Archives for posts with tag: food

benjamas suwanmanee licensed
The Fallback Plan
by Jay Passer

my niece moved to Santa Cruz
to attend the University there.

for her birthday I gave her a nice
chef’s knife, cutting board, and
a clean bar towel.

she was delighted, but perplexed
by the bar towel.

what’s this for?

2 functions, I said. wet it a little
as an anchor for the cutting board,
so it doesn’t slip around while
you’re using the knife.

she pursed her lips and nodded.
and the other?

to practice flipping pizza pie,
of course.
just pretend the towel is the dough.

I showed her how.
she was tickled, but flummoxed.

why would I ever need to know
how to do that?

her major is astrophysics.

you never know, I said,
keeping that Cheshire smile to myself.

Photo by Benjamas Suwanmanee, used by permission.

towel toss

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was a pizza cook for several years, and in the beginning cheated a bit by using a damp bar towel to simulate a pizza dough in order to practice twirling. If the dough is proofed properly, it’s not absolutely necessary to twirl (although the centrifugal force does quicken the expansion process), but if you’re working in an exhibition kitchen it’s definitely worth it because the kids love it.

PHOTO: Still from youtube video Pizza Toss 101 with Carl Penrow. Watch the video here.


Jay Passer’s poetry and prose have appeared online and in print, in anthologies, chapbooks, and a few full length volumes, since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.

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The Masks
by Jay Passer

at the Golden Veggie Market
she checks out the groceries
just apples lemons and whitefish today

I’ve never seen her face
since the store changed hands
during the early days of the pandemic

the new owners have yet to price half the stock
but she knows exactly how much everything is
guacamole salsa, Greek yogurt, ginger root

I can make out her smile under the mask
and her bright eyes as she rings me up
spry almond-eyed crystalline woman!

and that’s it for the day
as my glasses fog up from the mask
hitting Polk Street at California

headed back to quarantine
the cable cars haven’t been running either
I think I’ll steam the fish with basmati rice

PHOTO: Woman modeling reusable face mask available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The lady from this poem was way too shy to agree to a photo op — in fact, I have a feeling she had little idea what I was talking about, so I left that alone, because I shop there primarily, and don’t want things to be weird.

Passer copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jay Passer’s work has been published in print and online in dozens of periodicals spanning the globe since 1988. His most recent collections, Unendurable Illumination, from Cyberwit Press, and Prelude to the Culling, from Alien Buddha Press, both appeared in 2020. He is the author of 12 chapbooks and has been included in several anthologies. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, California, the city of his birth.


At The Farmer’s Market
by Tom Lagasse

Before the sun rises, they answer their call
to duty, like soldiers and monastics, while most
of their customers remain comfortably ensconced
in the cocoon of dream. Intertwined in a lovers’

relationship, the farmers reap the fruits of the earth,
of their labor they have husbanded from seed. They
tuck their produce into beds of pickup trucks and trailers.
One by one they arrive at the green or an empty church

Parking lot to create a market, ancient as society, where
they assemble their canvas tent village and folding tables.
With a retailer’s eye, they display week’s cornucopia: ears
of corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions . . . The aroma

Of humus and exhaustion permeates the air. With their cracked,
calloused hands and fingernails semi-clean,,they wear
their Saturday best. Here the community is fed, and the cost
of exchanging love for money is rooted in hunger.

PHOTO: Staff from Tonn’s Orchard, Burlington, Connecticut.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this with a specific farmer in mind, but it speaks to farmers in general. Without farmers feed ing us, we cannot have a society and all the trappings.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Lagasse’s poetry has appeared in Freshwater Literary Review, Word Mill Magazine, The Monterey Poetry Review, Wine Drunk Sidewalk,, Wax Poetry & Art, and Plum Tree Tavern, along with a half dozen anthologies. He lives in Bristol, Connecticut.

licensed maria kmecova

by Stephanie Campitelli

He was my student
I see him storing, moving, stocking, sliding
The items we live by
The mundane, mandatory things
Cereal, milk, cheese, crackers
They roll by his scanning hands
The anger I saw in school
Now transformed into energy
You can see the smile behind the mask
When they complain
“Limit 2 items? Seriously?”
He apologizes, the cheer remains
He continues scanning
Thanks them for coming
I thank him for being there
I am now his student

PHOTO: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, April 2, 2020, supermarket cashier in face mask and gloves. Photo by Maria Kmecova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about a grocery-store experience I have weekly with a former student of mine, now graduated. He is an inspiration to me in his daily positive attitude, and is a working hero, like so many others. This is for him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Campitelli is an educational consultant, teacher, cellist, and wife, and mother of two.  She has published poetry and her first novel, Connections (2001), with IUniverse Press. She continues to write fiction and nonfiction manuscripts which genre-bend, and continues to have a soft spot for the “poetry in a drawer” that she has created since childhood. Find her on Facebook or at her website at


Hot Fudge Sauce
by Susan W. Goldstein

One of my least favorite, between college semester jobs, was in an ice cream shop . . . excuse me: Shoppe. The owner was a dirty old man who would pinch my butt whenever I was leaning in to scoop from the drums of hard-as-rock ice cream. I was too shocked to say anything, but I am certain that he lost money that summer, as I ate most of the profits when he wasn’t looking. (I mean, have you tried rum raisin with hot fudge sauce?)

One incident evolved into a long-standing family joke. A customer was trying to be helpful, as she pointed out that I had a big drip of hot fudge sauce on my collar bone. I looked down and didn’t see anything, so she pointed. And I began to laugh! It was a beauty mark that would forever be called my “hot fudge sauce.”

I did not return to this store the following summer. Instead, I sought employment at the Weed Pizza Parlor, its unofficial name. At night, after closing, the manager would make pizza that was covered, not in oregano, but in non-medicinal marijuana. I was still a naïf, and would run home to my parents and report what those wild and wicked kids were doing. My folks just advised me to keep working during the day, because summer was almost over and I guess that my mom didn’t want my whiney little self hanging around.

IMAGE: “Hot Fudge Sundae” by Sandy Tracey. Prints available at

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t know why I took these crummy minimum wage jobs, instead of applying for internships or something useful. Perhaps I knew back then that I would one day need to draw from each of these experiences to fuel my writing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan W. Goldstein is Livin’ la Vida Loca in Delray Beach, Florida — if you define such as a sensible bedtime and early rising to begin typing away on her little laptop. She has been proudly published in Mothers Always Write, Silver Birch Press, Mamalode, Medium, and JustBe Parenting, Lunch Box (Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2017 ), and is a winner of Hyland’s “A Mother Knows” campaign. Coming up later this month:  Sammiches & Psych Meds.  Follow her blog, at

cassia beck
The Job I Hated, But Needed
by Amanda Eifert

My first job was a leap, caused a limp,
Applied at the DQ, the manager was likable.
Trainees had three-hour shifts,
And no one explained how the take-out and eat-in system worked;
The manager yelled at me on my second shift.
I didn’t understand if he needed workers,
Why I had one shift each week of only three hours;
Never long or often enough to catch on.
I practiced endless ice cream cones and Sundaes.
I made delicious blizzards, brownie desserts, and treats.
When the milk shake machine exploded on me,
I held my breath and cleaned up the mess,
I was screamed at and no other worker defended me.
I felt isolated and tried to be friendly,
Then, I was told I needed to get along with the staff better.
I received stilted conversations, older girls who were mean to me.
Somehow I understood why:
They were stuck at the DQ in their twenties,
I was just fifteen with life before me.
Most shifts I spent washing dishes,
With the only “angel” in the kitchen;
A woman who decorated cakes,
Told me it wasn’t right I was only working three-hour shifts.
She said I was too pretty to be working there;
So when September came I quit.
Three months and barely $400.00.
I was thankful for the blessing of an odd tip,
After the manager yelled at me in front of a crowd,
Cute boys who slid an extra toonie my way with a smile.

IMAGE: “Ice Cream” by Cassia Black. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I hated working at the DQ in the summer of grade 10, but it was the only job I could get at the time. It was as you can read above, a humiliating experience. A great deal of it had to do with never being given enough shifts so that I could learn my job properly beyond making ice cream treats. I was barely given one three-hour shift a week and often sent home and not paid for the hours I did not work. This example of an awful manager affected my outlook on work profoundly. It taught me how to never humiliate or embarrass people who work under you or who you are training. In later jobs, I learned to be gentle with people when trying to help them correct mistakes or errors. I hated that job at DQ so much I refused to eat or buy anything at that location until the DQ was under new management.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Eifert  is a writer, freelancer, and blogger in Alberta, Canada. She has poetry and short fiction published online for,, and on on Instagram. She has an English BA and is working towards an MFA program in Creative Writing. You can visit her blog at and @mandibelle16 on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.


Blue Hair and Game Hens
by Karen Sawyer

I was 17 and working as a banquet waitress at a formal event of mostly elderly people. The first course went smoothly, but no one warned me about the slippery main course, Cornish game hens and sautéed vegetables. As I leaned over to serve the plate in my right hand, the hen on the plate in my left hand slipped right off the plate and down the back of a lady whose hair and gown were both a pale shade of blue. We were both shocked and horrified. Not knowing what to do next, I ripped the napkin off her lap and started wiping the greasy mess off her back, then I grabbed the Cornish game hen and ran for the kitchen. My supervisor rushed out and somehow handled the whole situation with grace and charm.

When it was time to serve dessert, my hands had almost stopped shaking and I no longer felt nauseated, so my supervisor sent me back to the scene of the crime. I should have reconsidered when I saw the tall, ice cream-filled parfait glasses sitting on tiny saucers.

Sheepishly, I approached the table of my earlier humiliation. As I set down one saucer, I looked to see an empty saucer in my other hand. I went numb when I realized that the parfait glass was now resting upside down in a woman’s open purse on the floor. She was sitting across the table from my first victim who yelled, “Why is she still here?” I melted into the woodwork and, well, frankly, I don’t remember what happened next but I did get to keep my job.

My boss told me I would look back and laugh. She was right.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at age 17. I don’t have a picture of me at this job but this is the age I was when the incident happened.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What can you say about an incident like this one? As a 17-year-old girl, I thought my life was over.  My parents happened to be dining in the restaurant next door and stopped in after the banquet to say hi. When I saw my dad walk in the door, I completely fell apart.  He didn’t say a word, he just hugged me.  I’m sure he was chuckling under his breath as I sobbed my way through the whole story, but being a good dad, he didn’t say anything except that everything would be okay. I can now see the humor in it and it has made for some good laughs when I’ve shared it with others. It was a character-building night that I will never forget.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Sawyer’s work has appeared in Precious, Precocious Moments, Wounded Women of the Bible, The Secret Place Devotional, guest posts in Mother Inferior blog and Unsent Letters blog, Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend magazine, and MONTROSE ANYTIME magazine. She has contributed numerous articles to ehow, and Demand Media’s other web-based sites. She taught elementary school for seven years before her children were born. Karen lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband of 29 years. They are the parents of two adult children.

Vending machine
Fluffed, Not Crushed
by J.L. Smith

Cheetos bags should fluff like pillows,
not crush,
my boss said,
plucking the orange bag—
flat in the middle,
like a tire tread ran through it—
from the vending machine.

like a pillow at a two-star hotel,
a training demonstration
on how to refill Lay’s potato chips,
make them look appealing to factory workers,
who were sleep drunk,
tired from making plastic Pantene shampoo bottles,
who cared less about fluffed bags,
more about whether the contents
were stale or not.

My eighteen-year-old hands filled Squirt cans,
fountain Coke syrup,
prepackaged turkey sandwiches—
with just the mayo packet—
into vending machines each weekend,
as the middle-aged janitor
took a half hour to sweep the break room,
while we discussed Jason Goes to Hell
and his seventeen-year-old girlfriend.

His eyes targeted my back
when I pulled out expired ham sandwiches,
placed them in milk crates for disposal,
after his hands took what he wanted,
before the burly foreman
shooed him away for his break—
fifteen minutes before everyone else’s—
to ask me about my life plans,
before telling me to get an education
so my back won’t become twisted
from bending over lines,
loading bottles on a conveyor belt,
showing people how to pack boxes.

he threw his Coke can into the trash,
his eyes on me,
wishing me a good day,
before his eyes lifted to the clock and
the workers outside,
who were also looking at the clock,
waiting for salvation,
and maybe,
a bag of Cheetos.

I twisted the key on the soda machine,
walked past the workers,
who knew me,
asked refunds of me,
complained of no sourdough pretzels to me.

I was their dinner bell.
I fluffed their pillows
in the vending machines I filled,
if only for their ten-minute break.

IMAGE: Vending machine featuring Cheetos, Lay’s potato chips,  and sourdough pretzels.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved this prompt, as it made me think of a simpler time, when I could not wait for my life to begin. Not to mention, how much I remember those fluffy bags of Cheetos!


J.L. Smith
works have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in Avatar Review, Cirque, Calamus Journal, Alaska Women Speak, and others. You can follow her blog at and via Twitter @jennifersmithak.

JackintheBox63 (1)
College Sophomore at Jack in the Box
by Tamara Madison

They start me at the drink station, lunch shift.
Orders flood the kitchen. Soon I am using both hands
to pop lids onto soda cups, unaware that there is
a right way to do it. Diet Coke pours all over me,
7-Up slurries the floor. It takes a few orders to figure out
how the shake machine works. At the end of the shift,
there is shake mix in my hair, soda and coffee
all over the floor. The manager asks to see me.

“Some people are cut out for this sort of work,
and some people aren’t,” he muses. “Are you telling me
not to come back tomorrow?” “Oh, no, no! Come back
of course!” And I do. By the start of the second shift,
I have learned how to spread my palm over the lid
as I pop it on the cup. I learn how to read
the order display. I discover that onion rings
are better than I thought, that shake mix
and coffee can brighten my day, and that hamburgers
even at Jack in the Box, are made from meat.

By the end of the week, the other employees
have shed their wariness and are almost friendly.
After work each day, I drive to Pacific Beach;
whether the afternoon is sunny or chilled with fog,
I bathe in the cool waves until all the grease
and the sticky soda fizz wash into the green Pacific.

PHOTO: The first Jack in the Box restaurant (San Diego, 1960s).  Established in 1951, the chain was the first to use an intercom system for drive through orders.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison grew up on a citrus farm in California’s Coachella Valley.  Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Pearl, Chiron Review, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers and two full-length poetry collection Wild Domestic  and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. She has just retired from 29 years of teaching English and French in Los Angeles and she is over-the-moon thrilled!

I Was a Carvel Soft Serve Queen
by Kathleen A. Lawrence

My first big jump from babysitting money to minimum wage,
and I was thrilled. I was out of the house on a school night
and I was employed by my favorite spot for treats, a mystery
palace of Fudgie the Whale Cakes, Cookie Puss, sugar cones,
peach topping, and space-themed ice cream flying saucers.

It would be the first time I got a real printed paycheck;
I remember buying a pucker shirt the color of lemon-lime
to show off my sweet-sixteen curves and I had money
left over from my twenty-six dollars and thirty-seven cents.

Since childhood I had felt there was a real artist hidden deep
within me. Swirling soft vanilla and chocolate twists suspended
atop a crisp, tasty but somehow tasteless, wafer cone became
my medium. Somehow, as though I had studied the craft
for years my wrist would know how just to turn and curve
and pull the lever creating the perfect design topped
with a meringue tip like a wave caught mid-crash.

My manager saw the potential in me right away and soon
I was working most nights with a line out the door and spilling
into the parking lot, especially when the heat would start
melting their resistance to ice cream. Customers would
light like butterflies fluttering: baseball teams, lovers, friends,
families, teens with their parents’ station wagon, any colorful
social group busy and flapping waiting for their sweet nectar.

I loved the lines, the pressure, because it only made my magic
spin faster into sundaes crowned with rich dark fudge and
a cheerful maraschino cherry. Tall scoops of favorite flavors
with sprinkles and jimmies and chips and fruit and salty nuts
were the orders I built. The freezer contained my palette
of lovely pastels like strawberry, sherbet, and the cool vibrants
like black raspberry, mint chip, banana, and the decadent tones
of almond to coffee to eggnog to chocolate to ripple to decadence.

By the end of my long, sticky, marshmallowy summer
I was proud of the ice cream guns I had developed, the money
I had saved, and the impressionistic dairy dreams, whipped cream
wishes, and modern silky works of edible art I had created.

PHOTO: Carvel ice cream shop in Irondequoit, New York, late 1970s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about my first job outside of house chores and lots of babysitting of siblings, which started early for me. I really enjoyed reminiscing about the seventies when I spent my halcyon days wearing peasant blouses, hoop earrings, Maybelline, Levis, and eating cherry bonnet vanilla ice cream cones. Because my first three serious jobs involved twisting, scooping, and piling high dairy treats, I imagine that I have more confection- and cone-inspired poetry in me still.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen A. Lawrence has had poems appear recently in Rattle online, Eye to the Telescope, Silver Blade Magazine, haikuniverse, New Verse News, Inigo Online Magazine, and The Epic Presidential Poem: The Trump Years (section 74), as well as in two anthologies memorializing Prince, Delirious and A Prince Tribute. A poem in Altered Reality Magazine was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. She was Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway in January 2017.