two fresh-from-the-oven Barbara Crooker poems AND the drool-worthy photos!!


  11. The pastry poetry wit, followed by those flaky, sweet and buttery morsels is enough to drive my tastebuds wild… but I have to say, as much as I can’t love figs, I am savouring the flavour of that textured poem; the seeds that embroider teeth, crunched grit, and a mouth filled with fruit and new syllables, so that even the fog speaks… #love Delicious, as always, Jama! Thank-you… I think. #hungry


  12. You know how you have to scroll through pictures of spiders really, really fast because they are (I’m sorry, spiders) too gross and somehow too much to take up close? Well, this was like the opposite of that.

    Donna Smith
    Mainely Write


  13. My friends and I once sat around trying to think of our top 3 food smells. I remember the first 2 were fresh-baked bread and sizzling bacon. The 3rd might have been popcorn. Thanks for the wonderful poems and breads, and for making me very hungry! There’s a bakery not far from here that is truly awful, but there’s another a little farther away that makes amazing eclairs and little fruit tarts, among other things. Wish I could try the angels and the brioche! I am also a big fan of sourdough bread.


    1. Fresh baked bread and sizzling bacon are definitely in my top 3 as well — the other might be chocolate chip cookies in the oven. I think many would put the smell of fresh brewed coffee in their top 3, and I admit it does smell good even though I’m not a coffee drinker. Those angels look too pretty to eat, but I guess I could manage. 🙂 Hope you have one of those little fruit tarts soon.


  14. Jama, how can I describe your post, it’s perfectly scrumptious in every possible way. The poems are heavenly as are the treats you’ve shared! I was captured by her second poem, “Figs,” the colors and textures are marvelous–it’s an experiential poem. It reminds me of an evening my husband and I spent in Valencia, Spain with an artist friend of ours, he took us to a restaurant that a friend of his owns up in the mountains–the food and surroundings were an experience I will always remember.


    1. Your dinner in Spain does sound like one of those special “moments” — everything is in perfect sync, all senses engaged, great food, company, and surroundings.

      I love how Barbara has captured one of those perfect moments in “Figs.” It reads simply but seems to blossom with meaning as you go on. Glad you enjoyed the post, Michelle!


  15. Oh, the indulgence–bread at its finest! I imagined Barbara Crook and myself adding on the pounds as I read this post, Jama! It’s just what I needed this morning when I had a lot on my mind and was worrying how the day will go. I’ll just think of baguettes, brioche, pets de nonne (fun!), and figs!!! Thank you!!!


    1. I hope your day goes well. I love all things bread and pastry — it doesn’t seem fair that carbs get such a bad rap and that there is an ultimate price to pay for such indulgence.


  16. *giggles inappropriately over nun’s farts*

    I love that France has desserts we’ve never even heard of — those little angels are adorable and look easy enough to make, even, if one has access to a bit of time and some choux. What a deliciously lyrical and beautifully lush poem.


  17. Oh my! Your post took me on a mouth-watering journey. And can it be a mind-watering journey, too? Isn’t that what the mind would do if it loved the sound of Barbara’s poems and wanted more? I think it would.
    I’ll have some of the Pain de campagne and the Baguette. With butter, please.


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