Archives for posts with tag: kitchen
OldDesignShop_WomanCooking-208x300

Image from the February 1912 issue of Pictorial Review, courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

These days I refuse to sigh
for cooked up futures.
Potatoes from a friend
and a bag of mixed root veg for £1
assure companionship.
This bounty grated, cooked with stock and bay leaves,
will be ladled out for half-a-dozen bowls
dressed up with haricot beans.
The appraising birds perch in the top bare branches,
more interested in other messes.

London kitchen, January 2015

I cook a great deal from scratch; partially because I have the time, mostly because it’s an attempt to stretch my budget. In autumn and winter, soup-making is a regular activity. Last winter (2013/2014), all my soups were restricted to three items from the grocery aisle, and cooked up with either red or brown lentils. This year I have discovered the mixed veg. packets at budget retailers, so I have broadened my ingredients list. Whatever the concoction that results, half is put aside for the freezer. This way I have a couple of flavours on rotation.

Chopping or grating vegetables for soup is both a mindless and thought-encouraging activity. I’ll think about things in my life, and I’ll think about nothing except scooping up the peelings for the bin. The other satisfying bonus of soup is that you can leave it to simmer while you continue with other tasks, like writing.

Today’s poem is a response to “In this place, I eat butternut soup,” written in 2012. You are astute readers, so there is no need for me to hammer home the points of contrast between the two poems. If you would like to share your own observations, please do so in the comments. I would be interested to read them.

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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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.

 

256px-Jack_and_Jill

Image attribution: Sue Clark (Flickr: Jack and Jill) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This time last year I revisited a poem based on the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme. This version was a shortened version of the ‘Tumbling After‘ I had written the previous December.

Both versions veer towards the same scene: Jill watching Jack from afar and awaiting his delivery. Although not true to the nursery rhyme’s narrative, I fabricated my own thematic direction. I wanted to evoke a pastoral world in which young people worked in particular gendered realms and were awakening to an adolescent sexuality. So I placed Jill in the kitchen baking bread and Jack outside in the field hoeing and on the hill collecting water.

If you’re curious about the original nursery rhyme you might find the Wikipedia write up interesting. I stumbled across it while preparing this post. A further link was this handy visualization of the rhyme. Perhaps you’ll have as much fun as I did playing with the graphic display options.

Both versions of ‘Tumbling After’ are included in my book, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys.

In an alleyway of thought
A nibbling rat sniffs
	amongst the kitchen waste,
snouts for a morsel to inch through.
It’s a voracious, fat-bellied rat
	carrier of diseased fleas
	and nibbler of all that should be left to decompose.

Such is clinging mind:
it won’t let go.

For another poem that develops a metaphor from kitchen leftovers, see the recent “Tightly Sealed.” The above poem and others produced over the last year are earmarked for two forthcoming volumes. Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys explores a young woman’s response to the men – older, younger and boyish – in her orbit.  Under a Blue Dome is an unfolding miscellany of poems about ordinary life under the great, grand sky. If you haven’t yet seen my first volume, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS, you’re invited to preview it at blurb.co.uk.

Follow my Twitter musings about monkey, rat and martial mind. I tweet as @BeadedQuill.

BeadedQuill is also on Facebook. Do “Like” the page.

Pakistan’s Gold 
 A loose Pindaric* ode to a delicious mango

As still-hard flesh, this baton passes
blushed apricots, green-skinned Hasses,**
to triumph in a grocer’s tier.

Event two in a domestic Mount Olympus:
here ripens the sweet-juiced summer discus.

My 87-year-old landlady swears by the small, golden-skinned Pakistani mangoes that are imported each summer. “They are absolutely the sweetest mangoes I’ve ever tasted.” This is the second year she keeps telling me this and occasionally leaving a yellow orb in my allocated fruit-bowl,  a brown earthenware creation that she threw many years ago during her Friday pottery class.

The orbs tend to arrive hard and unyielding to a finger squeeze. I must leave them to wrinkle and move into their mango aroma. It is an anti-race, for the ripening takes time. It only speeds up if there is  a helpful warm spell such as the one we have had these last few days.

When they are ready – and too often I am impatient – I eat the ripened treasures over the sink. Slicing off the skin is as pleasurable as paring orange slivers off the stone. I forego a bowl; I eat the slices there and then.

Gazing at the garden, on view from the window above the sink, is part of the moment. With this mango I take in a blue summer sky above, the pink and cerise wall-roses in abundant bloom. Ah! Such is a full summer discus of a moment.

It’s then that a gust whips a rush of browning petals over the wall, across my scene.

* The Pindaric ode, named after the poet Pindar, originally celebrated athletic victories in Ancient Greece. In this context, it was delivered by a chorus and dancers. In English, Pindaric odes exhibit formal and metrical complexity. The opening strophe is followed and mirrored by the antistrophe. The closing of the ode, the epode, adopts a different structure. Read these odes by Wordsworth and Thomas Gray to see these elements engaged to good poetic effect.

** Oh yes, a Hass is a variety of avocado.

If you enjoyed the above, glance over my first volume of poetry, Shining in Brightness.

I also tweet. Follow me as @BeadedQuill.