“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.” ~ Michael Levine
Please don’t wake me. I’m in the midst of a chocolate truffle dream. I’m surrounded by beautiful bonbons and it’s my job to taste them. One by one, I wrap my lips around the scrumptious hand-shaped orbs, savoring each note of exquisite flavor as they slowly melt on my tongue.
Deep Milk Pleasure with its creamy milk chocolate buttery center takes me back to the after school treats of my childhood. With the rich white chocolate of Coconut Rum Paradise I’ve washed up on the shores of Hawai’i, while the Original Dark, with its chocolate liquor and handsome dusting of Scharffen Berger cocoa, speaks of men in tuxedos waltzing in dimly lit ballrooms.
With an Irish last name, I’m entitled to an Irish Cream Dream. I breathe in the heady aroma of Bailey’s Irish Cream before gently sinking my teeth into the rich Valrhona chocolate shell, my taste buds tickled by those sprinkles of coffee-infused El Ceibo. It’s like meeting Aidan Turner at the corner pub. Pure ecstasy!
Since I am serious about my chocolate, I save the best for last: Uber Dark and Decadent. Dangerous and devilish, this one is capable of bringing even veteran tasters to their knees. This is how it is with 70% cacao and sassy cinnamon– one small taste and you’re hooked. Come over to the deepest darkest dark of the dark side.
Did you know that poetry is the most important meal of the day?
Spoon up a hearty bowl of metaphors, savor a sonnet, sip a warm couplet of coffee or tea.
Since man cannot live on bread alone, today we’re serving up a breakfast buffet of five poems over easy. Feel free to grab a quick nibble or graze at your leisure, whatever feeds the need over this holiday weekend. Nothing like a few choice words to tease thought, kindle fond memories, and get your motor running. Did somebody say bacon?
Step right up and eat all about it.
A LITANY OF TOAST by Cathy Lentes
Come sit at my Grandmother’s table . . .
let your elbows rest, cool and damp,
on the scrubbed red oilcloth.
Before you a bowl of butter,
fat yellow sticks
cut and jumbled like stones,
honey clinging to comb,
jam and jelly
sealed in paraffin tombs.
A clatter of spoons,
the dance of grease on an iron pan,
the tender crack and sizzle as
morning splits open again.
Her hands blessing the stove,
she murmurs, mindful of toast.
Now, on a plate, heavy and broad,
steaming eggs like sunshine,
thick planks of bacon,
bread, crisp and golden,
butter spread crust to crust. Eat, she says, eat.
This morning I’ll skip the bacon
and eggs and have a poem over light —
two or three if you don’t mind.
I feel my appetite coming on.
And even a stack of flapjacks
which I love — with butter
and boysenberry jam spreading
their fingers of sweetness over
the ragged edges — won’t do me now.
When this hunger’s on, only a poem
will do, one that will surprise my need
like a stranger knocking
at the door (a small knock — at first,
I hardly hear it) to ask directions,
it turns out, to this house. He’s looking
for me. Who are you I ask? Your brother
he says, the one you never knew you had
or the one who you’ve been trying to remember
all your life but somehow couldn’t recall
until now, when he arrives.
And there he is
before me smiling, holding out his arms
— and all this by chance. Do you
So serve me up a poem friend,
but just go easy on the tropes,
for instance, synecdoche and such. A simile
or two is fine and metaphor’s all right.
A rhyming quatrain, maybe on the side
would be ok, but not too much —
they sometimes give me gas.
God I love a breakfast such as this.
It gives me a running start and keeps me going
through to dark when I’m as hungry as a horse.
But that’s another poem. Let’s eat.
I savored every Saturday
when she rendered
up to the gods what was theirs
(a burnt offering:
crisp edged plank of glistening
smoked pork in its glory).
at five, I marveled at the marbled
slab of sizzle–
standing on a chair, my eyes watering,
as before me a transubstantiation occurred:
bacon became Bacon, my mouth gaped adrool–
and still that sizzle echoes
through time’s larders
and the years’ open windows,
her gingham curtains wafting
as fat is forever rendered
into memory and hickory-smoke
I love entering the worlds of these poems, hearing the voices. It’s like having interesting company at the breakfast table, isn’t it?
The eminently talented Julie Larios is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record. After you’ve had your second cup of coffee, scamper over and peruse the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Have a great holiday weekend!
Grab your shopping baskets and bags, let’s go to the Farmers’ Market!
InFresh Delicious (Wordsong, 2016), Irene Latham and Mique Moriuchi invite us to join a group of adorable animal friends as they celebrate the wonders of farm fresh fruits and veggies. This mostly free verse smorgasbord of 21 poems is chock full of mouthwatering sensory details, clever imagery and playful metaphors to whet the appetite and tease the imagination.
While nibbling on these whimsical poems, curious munchkins will meet basil (“a bouquet of minty green butterfly wings”), delight in how ears of corn listen to the sun, and consider that okra is really “a mountain of mouse-sized swords/stored in fuzzy sheaths.” Afterwards, they’ll likely be anxious to see, smell, touch and taste the produce in person, making up little scenarios so they can write their own poems.
Does crookneck squash really look like a question mark? How is zucchini like an exclamation point? Will wild honey really make our tongues “buzz with pleasure”? Can’t wait for summer, when it’ll be time to propel those seeds out of our mouths “like shooting stars.”
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.
Since I welcomed the new year with two Barbara Crooker poems, it’s only fitting that I share another of her gems for my final Poetry Friday post of 2015. I can’t think of a more life affirming way to bookend this tumultuous year.
“Making Strufoli” is included in Barbara’s most recent book, Selected Poems (Futurecycle Press, 2015), a striking collection of work first published in various chapbooks and periodicals. As Janet McCann points out in her insightful Foreword, Barbara writes about ordinary life through the lens of an extraordinary sensibility.
Though I have never made or eaten strufoli, I could certainly identify with the love-hate relationship we sometimes have with our parents and the mixed feelings which inevitably arise at year’s end, when everything comes to bear and so much is expected of us. Cooking can certainly be a form of meditation, a chance to feed our hungers for validation and understanding just as much as our need for physical sustenance.
(a traditional Italian sweet)
In the weeks before my father’s death, I make strufoli for him,
not knowing he will enter the hospital Christmas Eve,
not knowing he will never leave that high and narrow bed.
There are piles of presents yet to be wrapped red or green,
stacks of glossy cards to write, my work abandoned until the new year,
and I’m at the counter, kneading dough, heating olive oil until it spits.
A small blue flame of resentment burns. I’m in the last half
of my life. The poems I haven’t written are waiting
outside the snowy window. But I’m in the kitchen, rolling
dough into fat snakes, then thin pencils. With the sharpest
knife, I cut them into one inch bits—a slice for the prom dress
he refused to buy, the perfect one, in shell-pink satin;
a chop for the college education he didn’t save for—She’s just a girl, She’ll get married, Who does she think she is?— a stab
for the slap when I tried to learn Italian from his mother,
my grandmother, whose recipe this is. The small pieces hiss
in the bubbling grease. They change into balls of gold. I drain
them on layers of paper towels. I don’t know I will never make
them again, never mix in the roasted almonds, pour warm honey
over the whole pile, sprinkle Hundreds of Thousands, those tiny
colored candies, over the top. I only know the way my shoulders
ache, the weariness as I do the great juggle—family, house, and
work—trying to keep all the balls in the air. And when his stubborn
breathing finally stops, when his heart gives out at last,
I only remember love as something simple and sweet,
a kiss of honey on the tongue. I take this strufoli that no one
else will eat, and spread it on the snow for the starlings and the crows.
From the slicing and hissing of resentment to balls of gold, quite an emotional transformation!
I’m wondering why I never encountered strufoli before reading Barbara’s poem. My former neighbor told me about the “fried dough” she made every Christmas but I don’t recall her calling it ‘strufoli’, only that her family love loved it, and the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it. Are there any Italian grandmothers out there who’d like to adopt me?
So, strufoli (sometimes spelled with two “f”s), also known as Italian Honey Balls or “the croquembouche of southern Italy,” originated in Naples by way of the Greeks. Marble-size bits of dough are deep fried in oil, drenched in honey, then decorated with colorful hundreds-of-thousands/sprinkles/nonpareils. Candied fruit, nuts and lemon or orange rind are sometimes added. Strufoli are typically mounded into a pyramid or shaped into a wreath, making a beautiful, festive centerpiece for the holiday table. This sweet indulgence, also part of Easter celebrations, symbolizes abundance and good luck. Some think the honey keeps families “stuck” together.
Barbara was kind enough to dig up her grandmother’s recipe just for us and shared these words about her poem and making strufoli:
My memory of making them is somewhat dim, but I believe my grandmother taught my mother, and she taught me. As my parents aged, my mother wasn’t up for doing this any more (frying is quite a production, including clean-up), so I’d make it to have on hand when they came for their Christmas visit.
My dad was a difficult man, who grew up conflicted in an immigrant family, and who distanced himself from his culture. Around the time I was in college, he reconnected with family and heritage, so I’m grateful to have had those years of visits and those stories. He also grew up in a culture that didn’t value women; he couldn’t understand why being a wife and a mother wasn’t enough. And yet he was proud of my writing, and I think his love of gardening and love of food have been a great legacy, and an important part of my life. He’s been gone around twenty years; Mom’s been gone seven, and I miss them both, especially around the holidays.
ANNUNCIATA (EMMA) CUCCARO POTI’S STRUFOLI RECIPE
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon confectionary sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup margarine
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 cups olive oil (regular, not EVOO)
1 cup honey (hers calls for 1-1/2 cups, but I found that to be too much)
1/3 cup multi-colored candies (if you can find them)
On a floured pastry board, heap the flour in a mound and make a well in the center, into which put the salt, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, oleo, and lemon peel. Mix, then knead by hand.
Lightly roll 1/4” thick, then cut into strips 1/4” wide. Roll with the palm of your hand to form shapes the size of a pencil (think Play-Doh “snakes”). Cut into 1/4” pieces.
Fry in hot oil 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Drain and dry on paper towels. Heat honey on low for 15 minutes. Pour into a large bowl, add fried pastry bits, whole almonds, toss, and let soak for five minutes (this part is mine). Scrape into a mound, and decorate with candy sprinkles. Have lots of Wet Wipes handy if giving to small children!
Check out this struffoli-making video from the Academia Barilla to see kneading, rolling, cutting and frying techniques:
* * *
The clever and delightful Diane Mayr is hosting the Roundup at Random Noodling. Click through to check out out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Only 6 more days till Christmas!!
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 Santa caps and holiday aprons, and come join the fun!