[review + recipe] eat this poem by nicole gulotta

“Both the cook and the poet are makers. One holds a knife, the other a pen. One grinds fresh pepper over a mound of tender lettuce, while the other adds a period to the end of a sentence or a dash to the end of a line. With available ingredients — vegetables and herbs, rhymes and words — layers of flavor and meaning are infused in the pan and composed on the page.” ~ Nicole Gulotta (Eat This Poem, 2017)

Some of you may remember when Nicole Gulotta wrote a guest post for Alphabet Soup several years ago featuring an Apple Crumb Muffin recipe inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem “Apple Pockets.”

As a longtime fan of Nicole’s literary food blog, Eat This Poem, I was happy to see her first book come out earlier this year. This summer I finally had a nice chunk of time to give it a careful reading, savoring each word, each poem, each recipe.

Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017) features 75+ new recipes paired with poems by 25 of America’s most beloved poets (Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry). Just as she does at her blog, Nicole includes thoughtful commentary on each poem, followed by personal stories about the recipes.

All are presented thematically in five sections: On What Lingers, On Moments in Time, On Growth, On Gathering, and On Splendor. Recipe categories include Breakfasts, Salads, Soups, Snacks and Small Bites, Meat and Seafood, Vegetables/Vegetarian, Desserts and Drinks.

Enjoy Diane Lockward’s “Blueberry,” then read about Nicole’s Christmas morning family tradition of opening stockings by the fireplace while eating muffins (she then tempts us with a recipe for Blueberry Bran Muffins).

Contemplate Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (one of the first food poems I ever shared at Alphabet Soup back in 2007), and then read about how Nicole’s great-grandmother used to slather a chicken in fresh oregano before roasting it for family dinners. Nicole’s recipe for Oregano Roast Chicken had me drooling (imagine the aroma of olive oil and savory spices wafting through your kitchen on a Sunday afternoon).

Do you know Sharon Olds’s bittersweet poem “First Thanksgiving” — about a mother anticipating her daughter’s return home after her first few months away at college? Nicole offers a recipe for Wild Rice with Chestnuts and Leeks, inspired by a semester abroad in London. In December, she took walks around the city the last week she was there to take it all in before returning home. She chanced upon a stall selling hot roasted chestnuts and tasted them for the first time, a wonderful moment that became an indelible memory.

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to picnic or not to picnic?

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?” ~ Marie Dressler

“Tuscan Picnic” by Janet Kruskamp”

What a nice day for a picnic! Let’s pack our hampers full of delectable goodies to eat and drink, drive out to the beautiful, unspoiled countryside, and have a grand time.

Or maybe not.

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“Picnic at the Eiffel Tower” by Carole Foret

 

SO MANY THINGS CAN RUIN A PICNIC
by Faith Shearin

So many things can ruin a picnic—
mosquitoes, for instance, arriving
in a gray hum or black flies or a wind
strong enough to blow napkins
over the lawn like white butterflies,
steaks stolen by dogs, unruly fire,
thunderstorms that come on suddenly,
clouds converging over a field,
where you have just unpacked
your basket. It’s amazing, really,
that people have picnics at all
considering how many plates
have fallen in the dirt and how many
hot dogs have erupted in black blisters,
how many children have climbed hills
alive with poison ivy and how much ice
has melted before the drinks
were ever poured. It’s amazing
how many people still want to eat
on a blanket anyway, are still willing
to take their chances, to endure
whatever may fall or bite. Either they
don’t consider the odds of success
or they don’t care. Some of them
must not mind the stains on their pants,
the heavy watermelon that isn’t sweet
once it’s carved. Some must understand
the way lightning is likely to strike
an open field. Even so—they wrap up
a few pieces of fried chicken, fold
a tablecloth until it is as small as hope.
They carry an umbrella or a jacket
that they accidentally drop on the ground
where it fills with bees. They leave
the houses they built to keep them safe
and eat uncovered, ignoring the thunder,
their egg salad growing dangerously hot.

~ from Telling the Bees (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2015)

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“Holyday/The Picnic” by James Tissot (ca. 1876)

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munching on frank o’hara’s “lines for the fortune cookies”

“It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.” ~ Frank O’Hara

via Pop Sugar

It’s always fun, after a delicious Chinese meal of won ton soup, spring rolls, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, Peking duck, steamed sea bass, and beef chow fun, to take that last sip of jasmine tea and crack open your fortune cookie.

Oh, the anticipation as you hope for something positive: “You will meet a tall British actor whose last name rhymes with ‘girth,'” “You will write the next picture book bestseller,” or, “You will travel to a foreign land and have many exciting adventures.” 🙂

For those few seconds before I remove that little slip of paper, anything is possible. I hold my breath as I read, “I cannot help you. I am just a cookie,” or, “You will be hungry again in 30 minutes.” On a really good day, I’ll get “You have rice in your teeth.”

Nothing that helps the digestion more than a cheeky cookie.

I’ve always wondered about the people who write these fortunes. Seems like it would be a blast. You have the power to determine destiny . . . or, at the very least, make someone feel good. If you’re a poet, you can take fortune cookie fortunes to the next level. If you’re Frank O’Hara, you can create food for thought that is thoroughly charming and delightful.

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Wit on Rye: Paul Violi’s “Counterman”

photo by Baldomero Fernandez (Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen)<?em>

So, where’s the beef?

It all depends on who’s roasting it and how you order. Here’s to the many flavors of language, elevating the seemingly mundane into art, and having the appetite for a tasty serving of wit on rye.

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“Waiting at the Deli Counter” byJames Crandall

 

COUNTERMAN
by Paul Violi

What’ll it be?

Roast beef on rye, with tomato and mayo.

Whaddaya want on it?

A swipe of mayo.
Pepper but no salt.

You got it. Roast beef on rye.
You want lettuce on that?

No. Just tomato and mayo.

Tomato and mayo. You got it.
. . . Salt and pepper?

No salt, just a little pepper.

You got it. No salt.
You want tomato.

Yes. Tomato. No lettuce.

No lettuce. You got it.
. . . No salt, right?

Right. No salt.

You got it. Pickle?

No, no pickle. Just tomato and mayo.
And pepper.

Pepper.

Yes, a little pepper.

Right. A little pepper.
No pickle.

Right. No pickle.

You got it.
Next!

Roast beef on whole wheat, please,
With lettuce, mayonnaise and a center slice
Of beefsteak tomato.
The lettuce splayed, if you will,
In a Beaux Arts derivative of classical acanthus,
And the roast beef, thinly sliced, folded
In a multi-foil arrangement
That eschews Bragdonian pretensions
Or any idea of divine geometric projection
For that matter, but simply provides
A setting for the tomato
To form a medallion with a dab
Of mayonnaise as a fleuron.
And — as eclectic as this may sound —
If the mayonnaise can also be applied
Along the crust in a Vitruvian scroll
And as a festoon below the medallion,
That would be swell.

You mean like in the Cathedral St. Pierre in Geneva?

Yes, but the swag more like the one below the rosette
At the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

You got it.
Next!

~ from Overnight (Hanging Loose Press, 2007)

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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.

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