Archives for posts with tag: food

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Hostess Without the Mostest
by Shelly Blankman

I should have known the job was not meant for me.
A restaurant hostess, I was short, dumpy, clumsy,

plain, that slippery stage at age sixteen, when a girl
tries to act older than she feels and only the mirror

reflects the truth behind the makeup; the head hostess,
an Aphrodite, long blond hair, mine kinky, unruly,

more like Medusa’s minus the snakes, that would draw
stares cold as stone. She was not much older than I,

smooth curves, porcelain skin, her voice lovely, lilting,
mine crackled by nerves, welcoming customers ogling her.

Hungry people can be so mean. Aphrodite’s job, to tell me
where to seat the starved; my job, to lead them in their suits,

pearls, and clicking heels through a labyrinth of tables,
white-knuckling menus in my hands while trying to complete

this Herculean task with all the strength of a wingless bird
before Aphrodite rescued me, showing that, yes, beauty and

brains can come in one package of perfection. Finally, success.
A table of eight for a party of four. Why hadn’t I remembered that?

And an inviting pitcher of beer for a party who had no doubt worked up
a thirst. In my triumphant moment, I also forgot — Never separate tables

with a pitcher of beer in the middle. The shatter of glass echoed as if from
from a mountaintop into an endless valley below. An odd fusion of Pabst

and perfume filled the aired and the cacophony of cursing and cries from
customers who had by then lost their appetite gave me the best tip ever.

Never work in a restaurant again.

Ever.

IMAGE: “Beer and Cards” by Juan Gris (1913).

Shelly Blankman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shelly Blankman
and her husband are empty-nesters who live in Columbia, Maryland, with their four cat rescues and a little dog named Mia. They have two sons — Richard, 32, of New York, and Joshua, 31, of San Antonio. Her first love has always been poetry, although her career has generally followed the path of public relations/journalism. Shelly’s poetry has been published by Whispers, Silver Birch Press, Verse-Virtual, Peacock Journal, Praxis Magazine Online, Ekphrastic: writing and art on art and writing, and Visual Verse.

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Panda Express
by Meg Eden

The boys from Bowie order Orange Chicken and laugh at me.

Why’s a white girl working at a Chinese restaurant? they ask.

I answer, Free sample?

My Vietnamese friend told me, You are white on the outside but Asian at heart. She took her banana leaf rice cake and gave me half. This was our weekly communion.

When my shift ends, I take the chicken that has been sitting in the glass display, unfit for customers. If I don’t take it, another will throw it away. The meat’s tough and sweet in my mouth.

When I sweep the floors, my boss laughs. He says, Have you ever held a broom? He means: spoiled white girl. I’ve cleaned my father’s workshop, built our back patio with bricks and a pile of sand. But I know that all he sees are my soft hands.

He asks if I know Chinese, and I say, I love you.

He says, Say it again.

I love you, I echo. Wo ai ni. A phrase I learned from pop songs.

He tells me I sound like his daughter, a girl who is many oceans away, and teaches me how to write:

A heart behind two doors is agony;
a mouth behind two doors is a problem.
After twenty gates is an opening,
a window of unsealed happiness.

SOURCE: Previously published in Little Patuxent Review.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, senior year with my Okinawan sanshin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, RHINO, and Gargoyle. She teaches at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chapbooks, and her novel Post-High School Reality Quest is forthcoming June 2017 from California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

In a Bejam
by Allen Ashley

It was 1970s Britain and suddenly everybody wanted a chest freezer so as to stock up – if not for a nuclear winter, then at least for the weekend. Still at high school, I got a job as a shifter in the Bejam supermarket. Friday evenings and all day Saturday. Keep those cabinets of frozen peas filled up, cart the 10kg cardboard boxes around the store and, if you were lucky, hang around by the till and help the customers wheel their wares out to their estate cars. And maybe get a 10p tip.

If you were unlucky, the delivery lorry would arrive in the yard and you’d spend all morning lugging chilly legs of lamb off the back and into the walk-in freezer. At which point, one of your workmates would think it a fine practical joke to lock you inside the chiller for five to ten minutes as “a laugh.” There was no mechanism to open it from within. Release would come when the weedy deputy manager threatened them with the sack; or maybe something worse, like overtime.

We sold all the usual British culinary delights – Bird’s Eye fish fingers, Wall’s ice cream, Findus faggots (a low-grade meatball product, just in case you were wondering). People were encouraged to buy in bulk: multipacks that would, safely frozen, last three to six months. If you didn’t get bored with the bland diet by then.

We also sold own-brand Bejam goods: ten or twenty percent cheaper. It was an eye-opener for me that these arrived on the very same lorry from the very same factory as the branded products.

I lasted a few weeks; my wages spent on Hawkwind LPs.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece is about a temporary job that I took at a Bejam supermarket whilst still at school. We called them “Saturday jobs” here in the UK.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, around the time of my first job, mid-1970s,

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allen Ashley is the judge for the annual British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition. His most recent book is an updated, revised version of his novel The Planet Suite (Eibonvale Press, UK, 2016). He works as a creative writing tutor in north London, UK.

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The Dog Shack
by Wendi White

I call about the job and Louie asks me to come by but wear my shorts, my short shorts. So I shimmy into blinding white hot pants with rhinestone studs and ride my ten-speed to The Dog Shack to become a carhop. Easy. Louie wants to know my age and weight, and while looking at my application, asks me to turn around so he can glance up and appraise my ass. It’s no lie. I get the job by the seat of my pants.

All summer I schlep chilidogs and fries across hot asphalt to station wagons packed with screaming kids and swim floats bound for the lake. I hang plastic trays off car windows and pass time between orders snatching napkins from bushes at the lot’s edge. That’s where this guy parks every night at the end of my shift, after my friends peel out to drink beer in the woods. That’s where he watches my job-winning backside as I walk to the window with his order.

One night, as I’m asking if he wants chopped onions or cheese on his foot long, he whispers, “I want you to see what I have here.” I’m seventeen and stupid and so I follow his instructions. In the dashboard light I see his naked butt, hear it squeaking back and forth on the vinyl seat, and just make out his disgusting dick in his hand. I run screaming into the shop for Louie, who keeps a bat behind the counter, and he lunges out the door waving it like a flag. “Come here you pervert; I’ll murder you,” he growls. I never see the guy again, but I quit anyway because as nasty as the flashing was, you know what was worse? Both the pervert and I knew Louie wasn’t lying.

PHOTO: The Dog Shack (Hudson Falls, New York).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t write much confessional poetry, but every blue moon or so, a memory pounces and demands I encase it within the amber of a poem. I oblige the memories that seem to transcend my own history and speak to our shared condition. This one snuck up on me and clubbed me over the head.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendi White is a poet and provocateur currently musing among the herons and egrets of Coastal Virginia’s tidewater region. She recently earned her MFA from Old Dominion University and her day job has her mentoring students at ODU’s Women’s Center. At home she keeps one husband, two sons, a garden where tomatoes abound every other year, and too many books to count.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Here I am in all my mid-life glory. Seventeen seems so very long ago.

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You’ll Grow Out of It
by Cath Bore

You’ll grow out of it. I won’t. It’s just a fad (sighs). It’s not. But you’re going to university soon. Yes, I am. But what will you eat? Food. Don’t be sarcastic. Sorry. You can’t live on salad. I’m not aiming to. But what about your, er, cycle (mouthed silently, finger circling the air in front of my belly). You’re not making any sense now, Mother. Are you doing this because of a boy? No. What’s his name? He hasn’t got one. You’ll get…what’s it called? Anaemic, that’s it. Tired, at any rate. I’m tired already, of your questions (muttered under breath). I made you a cheese toastie. Now you’re talking. I put ham in it too, like the French. *picks out ham* Well, make sure you eat lots of vegetables, if you’re not having any ham. OK. You look pale. Pale and interesting is the phrase you’re looking for. Here’s an omelette. With ham? No, mushrooms. They’re vegetarian, aren’t they? Result! You’ve lost weight. I haven’t. You’ve put weight on. Nope. Bet you’re cold. I’m fine.

I did you a bacon sandwich.

Arrrgh.

IMAGE: “Fruta de la Vida” by Frida Kahlo (1953).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I stopped eating meat at age 17, my family believed I was turning into some sort of anarchist. Their approach to tackling the problem, as they saw it, was frustrating and annoying at the time, but now I can see the funny side.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cath Bore is a writer based in Liverpool UK. Her crime novel The Bad Friend is through to the second stage of the WriteNow novel writing competition in UK, run by Penguin Random House. Cath’s website is cathbore.wordpress.comVisit her on Twitter @cathbore.Twitter: @cathbore

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Doggie Diner, Geary and Arguello, 1969
by Vince Gotera

Out of San Francisco night, the cool fog’s
gray fingers caressing hills and houses,
in chef’s hat and bowtie, the smiling Dog,
ten-foot-tall dachshund’s head in fiberglass.

Tina, my first real high school girlfriend,
and I entered through the shiny glass doors,
holding hands, both in hippie leathers, suede
vests and floppy hats, bellbottom cords.

It smelled like hog heaven, grease-laden air,
scents of amber-gold fries and sizzling thick
burgers, the sharp tang of cole slaw vinegar.
We ordered dogs slathered in chili with pickles

and mustard. The world was copacetic. Above
the diner, the Dog slowly turned, glowing like love.

PHOTO: Doggie Diner, San Francisco (1960s).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Doggie Diner is the iconic San Francisco restaurant chain, open from 1948 to 1986. Since it’s now gone, the Doggie Diner is a pleasant, nostalgic memory for anyone who grew up in The City during those years. Each diner had a sign rotating above the building, a huge grinning dog’s head in a bow tie and chef’s hat. In the documentary Doggie Diner History, someone who lived near a Doggie Diner as a child recalls how the dog head “helped me navigate my way home, like a big doggie-shaped lighthouse.” A 1985 photo by Roy Kaltschmidt titled “Doggie Diner — San Francisco Zoo,” captures this warm sentiment.¶ In the poem, I try to convey this sunny aura along with the optimistic tenor of the ’60s, the feeling among the young that everything and anything was possible. Remember that San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district was the epicenter of the Hippie movement. Although that positive ambience pervades the poem, I allude to the Vietnam war, even though it’s not really present to the teenaged couple: I use the phrase “the world,” which was what American soldiers in Vietnam called America. There was “the ’Nam” and there was “the world,” a romanticized paradise. So, although the speaker and his girlfriend feel all is “copacetic,” it’s really not, and they will soon, very soon, grow up into a world of harsh realities. But for now, in the “now” of the poem, life is wonderful. Happiness is a spicy chili dog, and the Doggie Diner is a kind of heaven.

AUTHOR PHOTO CAPTION: My senior photo in the high school yearbook.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is Editor Emeritus at the North American Review and professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, and the forthcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appear in The American Journal of Poetry, Eunoia Review, Star*Line, Altered Reality Magazine, Spirit’s Tincture, Crow Hollow 19, and the anthologies A Prince Tribute, Delirious: A Poetic Celebration of Prince, and Lupine Lunes, as well as the textbook Composing Poetry. Vince blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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Beach Food
by Steve Klepetar

My mother baked a cake
and stood
by the edge of the sea.

Too sweet, too dry,
my father said,
flinging his slice into the rusty

waves. She offered a peach,
its pit removed
and stuffed with Parisian cream,

a basket filled with sandwiches
on little, soft rolls.
My father swam out with his

hunger, past the buoys, ignoring
the lifeguard’s whistle
and call. When he returned, it was night

and fires blazed along the beach.
We headed for the car as meat sizzled
and gray smoke rushed toward the vacant sky

IMAGE: “Interrupted Picnic” by Jack Yerka (2006).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While I admit that this memory has been embellished a bit, food was an important component of my family’s beach experience. My parents sometimes disagreed about the menu. I remember how we always left, much to my salivating regret, as the rest of our family tossed steaks on the barbecue.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, Deep Water, Expound, The Muse: India, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including three in 2015). sRecent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press. His full-length collection Family Reunion is forthcoming from Big Table Publishing.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Here I am on the beach at Cozumel last December. I’ve just hurled a slice of cake into the sea.

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Pies
by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

My mother would
bake pies

while I slept,
and they were perfect.

I slept better
on those nights,

with the dark
like a shed snakeskin
left outside

and the kitchen
and my mother

right downstairs.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother has always been a fantastic baker, shaping homemade pie crusts, and creating beautiful and delicious desserts. Since she worked full-time while I was growing up, she would often bake at night: pies for the holidays, bags of cookies for teachers, and other treats just because.

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AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is of me and my brother in our kitchen in San Francisco in the mid-80s. After the 1989 earthquake my parents had the chimney removed after bricks from it fell into the backyard.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco
lives in California’s Central Valley with her husband and son and a variety of eccentric animals. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Potomac Review, The Kentucky Review, Word Riot, Hobart, and Slipstream, among others.

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Sugar Is the Devil
by Ingrid Jacobs

I have this photograph in my mind of a hardcover book with a white cube cut by a red slash — Sugar Busters. Since before I was born, my home has life revolved around my father’s weight-loss attempts. The kitchen is full of landmines.

Mom makes meatloaf (with oatmeal instead of egg, because Baby Brother is allergic).
“D’you know how much sugar ketchup has?”

He opens the cupboard and finds cookies.
“I can’t have this crap around.”
“It’s not for you. It’s for the kids.”
“Just don’t buy it, okay?”
A piece of paper taped to the cupboard door reads: “DAD KEEP OUT!!!”

Like any daughter hoping to spare her father from an early grave, I take up his cause.
We make the sugar-free bread. The vinegar-y smell fills my nose.
We scour labels for those cursed grams of sugar.
We make progress.

Behind the closed door of my room, I lower my arm between the bed and the wall to my hoard of precious Halloween candy. The pillowcase is lighter.
Do I have his weakness?
“Hey, Dad?”
“Yeah, Binx?”
“D’you know where my Halloween candy went?”
“Why would I know? I don’t eat that stuff.”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Here is a picture of myself as a child, drinking something sweet and looking drunk. I was probably three years old. We spent most summers in the backyard, wearing swimming suits and eating off that plastic picnic table.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ingrid Jacobs grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Wisconsin once she came to her senses. She attended the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio in 2007. Her hobbies include reading, writing, being German, and dressing up her poor dog.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The sweetest thing in my life is my dog, Gracie. I call her Caramel Eyes. This photo with Gracie was taken on my birthday, July 20, 2015. I had decided to wear my dirndl to dinner (my boyfriend is a good sport). I had seen a photo series by Sophie Gamand of pit bull type dogs wearing flower crowns, and I was inspired to make one for Gracie. It matched my dirndl, so I forced her to wear it for a picture together.


            the bench
on the fourth sister from Birling Gap
before the wind-brushed scrub and gorse
             and the grey-blue sky smoothed
             through the fishtank-blue horizon
                       to grey-green sea
                                    by Mark Redford

                                    one sugared
                                    deep purple
                                    blackcurrant
                                    fruit    jelly

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Birling Gap is a tiny settlement on the south coast of England; between it, and Cuckmere Haven a little further west, are seven chalk cliffs called the Seven Sisters – both Birling Gap and the Sisters are falling into the sea, but it is still possible to walk them although each Sister is very steep both up and down and you have to sit on the only bench available and take stock of what on earth you are doing, which, when younger, can be a very simple exercise…

PHOTO: A panoramic view of the Seven Sisters from the Beachy Head Cliffs near Birling Gap, looking back towards the River Cuckmere and Seaford Head in the background. (Photo by Diliff, 2009)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Redford started writing when he was sixteen one moonlit night after everyone else had gone to bed; however he only really started playing write-fully when he stopped being too serious about living and, still, after all this time, has to keep learning that simple lesson when the living gets too crafted; he finds that sitting – still – helps with maintaining this perspective, as long as he doesn’t Meditate.   He has published very little, but you can see him fidgeting about on his website: mlewisredford.wordpress.com.