Archives for posts with tag: food
Scrambled eggs-01

By Tom Ipri (Scrambled Eggs auf flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Into your hands
I commend the
beating of tonight’s
eggs. This will
be the last meal
of solid food.

When my Dad was in the final stages of his cancer, one of the few things he ate was scrambled eggs. That period of my life still circles in my mind. It was a strange time when we all continued with the daily activities of feeding him and being with him, neither realising nor acknowledging that he was actually dying.

I still think about what is it was like to be with the ‘almost gone.’ As I do not work in a profession that confronts death on a regular basis, my only experiences have been related to passing family. I sometimes wonder about the ushering performed by those in pastoral or hospice care, medical or funeral professions. How much of their work is solely the task at hand? How much is curating the metaphysical surrender of the body that expresses our life and appetites?

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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Bunch of blueberries

By Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy (Blueberries) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s something in the blueberries
that my body needs.
It might be the blue
citric blue in its
vitamin skin. It might
be the tray of pebbles
on a shelf in my ‘fridge.
There’s something blue
that’s missing from my body. Even a doctor advises
that something’s in the berries. blue.

It could be spurred by personal anxieties or simply a quirky habit, but when I feel penny-pinched I lock down on my grocery consumption. I don’t realise it until I start losing weight, get sick or people comment on my bad skin (I’m prone to horrendous staph infections when my immunity is low). It doesn’t help that my body must contend with a cocktail of medications consumed to neutralise a chronic kidney condition (glomerulonephritis). Eating a diet that is nutritionally inadequate and unadventurous exacerbates everything. In all the years I have been responsible for feeding myself, I still haven’t learned.

It has been suggested that anorexics and the chronically obese obsess over food. That is, obsession characterizes our patterns of denial and excess. But surely some of us express obsessions at other points along the spectrum? I write regularly about food. As a recurring subject matter it explores a variety of themes such as provision, inner-states, comfort, class standing and social identity. Right now, I am thinking about a coffee (a black Americano, because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me), what I’ll consume for lunch (warmed up butternut soup) and what I should eat before this evening’s 3-hour training session (high protein – probably scrambled eggs with spinach). If this is not a degree of food obsession, what is?

In the days when I was ‘more vegetarian’, a young man said to me, “Are you anorexic vegetarian or vegetarian vegetarian?” At the time I thought it was such an interesting and astute comment. Most women have a fascinating relationship with food irrespective of culture and social bracket. Of course, men also have a relationship with food (for starters, they eat it), but conventionally it is not framed as notably psycho-emotional. This is not the whole truth, for as we see more and more in our modern age, men also have complicated relationships with food.

In “Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking” (Kate Colquhoun, Bloomsbury: 2007) there is mention of young people – she mentions young bachelors in particular – who live alone in bedsits and rented accommodation during the early and mid-twentieth century. For the first time, they were disengaged from a community network in which their food would have been prepared. Their isolation was made complete by the canned and pre-portioned packaged foodstuffs made possible by the Industrial Revolution. At moments in my rented existence, like on Saturday when I portioned up butternut soup and pasta bake for the freezer, I think about this chapter.

Pantry staples of my childhood such as canned pilchards or peanut butter seem a million miles away from blueberries, or berries of any sort. The mere suggestion that blueberries might be a viable everyday item takes some reconsideration. The further suggestion that they might be a necessary vitamin source during a cold, grey London winter sounds like saying chocolate will help with PMS (which it does). My logical brain objects: I take a multivitamin and paracetamol is available for pain.

Yet, ‘that missing something’ like the ‘x-factor’ is elusive. Blueberries might indeed possess a quantifiable nutritional and vitamin content. On my ‘fridge shelf they do look like little pebbles in a plastic tray that await plopping into porridge and goat’s milk yoghurt. Perhaps their very presence satisfies the ‘missing something.’ I shall give this experiment in blue at least a month.

Any contributions of blueberries for the poet will be gratefully received.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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BBC Radio 3 is my station of choice. I listen to hours and hours of their programming, both on the clock radio that rests on my bedside chest-of-drawers and on iplayer on my laptop. Sometimes I schedule upcoming programmes or concerts into my diary, or mark catch-ups on my to do list.

During these many hours of ‘classical music’ content it came to my attention that composers across the ages have not been afraid of reworking their own material or borrowing material from others. Now alerted to the regularity of creative recycling, I started looking for it in other forms such as art, dance, theatre and literature.

Re-using material seems more acceptable in music than in the realm of writing. Able writers are assessed on their ability to be continually re-inventive. Originality makes for a proficient writer. This is a demanding attitude. I have since warmed to the approach of the related performing and creative arts. Variation on previous output is a legitimate avenue of creative exploration. In many instances I am intrigued by a product where the artist who created the first version reworks the material in its subsequent expression. These examples have given me courage to consciously mine my own writing for material when I am stuck.

While writing up this last Monday’s post, I was reminded that “Making soup again” was not the first poem I had revised. (Nor was it the first time I had revisited themes or motifs, but such general recurrences are considered more acceptable in written creativity.)

Here are five reworked poems from my portfolio:

1) Two versions of ‘Tumbling After‘, a scene based on the nursery rhyme about Jack and Jill rolling down a hill.
I wrote a longer version and then reworked a shorter version.

2) A card from the postman inspired two poems. Each approached the delivery of pre-Christmas mail from a different point of view.
One imagines the poet-recipient; the other gives voice to the postman.

3) In response to a mislaid poem, I wrote “Is it worth it?
I later found the scrap of paper with the original poem.

4) My poem from 2011 “Jacob’s Dream for crinolined girls” is in many respects the poem that started my recent poetry writing spurt. It was inspired by Dorothea Tanning’s painting Eine Kleine Nachmusik (1943).
In 2014, three years after writing “Jacob’s Dream,” I revisited it in “Exalted thus, we left.”

5) “Making soup again” is a reworking of “In this place I eat butternut soup.”
Food preparation is a recurring motif in my poetry and food features as a metaphor for states of self, relating to others and enacting class or social position.

Visual artists frequently obsess over the same visual motifs and these become their trademarks. Composers are known for a particular sound, even if their music includes phases that are less quintessential. Dancers, singers or actors receive renown for their interpretation of a particular role. I’m intrigued by the creative recycling that might characterize a writer’s broader oeuvre of creative production.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

This illustration gem appears courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a wonderful resource for vintage images.

This illustration gem appears courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a wonderful resource for vintage images.

You cooking me

Two burnished hazelnuts
singe flax.
Golden Savoiardi shake
loose vanilla pods.

An oiled aubergine
turns roasted cumin seeds.
The sorrel and bay sauté
with wild mushrooms,
freshly picked.

A wholesome slice seals
the Dijon.

I have written a number of poems that draw on the influences of cooking and kitchen. Today’s offering started as a meditation on the colour mustard, the most unglamorous (even unsexy) of colours. The meditation shifted along the colour spectrum towards synonyms of yellow, golden-yellow and brown. (A Poem A Day October was once again the prompt source.)

“Mustard and brown” vied as an alternative title for the poem. In this version, the end lines would also have been different:

A wholesome slice seals
you cooking me.

Here is the alternative version in its entirety.

Mustard and brown
Two burnished hazelnuts
singe flax.
Golden Savoiardi shake
loose vanilla pods.

An oiled aubergine
turns roasted cumin seeds.
The sorrel and bay sauté
with wild mushrooms,
freshly picked.

A wholesome slice seals
you cooking me.

I’m still undecided as to which combination works better poetically. I prefer the opening version for it’s punch and mustard. What’s your take?

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

An illustration of a prawn salad from from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907.courtesy of the Old Design Shop., a vintage image treasyury.

An illustration of a prawn salad from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907.courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

 

The orange has been wrung of juice.
The garlic’s lost its tang.
The salad leaves have dropped their wings.
The kitchen now has closed.

 


I do like a good food-related poem. Sometimes it’s more or less simply about the food:

Most versatile
Salad with mackerel

Or the words:

Recipe
Kitchen Alchemy

On other occasions, food is a conduit through which the poem explores a theme:

Just right
Mouse Days
An overdose of summer
At the moment: £2
Let them eat
Supreme ultimate
Tightly Sealed
Packed Lunches
The currency of sugar
London. Is it worth it?
Tumbling After
To the Valleys
Today

These themes include provision, community, comfort through distraction, class/social identity. Perhaps you notice some others? Do leave your thoughts as a comment below.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

This image is cropped from a vintage Easter postcard on the Old Design Shop, a vintage design treasury.

This image is cropped from an Easter postcard on the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

The morning egg is most nutritious,
the lunchtime egg substantial;
eggs for dinner are a light, quick fix.

Boiled, scrambled, poached or fried,
to a life of laying thanks is owed for this.


On the dining-table of our kitchen lives a refillable plastic peppercorn grinder. In absent-minded moments when I’m forking stir fry vegetables and noodles into my mouth, I’ll start reading the label on the back of the bottle. The copy promotes how handy black peppercorns are: “Twist over your morning egg, lunchtime salads and evening eats.”

I started wondering about the morning egg. How might it be different to the lunchtime egg or the evening egg? In older vegetarian cookbooks eggs are often praised for their versatility. In a contemporary world informed by animal rights and the ethics of food production, the egg is not merely a versatile wonder capsule. It’s a sustainability quandary and choosing your half-dozen can be a political animal ethics statement. Omitting eggs can be as much a statement. Vegan baking and brunches are characterised by their ingenious egg replacements.

After many years of restricting egg consumption (as the yolk were identified as cholesterol minefields) and nearly two years of almost no egg consumption, these “chicken periods” (as a friend once called them) are once again a regular part of my diet. £1 for half-a-dozen will feed me for three to four meals, usually boiled or scrambled.

I do often think of the egg machines that have been set apart for a life of laying. However, if you’ve ever spent time on a farm with non-commercial chickens, the egg-for-use ratio to laying chickens can be frustratingly low. The luxury of a green or orange box of half-a-dozen gives me such joy. Ah, wonder capsules, most versatile


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

It must be the time of year for food thoughts, because ‘Tightly Sealed‘ from this time last year took fridge leftovers as its starting point.

 

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury and one of my favourite image sources.

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury and one of my favourite image sources.*

When baby bear had left home
and then had had a pot,
it would’ve been, I like to think,
like the silver one I did adopt

from outside someone’s wooden gate
in the back roads of North London.
Either the owners had to relocate 
or make space for Christmas plunder.

Into my little pot, thrice daily go all things:
breakfast oats, reheated soup or split red lentil dhal, 
popping corn, or frozen veg like spinach, broccoli,
then pasta and basmati, in their single servings.

My just right pot has no lid,
a single handle, straight.
Burnt raisins catch in crevices,
but generally it’s great.


The first winter I was in London, I picked up the most ‘just right’ sized cooking pot for a single diner outside someone’s gate. In all these London suburbs there are certain times of the month and year when residents chuck stuff. Someone once told me that they would regularly go skip hunting on the last Saturday of the month, and even took a guy on ‘skip hunting’ as a cheap date.

I have not taken anyone skip hunting as a cheap date (I’d rather visit an art exhibition in someone’s company), but I do have my own skip hunting-buddy experience. Through my volunteering at a local soup kitchen I befriended a guy who knew (probably still does) the best back alleys for skip treasures in affluent middle-class, North London suburbia. There are a couple of finds from that evening that I still put to good use today.

My little silver pot was not a skip find, though. It was simply there on the pavement, sparkling in the blue winter sunlight, simply inviting me to take it home. We have seen many breakfasts, soup lunches and reheated rice and bean/lentil or pasts dinners together. When those raisins or sultanas from my morning porridge catch, I have to scour out the burnt bits, which I do with love for my just right pot.

* Visit the original image at The Old Design Shop here.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.

At the bottom of my road is a lovely green space poetically known as Cherry Tree Wood. Like the promised verdant idyll of Heather Green (explored in my poem of the same name) the Cherry Tree’s title is slightly deceptive. There are neither cherries nor much of a wood, unless you count the encalve of tress at the far end as woodland. But it is still a wonderful spot for adolescent boys to ride their bicylces and play football, for parents to bring their children to the playpark, for mums and toddlers to have playdates. Young lovers disappear into that shadey enclave and perspiring fitness hopefuls meet with their personal trainers alongside the tennis courts. Dog walkers greet each other by name and, since the newly refurbished café has re-opened, sometimes they stop for a coffee or juice.

Cherry Tree Wood is a rare site for mostly uncommercial communal gathering. The local schools make use of it for fresh-air time. After outings to the Phoenix, the reputable local indie cinema, the schoolgroups picnic on the grass before shepherding small groups of the children to the nearby facilities. It was from observing such a group on their outing that the poem ‘Packed Lunches’ came into being.

A Blow-fly (Calliphora, probably Calliphora vomitória). Photo by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen via Wikimedia Commons.

Soft to the thumb,
the pear I sliced
was gone.
It was rotten inside.

In a wither of ruffles
the rose-heads have browned
dry in the heat.
They sodden after it’s stormed.

Even the blowflies ferocious
have stopped their wings,
landed their green torpedoes
for the last time.

Something from lunch
churns in my stomach –

the rice, three days old?
the dhal, two days defrosted?
the sliver of cheese, too sweaty?
the coffee, a cup too many?

Now I, too, struggle 
to hold down this summer.

25/7/2014


At the moment in London, it is exceedingly warm during the day. Not that it doesn’t get hotter in other places, but here nothing is equipped for the heat. Flowers wilt, flies buzz themselves out, food perspires and no sooner have you laid it in the bowl, the fruit ripens. Even the broadband at the house has conked out.

So I shall have to venture to the library to post this poem and a few scheduled archive items. It was my plan to do so early, when the day was still cool from the night rains and the school holiday crowds hadn’t descended. But I went dancing last night… I too am not quite sure what to do with myself. This is not so much because of the heat. I am a born-and-bred Cape Town girl, after all. (In truth though, I – and my Medea hair – do struggle with the humidity.) My muse seems to be awol once again.

Perhaps my muse has also surrendered to this overdose of summer.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012