Archives for posts with tag: food

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Amends
by Jessica Gigot

It is hard to hold a homegrown
            head of broccoli in your hand
and not feel proud.
Seed to start,

seedling to robust stalk and floret,
I cradle this broccoli like my first born.

The infant I protected from damping-off,
            aphids, club root, and pesky flea beetles
                          dotting up all the leaves.

The green gleams and sparkles.
In that one hour on that one day

I made amends with the earth.

Other times, I buy the shipped-in stuff,
            California’s wellspring
Touched by a thousand hands
            and automated sanitation.

Sweat makes this one something special—
            the give and take of it all,
                          my muddied pride.

PHOTO: Broccoli garden. Photo by Marina Helena Muller on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after working in the garden last summer, feeling proud of what I had grown and also overwhelmed by how vast and harmful our food systems has become over the past several decades. Chef Alice Waters wrote, “Finding the beauty in food can change your life,” and I believe that appreciating the poetics of food and the work of growing food will lead us towards farms that are more ecological and in balance with the earth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Gigot is a poet, farmer, and wellness coach. She lives on a small sheep farm in the Skagit Valley. Her second book of poems, Feeding Hour (Wandering Aengus Press, 2020) won a Nautilus Award and was a finalist for the 2021 Washington State Book Award. Jessica’s writing and reviews appear in several publications, including Orion, Taproot, and Poetry Northwest, and she is currently a poetry editor for The Hopper. Her memoir, A Little Bit of Land, will be published by Oregon State University Press in 2022.

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We Are All Born Mad
by Attracta Fahy

I am waiting for the second coming,
it is promised.
I watch for signs, see one across the floor,
over the wine rack, in electric pink,
“We are all born mad”
I laugh.

I am waiting for the chef in Tartare to send my soup,
potato, leek, díllisk, the waitress to bring
my fried chicken sandwich, dressed with fennel,
slaw, and cheese. Today, a day for comfort,

waiting for news, it is imminent, wonder
what we will still know of this earth
after we die.

I am waiting for this pain in my back to inform me,
it’s so hard these days to stay up in the world.
I ask for an image, a dark wood, one strip of light,
my eyes fix on that sign again.

I am waiting to be in my car, alone, where I can be real,
no pressure to smile.
I am waiting for the swallows’ return
their home awaits in my eve shoots.

I am waiting for the strong to stop putting their boot
into the face of the weak, the weak to see their eyes
have a light of their own.

After all these years I am still waiting
to know my purpose, what if we have none
except to exist for the sake of it,
like bluebells spread their colour over the forest?

I am waiting for the promised prophet,
what if it’s a woman, or a child?
waiting at the top of the food chain.
We have gobbled everything,
What’s left but the earth to gobble us.

I am still waiting for a revolution, it is coming.

PUBLISHING NOTE: A variation of this poem was first published on Live Encounters ezine in June 2020.

PAINTING: Woman with a Newspaper by Richard Diebenkorn (1960).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was inspired to write this poem as I was having lunch in Tartare, my favorite café in my home city of Galway. It was one of those days when I felt very reflective and in need of a break from the collective tension being expressed worldwide. It felt apoplectic, as if the world had lost control, with a continuous stream of traumatic news on social media. Coffee shops are a wonderful escape from everything for a little while. There is a sign in Tartare that says, “We are all born mad,” and this resonated strongly with me that day. It was not one particular traumatic event; it was everything. So, focusing on surroundings while waiting for food grounded and allowed some comfort. The black humor somehow lifted the heaviness.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Attracta Fahy’s background is Nursing/Social Care. She lives in County Galway, Ireland, works as a Psychotherapist, and is mother to three children. She completed her MA in Writing NUIG ‘17. She was October winner in Irish Times, New Irish Writing 2019, and is a Pushcart and Best of Web nominee. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies, shortlisted for Over The Edge New Writer, and Allingham Poetry in 2019 and 2020. She has been published in Stinging Fly, Banshee, Silver Birch Press, Poetry Ireland Review, Honest Ulsterman, Poethead, Orbis, and several other journals. Fly on the Wall Poetry published her debut chapbook collection, Dinner in the Fields, in March 2020. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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In Line at the Buffet Wynn, Las Vegas, August 2018
by Rick Lupert

I’m waiting in line at the Wynn Buffet.
Brunch is on the distant horizon and
line politics are on full display.

A woman the aisle over isn’t aware
how her backpack intrudes on the
airspace of this one.

A man in front of me is perusing
criminal mugshots on his phone.
Occasionally he’ll hold one up to

his friend and say “how about this one?”
His friend shakes his head and says “no.”
Every time. Even U.S. Marshalls need to

eat buffet from time to time. Eventually
someone in their party mutters something
about the VIP line and suddenly

they’re gone, presumably with champagne
in their hands and all the food we have
miles yet to eat in their mouths.

It’s okay. They weren’t particularly good at
filling in the space in front of them.
They should have special lines for

People who are focusing on their phones
instead of moving forward. “Take all the
time you want lines” they’ll call them

I think, as I finish writing these words
with awkward amount of space between
me and the people in front of me

and feel the hungry stares of the
brunch-starved ones behind me.
An omelet on every plate

is a phrase i just made up and
feel pretty good about. i am lucky
to be here. Some people wait for years

for the money they need to
stand in this line – A longing from my past
I am still waiting to forget.

PAINTING: What’s for Dinner? by Merana Cadorette. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We took our son to a Souplantation restaurant for the first time a few years back. He marveled at what seemed like an infinite amount of food to his young eyes. With no disrespect meant to the pre-pandemic salad bar restaurants of our past, we thought immediately about the truly impressive (and truly expensive) buffets in Las Vegas that are like planets of food. As soon as we could we took him to one. This poem was written in the line waiting for our turn to eat everything we ever wanted.

PHOTO: The Lupert family, The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, August 2018. Photo credit: Rick Lupert.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway  and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks, was released in March 2016. He’s authored 25 collections of poetry, including The Toyko-Van Nuys Express (Ain’t Got No Press, August 2020), Hunka Hunka Howdy, Beautiful Mistakes, and God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild,  A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for Jewish Journal. He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Follow him on Facebook.

Author Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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Just Grapefruit
by Penny Harter

Carefully, I place half a grapefruit
into the small white bowl that fits
it perfectly, use the brown-handled
serrated knife to cut around the rim,
separate the sections.

The first bite is neither sweet nor bitter,
but I drag a drop or two of honey around
the top, love how it glazes each pink piece,
then seeps between dividing membranes.

Pale seeds pop up from their snug burial
in the center hole, and when I’m finished,
I squeeze sticky juice from the spent rind
and drink it down.

Each grapefruit is an offering, its bright
flesh startling my fasting tongue. When
bitterness spills from the morning news,
I temper it with grapefruit, savor hidden
gifts as I slice it open, free each glistening
segment, and enter honeyed grapefruit time.

Previously published on Facebook and Blog. Forthcoming in Still-Water Days, Kelsay Books / Aldrich Press, summer 2021.

Photo by Jill Wellington, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Just Grapefruit” is one of the many poems I began writing last March when the pandemic began, posting them the same or next day on both Facebook and my Blog. I continued this spiritual poem practice hoping to offer oases of calm and hope midst all the Covid (and political) chaos on television and social media. One of the ways to find peace is to pay attention, focus, on the moment. For me, this particular day’s moment was preparing and eating a grapefruit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penny Harter’s work has appeared in Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, American Life in Poetry, and many other print and online publications. Her more recent collections include Still-Water Days (2021, forthcoming from Kelsay Books), A Prayer the Body Makes (Kelsay Books, 2020), The Resonance Around Us (2013), One Bowl ( 2012), and Recycling Starlight (2010). A featured reader at the 1985 and 2010 Dodge Poetry Festivals, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the PSA, and two residencies from VCCA. For more information about Harter and her work, please visit pennyharterpoet.com.

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How to Make Jam
by Stephen Howarth

Pick your fruits and words with care. Weigh them
accurately, in good proportions. Choose your tools,
knowing the function and purpose of each:
the thermometer and boiling pan, the paper and pen.

Begin with the half-intended products of
your garden: cook with what you know,
use the fruits you’ve grown, try them together,
test and taste, discover how they combine to give you

senses of futurity and seasoned summer fulness.
Rinse your words, top and tail as needed,
place them in the boiling pan, add a modicum of water
and more sugar than you consume in a month,

because life’s shocking sharpness and tartness
may be softened in this new creation. Use every sense
to create this newness. Apple and rose-hip, gooseberry
and apricot and gin, strawberry, peach and mead:

You are a magician now, imagining and making,
melding and moulding. Do not overboil.

PAINTING: Jelly Shelf by Mary Pratt (1999), All Rights Reserved. 

Jams and jellies

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During Britain’s first lockdown, I had fun teaching myself how to make successful jams and jellies.Habitually I give some away, but am often given some in return. So I have at least a year’s supply for domestic needs, and mainly eat it during breakfast (although my stalwart preferences are marmalade — some given to me — and Marmite, a spread that you might not know). The jars are basically any old jars that have been thoroughly washed in HOT water and heated in the oven prior to potting up, so that the jam (just off the boil) doesn’t crack them. ¶ Oh, and in this case at least, size matters! I’ve been given some marmalade in such enormous jars that they’re really quite awkward — Imagine a Hellmann’s jar with a two-pound capacity . . . So I don’t do that, just ones around one-pound capacity maximum, with a number of smaller jars to use as gifts. Top tip: go easy on the ginger.

PHOTO: The author’s kitchen and an array of his jams and jellies. Left to right, rose-hip and apple jelly; raspberry and blueberry jam; gooseberry and mint; gooseberry, grape and apricot brandy; apricot, peach and mead; strawberry, peach and mead; courgette, lemon and ginger. Others made later include cotton candy grapes and mead, and rhubarb, apple, ginger and sloe gin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Howarth has been an independent professional author of history all his working life. He served in the Royal Naval Reserves both on the lower deck and as an officer and wrote the official centenary history of the RNR — for which he was appointed an honorary Commander by HM the Queen. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Life Member of the US Naval Institute and The 1805 Club. He earned a Master’s degree (with Distinction) in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University.

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How to Savour a Favourite Memory
by Graham Wood

Mandarins bring my grandmother back every time,
standing with her by the old house in winter sunlight
sharing the first fruit I can remember. Four years old,
I’d wrestled it moments before from the huge tree
in the chook yard as she held me up towards it,
one of many plump tangerine disks
bobbing overhead against a sea of green.

She rolled the peel off deftly with her fingers, turning it on the point
of one thumb into large orange scoops of rind, stripping each pod
free of its pulpy strings. Then it was there! A burst of sweetness
on my tongue, elemental, never before anything like this.

Half a century dead my grandmother now,
inhabiting the long sweet breath of memory.
In spite of the decades that have vanished,
every time I peel and savour this favoured fruit
my grandmother is with me, talking softly
and sharing the same mandarin.

© Graham Wood.

ART: Citrus, Wren (Woodblock print, 1890) by Imao Keinen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem that attempts to capture the essence of a recurring, happy memory of my grandmother, who introduced me to the fruit mandarins (full name “mandarin orange”) when I was a young child. While at least one alternative spelling (“mandarine”) is possible, I’ve always spelt the word without the final “e” but pronounced it “man-da-reen,” as many Australians do.  Undoubtedly, my pronunciation came that day from my grandmother too. A “chook” in Australian colloquial lingo is a domestic chicken or fowl, hence “chook yard.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graham Wood lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and has worked in a variety of occupations. These include secondary school teacher, film classifier, and public servant, the latter mainly in the field of higher education policy and planning. His poems have been published in a range of Australian and international journals and anthologies. He is a member of the North Shore Poetry Project in Sydney.

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Learning How to Make Meyer Lemon Muffins
by Catherine Gonick

“Have some sunshine!” read the note inside
the box. There was none outside, in icy New York,
but before me were twenty small suns, Meyer lemons
that my friend had picked herself, in her Santa Rosa yard.
Like everyone who’s lived in California, I knew
that Meyers were the best. A cross between
a lemon and a tangerine, colored deep yellow
inside and out, exuding a spicy scent,
they were sweet enough to eat out of hand.
I ate one. The snow on my balcony whispered,
muffins are next. Was this even possible? I rarely baked,
had never even attempted bread, but now
could think of nothing else. I found two muffin tins
bought decades ago, and they shouted, Meyer lemon
muffins or bust. The recipe asked me to blend
a whole lemon till finely ground. Boil it first,
advised my friend. Then when it’s soft, let it cool,
cut it in pieces, remove the seeds. In the blender
I use for smoothies, the limp pieces of lemon lay
in the bottom, well beneath the reach of the blade.
I learned to pulse. Next came the juice of two lemons,
walnut pieces, an egg, and a half cup of butter,
which I figured was a stick. I only had a one-pound
block, so guessed at the amount. I’d had to go out
for the walnuts, a can of PAM cooking spray, flour
(mixed AP and whole wheat), baking powder, sugar
and baking soda, but had salt. I didn’t remember
that sifting could take so long and gave up. That was OK,
I learned later. Two friends said they never sift flour.
I stirred the wet into the dry, filled my tins and popped
them into a 400 oven. Checked after 15 minutes.
Inserted fork. Not yet. It took half an hour for my muffins to cook
and they didn’t rise. Or not much. But they tasted
like a tree in California, each fleck of rind a ray of sun
in my mouth. I gave one batch away, got raves.
The next time I try, I’m adding more baking powder.
A perfect lemon deserves a more perfect cook.

ART: Lemon, No. 96 (Woodblock print, 1967) by Funasaka Yoshisuke.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing this poem made me realize the extent to which I was learning how to make these muffins as I went along. And, how often I find myself in a similar situation, with most recipes, all things digital or mechanical, as well as relationships with animals and humans, and all attempts to write. I count myself lucky when instructions are provided, but most often they’re not, and otherwise are just the beginning of learning how to do something. They’re also difficult to write, as I learned when trying to write some for local hikes. My foray into muffin-making showed yet again how poorly I was equipped for a challenge, yet how willing to take it on. As a member of a technological species, but one who needs to acquire many more skills, I rely on curiosity, passion and appetite as my most helpful tools.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Gonick has published poetry in journals, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Halfway Down the Stairs, Notre Dame Review, Lightwood, Forge, Sukoon, and PoetsArtists, and in anthologies, including in plein air, Grabbed, and Dead of Winter. She contributes often to Kai Coggin’s Wednesday Night Poetry Series’ open mic and works in a company that seeks to slow the rate of global warming through climate-restoration projects. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Eat an Avocado
by Michael Minassian

Cover yourself in green—
nestle it in your hand,
squeeze until it yields
to gentle pressure;
slice in half,
then scoop out the pit
as if you were
removing a broken heart.

When you taste the flesh,
let it linger on your tongue,
flowering like a grove
of epiphanies—
earth, rain and sun,
hunger and thirst,
like the first touch of lips
in a voluptuous embrace.

IMAGE: Avocado (Persea) (1916) by Amada Almira Newton. Original from U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel, rawpixel.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Avocados have long been considered symbols of love and fertility. Used by Aztecs as an aphrodisiac, the fruit takes its name from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which means “testicle.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: When we lived in Florida we had a huge avocado tree in the backyard. I took the photo then (probably around 2014). The tree was fairly indestructible. When we bought that house there were seven papaya trees…all fell victim to hurricanes over a period of about 10 years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Minassian’s poems and short stories have appeared recently in such journals Live Encounters, Lotus Eater, and Chiron Review. He is also a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online poetry journal. His chapbooks include poetry: The Arboriculturist and photography: Around the Bend.  His poetry collections, Time is Not a River  and Morning Calm are available on Amazon. His poetry manuscript A Matter of Timing won the 2020 Poetry Society of Texas’ Manuscript Contest (publication: Summer 2021). Visit him at michaelminassian.com.

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How to Build a Lifeboat Out of Peanut Butter
by Kathryn Almy

First make a mold. Construct a mound at least twice the size of your body using whatever you have on hand: sand, driftwood, old clothes, a large boulder, or the bodies of your dead companions. Spread with peanut butter to an approximate depth of one-half inch and allow to dry in the sun for two weeks (three to four is better). Ideally you will have enough food, fresh water, and means to shelter yourself from the sun that you will survive until the peanut butter has cured. Pray it doesn’t rain. When the hull has dried, carefully lift it off the mold and fill in any cracks or holes with fresh peanut butter. Secure the hull to something buoyant such as a raft.

IMAGE: Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly) (After Warhol) by Vik Muniz (1999).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this for a prose poetry workshop taught by Kathleen McGookey. The assignment was to write a surreal poem, and I was intrigued by the notion of apparently useful instructions that are in reality entirely useless.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy lives in Michigan and works in a public library when not sheltering in place. Her poetry and essays have appeared in various print and on-line publications, including  Panoply, The Offbeat, Star 82 Review, New Verse News, The 3288 Review, and previously on Silver Birch Press.

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Making Eggplant Croquettes with the NYT Food Page
by Robbi Nester

To make this dish, you have to plan ahead.
One day, two eggplants occupied the shelf
in my refrigerator. I baked them, purple
as a nimbus cloud about to split. They fell in
on themselves, all steam and soft white flesh.
Then I left them overnight to cool, bitter
black juice seeping into the bowl. The next
day, I slipped off their blackened jackets,
chopped the yielding shreds, grated in
four cloves of garlic with a microplane,
mixed in some green-gold olive oil
and salt. I wasn’t finished yet!

After another day of waiting, I spread
a sheet of parchment paper in a pan,
poured in the eggplant mixture, wedged
it in the freezer. Next afternoon, I cut it
into greyish squares smelling of sweet
garlic. Finally, it was time to cook!
I arranged three bowls of beaten egg,
flour, and seasoned panko, dredged
the squares of frozen eggplant,
heated the cast iron pan till waves
of heat shimmered like a spirit
over the oil, lowered the croquettes
into their sizzling bath. They hissed
and spit like cornered cats, and crisped
immediately, the insides creamy
on my tongue. Sometimes, cooking
is like a séance, calling forth from plain
ingredients what’s been there all along.

PHOTO: Eggplant by Edward Weston, silver gelatin print (1929).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have always enjoyed reading and writing about food and cooking as well as watching professional chefs cook and talk about food. During the pandemic, I stopped going to restaurants. The highlight of my week has become going to the grocery store, mostly very early in the morning, when the markets are virtually empty, and I feel as though I am walking through my own personal pantry. ¶ Before, I was a careless cook. Though I have always loved culinary variety and innovation and sought to learn something from making new dishes, the pandemic has slowed everything down considerably, allowed me to spend more time on each step of the preparation. Now I have time to prepare dishes that I would never consider making in the before-world, like the eggplant croquettes I have written about in this poem, which I first discovered in the pages of the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

PHOTO: Smoky Eggplant Croquettes (New York Times, All Rights Reserved).

NOTE: The New York Times recipe site is subscription only. A list of ingredients for Smoky Eggplant Croquettes is available at copymethat.com. But the directions are only available at the New York Times subscription site, or in the above poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry, a chapbook, and three collections of poems, the most recent is Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited three anthologies, the most recent is The Plague Papers, published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal, available to read at Poemeleon.me. Find more of her work at robbinester.net.