In my mother’s kitchen, there was always a gallon jug of Aloha Shoyu and a 100 lb. bag of calrose rice in the cupboard; garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds and green onions in the fridge, and papayas and bananas on the counter.
The middle child of 12 and second oldest daughter, Margaret was known in the family for her good Korean food, a style of cooking she learned from her mother and continued to develop through decades of practice. She never used written recipes for the Korean dishes, magically turning out batches of kimchi and other banchan, platters of bulgogi, kalbi, jap chae, shrimp and vegetable jhun, and bowls of mandu with the studied efficiency and honed techniques of a master chef.
Though she had a hutch full of English bone china, I think she valued most the set of stainless steel pots and pans she once purchased from a door-to-door salesman when I was 9 or 10. “Don’t ever give these away when I’m gone,” she reminded my brother and me repeatedly. “They don’t make cookware like this anymore.” She was right of course. Those pieces served her well for over 50 years and thousands of meals.
You may remember Adele as a 2012 Poetry Potluck guest, when she shared the poignant “Chosen Ghosts” and her grandmother’s recipe for Staffordshire Irish Stew. It’s nice now to read of her love for blueberries, a lyrical paean that interweaves art masterpieces, a popular song title, and a fond childhood memory with luscious sensory details.
Adele has graciously given me permission to share both her poem and the recipe for Bluemisu that’s included in the anthology, and she’s also provided a bit of interesting backstory. It’s always fascinating to learn a little more about how a poet’s mind works, and of course now we’ll all be craving blueberries for days and days — actually, a good thing. 🙂
TO BLUEBERRIES by Adele Kenny
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
– Robert Frost, from “Blueberries”
Imagine the “Mona Lisa” with blueberry eyes;
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Blueberry Night;” imagine
Vermeer’s “Girl with a Blueberry Earring” and
Gainsborough’s “Blueberry Boy.” Imagine
blueberries, one at a time, between stained fingers—
sugary, tart—large or small (not all created equal).
Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm:
silvery patina, bluer than blue sky, bluer than blue.
First the pop and then pulp between your teeth.
Listen to the birds (sparrows, chickadees)—blue
fruit sweet in their beaks. Oh, briarless bush! Bluest
fruit. No core, no seeds. Nothing ever to pit or peel.
Definitely not the forbidden fruit, no Eve down on
her knees—never the cost of paradise. Blueberry
muffins, pancakes, wine! Highbush and low—blue
on the crest of Blueberry Hill—and years ago, my
mother mixing the dough for blueberry pies, the
rolling pin round in her hands (our dog asleep
on the kitchen stair), my father at the table, and
me on his lap, close in the curve of his arm.
Adele: The poem took form during an early morning Chelsea soccer match on TV. Chelsea is my favorite team, and blue is the Chelsea color. During halftime, I got up to make myself a bowl of oatmeal into which I sprinkled some blueberries. As I sat eating with my Yorkie (Chaucer, aka “Chaucey”) beside me, a commercial that included something about Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” interrupted the halftime commentary. It was at that point that I began to imagine the images in the first four lines of the poem. I jotted down the ideas, the match came back on, and I didn’t return to the poem until a week or two after.
The recipe evolved much later when I needed something sweet for a dinner party I was hosting. Because I love blueberries so much, there are usually some in the refrigerator, especially when I find them on sale. They must have been on sale that week because there were four pints just waiting to be included in dessert for the dinner party. Hence, bluemisu!
3 pints fresh blueberries (in winter, frozen blueberries may be substituted for fresh)
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
juice of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of any Raspberry Liquor, Chambord, Crème de Cassis, or Crème de Framboise
Combine blueberries, unrefined sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and set aside to cool.
Dip each ladyfinger in whichever liquor you decide to use; be sure to soak both sides of each ladyfinger (about five seconds on each side). After dipping, place each ladyfinger on a board to rest while the liquor is infused.
While the ladyfingers rest, combine the heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and beat to a creamy consistency at a low speed for about two minutes. (If mascarpone cheese is unavailable, you can create a substitute by mixing 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons of sour cream.)
Using a large glass compote, make a ring of ladyfingers around the sides and across the bottom of the compote (trim ladyfingers if necessary). Then spoon a layer of mascarpone cream from step 3 onto the ladyfingers. Next add a layer of the blueberry mixture from step 1, and top that with a layer of ladyfingers. Repeat the layering until the compote is filled and your last layer is mascarpone cream. (Alternatively, you might use a rectangular glass baking dish, or individual dishes.) Chill for about 4 hours. (This dessert keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can prepare it in advance and let it chill overnight.)
Just before serving, garnish with fresh blueberries. Other berries can be added to the garnish if you wish (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries). For chocolate lovers, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate shavings on the top layer of mascarpone cream.
Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals here and abroad, as well as in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. Her poetry collection, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011), received the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry. A former creative writing professor in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, Adele is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and has been poetry editor of Tiferet since 2006. Adele is active in readings and conducts both agency-sponsored and private poetry workshops. Her most recent book is A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015). Visit her Official Website and The Music in It Poetry Blog, where she features guest bloggers or prompts every Saturday.
Enjoy a sample poem from A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:
Lovely Tricia Stohr-Hunt is hosting the Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Take her some blueberries and check out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Have a happy blueberryish weekend!
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons and come join the fun!
Copyright 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.
Please help yourself to a mug of coffee, tea or milk and a blueberry crumb bar — just the thing for hopping from blog to blog and reading some good poems. 🙂
To set you on your way, thought I’d share a poem from Mary Szybist’sIncarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. I like the intersection between the temporal and the spiritual, the dissolution of will and ego while singing praise for the divine glory of the world. And, too, in this day and age of blatant self aggrandizement, it is humbling to contemplate Mother Nature’s largesse as well as her indifference to our inconsequential and fleeting existences, our infinitesimal obsessions.
HERE, THERE ARE BLUEBERRIES by Mary Szybist
When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.
Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?
Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets
to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.
what taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds
swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.
You must live for something, they say. People don’t live just to keep on living.
But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.
This poem appears near the end of the book, a sort of benediction. The entire collection is luminous and deeply thought provoking, with inventive explorations of the divine in everyday life. The National Book Award judges citation reads in part: “This is a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.” Definitely worth a look — Szybist is a poet’s poet.
Now, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. The links page will stay up indefinitely and can be accessed at any time for your reading convenience.
* * *
Thanks for joining us today. If you’d like the Blueberry Crumb Bars recipe, click over to Smitten Kitchen. Cool thoroughly before slicing and enjoy with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend!
(Here there are blueberries, here there are poems.)
It begins when you’re little and you read a picture book about bears and blueberries. You have no idea where Maine is and have never seen real blueberry bushes in person, but this story of mothers and cubs stays with you always.
As you grow up, you develop an eternal craving for lobster and blueberry pie. You eventually hook up with L.L. Bean, fly through Bangor airport on the way to Europe, and after you get married you hear interesting stories about “Maine people” from your in-laws in New Hampshire.
After starting a book and food blog, you notice there are lots of very cool author and artist types (in addition to Mr. McCloskey) associated with Maine: E.B. White, Barbara Cooney, Margaret Wise Brown, Gail Gibbons, Carrie Jones, Melissa Sweet, Cynthia Lord, Cathryn Falwell, Ashley Bryan, on and on.
Many friends who don’t actually live in Maine flock to the Southern Coast every summer and return refreshed and inspired with blueberry stains around their mouths and a decidedly dreamy look in their eyes.
So I asked myself — what is it about Maine that could spawn the likes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as well as Stephen King? Why are there more poets per capita in Maine than any other state? Is the lobster that good?
Moreover, how did I manage to reach near fossilization 29 years of age 🙂 without ever having set foot on Maine soil . . . or sand? And what’s this I keep hearing about Portland being a foodie paradise?
Funny, I hadn’t planned on slump — but this sometimes happens when your husband’s no slouch.
The other day, I jotted down a grocery list for Len. Nothing out of the ordinary:
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
I usually don’t specify an amount for the blueberries cause it’s always the same — a pint basket for my morning cereal.
Sure, my penmanship is nothing to brag about.
I got oodles and oodles of blueberries. A big bag, nay, an avalanche of blueberries. He couldn’t understand why I’d want “6” blueberries. So he bought 6 quarts.
Maybe he thought I was planning to bake 6 giant pies for 6 starving yeti?!
He showed me the list. I’d written “blueberries,” plain as day. So what if the “b” was slightly separated from the rest of the word? I’m one of those people who writes in “print-script.” I never connect all my letters in strict cursive form. He knows this. Yet he still thought my “b” was a “6.”
Me:6 lueberries? 6 lueberries?!
Oy. (Might I add that the stem on my “b” was straight up, not curved to the right?)
He was looking more yeti-like with each passing second.
Only one thing to do: make blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins and blueberry bread and blueberry slump.
No, I’m not complaining. After all, he did fill the order. When it comes to grocery shopping, Len’s no slouch. Good thing it wasn’t watermelons. 😀
* * *
NEW ENGLAND BLUEBERRY SLUMP (makes b 6 servings)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sifted flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream, as desired
1. Combine blueberry mixture ingredients in 1-1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir well.
2. While berries are heating, prepare crust. Sift together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add milk and stir only enough to moisten dry ingredients. Drop by small spoonfuls onto blueberry mixture, covering fruit completely. Drizzle butter over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
3. Return to hot oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until topping is cooked and browned. Serve warm with half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream.
4. After you’ve had your fill, hug your resident yeti and practice your penmanship.
(Adapted from The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan McBride Carlton, Weathervane Books, 1975.)
* * *
Time to sign off for my annual summer blog break. I plan to read, write, dawdle, eat, rest, tidy up, think, walk, organize, explore, landscape, play the piano, and (gasp!) migrate all my data from my ancient PC desktop to a new iMac (any tips?).
Have a bang-up 4th of July — partying, parading, and picnicking!!