Food Poetry: “Segments of an Orange” by Jen Karetnick

Food Poetry Blood Oranges

Segments of an Orange

How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?
— Louise Gluck


Hours before she died, my grandmother
sucked dry three segments of a navel orange
and, claiming her appetite had a short range,
hooked out the pulp with her finger,
shreds catching on her ring. With delicate theater,
she wrapped the untouched sections in a napkin
she’d halved down the center folded line
to keep them fresh for later.

I fly in to sit shiva from Orange County,
where the branched that bear citrus are bent
by a greedy public who can’t resist
loading their bushels with questionable bounty–
the hard, yellowing rinds left hanging by migrant
workers, who know best this business

of surplus, and restraint, and what to pick when.
And all at once, oranges are everywhere:
In the shampoo I use to wash my niece’s hair.
In the disinfectant wiped onto porcelain
fixtures in the home where the dead are lain.
On the plates I fix for guests too old to rise from chairs;
nestled, smugly poisoning the air
from grass-filled bamboo baskets sent by friends.

My niece balances the fruit on her baby-fat palms
before rolling them to the great-aunts, who can’t
remember the exact numbers of their ages but who speak
with accents Polish enough to date them.
“Range,” Corrie says. She’s learning to want
the meaning to match the sound, so when she plucks

it on the string of her tongue over and over
her relatives will marvel and give applause.
She bowls the fruit at every leg in the house,
each pant-suited visitor a pin to strike and quiver.
Tomorrow, one of my grandmother’s sisters
will trip on a forgotten orange and break
her hip, and the doctor will adjust his face
and pat her silk-clad shoulder, and call her, “Helen Dear.”

And in the hospital, she’ll tell the story
of my frugal grandmother’s last day
to the congregated bedside brood,
and claim she’d prefer a fruit with more glory.
“But should the season call for an orange,” she’ll say,
“at least make it blood, my darlings. Make mine blood.”

                                                                     – Jen Karetnick


Jen Karetnick and I share three things in common. First of all, both of us are intensely interested in food to the point of working in the field of food writing, and specifically are entrenched in our appreciation of restaurants. She writes for a Miami magazine as the local restaurant reviewer; I credit my work in the food field with my first job at a bakery. Then there’s the fact that both of us studied for MFA’s in literature, diving into trying to better our craft through directed programs. But I’m most interested in the link we share where food poetry and recipes converge. In the same year that her first cookbook, Mango was published, her first full-length book of food poetry was bound and released in the collection, Brie Season. She sent me the latter book to read and of all the poems in the book, her poem “Segments of an Orange” is one that didn’t let me go quite so easily after the poem finished.

Part of what gripped me in this poem is its certainty of place and the ways the narrative keeps the symbol of the orange before us. The details make this poem come alive like the moment when her grandmother folds the napkin to save the rest of the orange for later, as if she would have more time or as if she is saving it for someone else to finish. We then begin to see and smell oranges in places outside of that hospital room. Fake oranges in shampoo or disinfectant. The narrator even travels to Orange County as if she cannot get away from the tidal wave of grief that can assail those who lose someone they love. From the very old who pass away to the very young who are still learning to form their mouth around the word, settling on “Range,” the poem takes a turn to somewhere in between in the end. This time the orange has afflicted a mishap on a character in the poem that takes us back into the hospital but doesn’t take a tragic turn. Instead the grandmother’s sister exerts her power over the obstacle calling for something “with more glory.” That she requests a blood orange bewitches the poem with the duality of the symbol. She contrasts her living with her sister’s dying: “Make mine blood.” Wow. What a brutal and breathless way to end the poem! I was struck with how powerful this poem is. Being haunted by symbols of the person who has passed away and then being able to keep the trope going to an unforeseeable end is exhilarating.


About Jen Karetnick
Miami-based poet, writer and educator Jen Karetnick is the author/co-author/editor of 12 books, including three published in 2014: Mango, a cookbook (October); Brie Season, a full-length book of poems (White Violet Press, September); and Prayer of Confession, a chapbook of poetry (Finishing Line Press, June). Her poems and essays have been widely published in Cimarron Review, December, North American Review, Poet’s Market 2013, Poets & Writers, River Styx, Seneca Review, Spillway and the Submittable blog. She works as the Creative Writing Director of Miami Arts Charter School; as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine from Modern Luxury; and as a freelance writer for outlets including The, Destinations MO, Food Arts,, The Local Palate, Morning Calm/Korean Air, Southern Living and USA Today.

Kitchen Diaries: Lessons from a Sourdough Bread Loaf

Sourdough Bread - the food poetSourdough Bread - the food poet

Early Friday morning is an exquisite pocket of time. Perhaps it’s knowing that the sprint is almost over and only five hours stand in the way of what shapes weekend hours from the weekday ones. The kitchen comes slowly to life on Friday mornings, rising with the sun. Usually I am already bedecked in bits of flying flour that cling to my sleeve or adorn my slipper before breakfast.

I once tried baking bread on a Monday and ended up tossing the entire batch of dough after the rising period had exceeded its time by a full day. Tuesdays are a bit of a continuation of whatever check boxes from Monday’s list fell off and landed in the batch of next day appointments. Hump-day, better known as Wednesday might as well be Monday part two, making Thursday, Tuesday part two.

Then comes Friday: its crystalline possibility snaps out like a tablecloth floating down to cover kitchen projects that need more time, knowing that your mind can expand after a week of busyness and invite whatever cooking idea has been knocking, in. For me, Friday is set aside for bread.

Before 2013, I had never considered myself a bread baker and didn’t fancy myself much of a bread eater. Before 2013, we were bumping right along at a speed of life I could recognize, along a route that was familiar. But then, the pace became frenetic, the route detoured in a direction with little control of where we were headed. Baking quietly provided an evening answer. It became my teacher in patience measuring blessings by weight and not volume.

It’s too easy for one week to bleed into the next and to begin playing a game of hopscotch from one month into another with little to show for the time spent. I think of this and want to blink back the blur of aging without being fully present. And as sometimes happens, a contradiction crept in.

On a Tuesday morning I eyed the full jar of Salvatore sourdough starter that would soon migrate into the refrigerator for a chilly slumber. That morning’s decision was based out of a desire to use as much of the starter as I could in between switching vessels. I mixed together my ingredients casually, measuring out flour, plunging the thermometer into the warm water and played with pushing the hydration in the dough. Since we’ve moved to Oakland, I’ve baked a few tasty loaves that don’t look as lovely as I’ve aspired for them. If baking bread has taught me anything it’s to take a calculated risk, try to answer “what if?…” through jotting down notes of changes made and then wait it out to see the final offering. When we moved to Oakland I worried how my starter might react. We were leaving the 94118- would the bacteria be so very different or the air so dry that my starter might change dramatically? None of my recent loaves have set my heart into a steady state of glee until Wednesday morning, the day after I audaciously started prepping bread dough on a Tuesday. What came out of the oven was big, bouncy, practically puffy in its enthusiasm and somehow I had achieved a whole new type of loaf. On my counter, the crust crackling, sat the fine art of not giving up.

So on Friday mornings, with the light creeping in the kitchen window through the slit below the curtain, I can start crafting a small universe in the metal bowl that is big as a sled. It all starts by scooping flour into a cup. The beginnings of bread baking remind me of a great truth of living: from small starts can arise big possibilities. So, as I wait during the second rise and see my dough doubled in size, I have the heft of the thing in my hands to show for my patience, the loaf that will feed us for a week to give promise to what the future might hold.

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Potato Leek Bok Choy Soup

Potato Leek Bok Choy Soup

In the cold evenings of deep winter, you can get a bit desperate. Perhaps it’s the shortened days paired with the fact that our kitchen overhead light is on the fritz again, but darkness comes too soon. With it, it brings a chill that penetrates the thin windows enough to make me reach for an extra layer, slinging a scarf around my neck, pulling a knit cap onto my head or sometimes burrowing under a wedding gift of a chenille throw I call “the Moses blanket.” Between the tea cup that gets refilled as it’s emptied and roasting vegetables for oven heat,  turning on your heater is the final straw in this chain of events.

But sometimes you get desperate which sounds like a tickle in the throat of the person hanging onto the pole of the bus a few people down. Sniffles erupt from passersby while walking along the street. An older man lassos his torso in the direction of the street curb ejecting a loud loogie. And this, friends, is what makes you seriously consider a future of creating a hermitage from which to leave once the first sprouts of spring shoot through the chilled earth. This utopian notion lasts as long as the larder stays full. Once the boxed pasta disappears and that jar of turtle beans begins getting perilously low, a plan must be hatched to brave the masses.

Can you hear the anthem start up: “Give me your tired, your sick, your stuffed up noses yearning to breathe freely!” It’s enough to make a person take up running so that they might get in and out of the grocery store more quickly so as not to get the winter gift that keeps on giving. Luckily, in steps our CSA box of mysteries so we can wait one more day before setting out. Tucked into the massive cardboard box, a stash of potatoes linger with several leeks and a bag of  green leafy bok choy. From there, we start our meal. From there, the possibilities bubble up and become a soup that is both healing and warming, rich and comforting. For a moment, that winter desperation subdues.


Potato Leek Bok Choy Soup


The key to this soup is to blend half of it. That simple decision elicits a creamy soup with thin tender potato coins left to nibble. I’m convinced it’s the best of both worlds. You could make this soup vegan and dairy-free easily by swapping out the butter and chicken stock for all olive oil and vegetable stock. Lastly, in this iteration, we made a bone broth stock from chicken bones and chicken thigh meat that was superb, but feel free to use 7 cups of boxed chicken stock that has been reduced down to 5 cups. Also as with any salt and peppering, season to your tastebuds and what tastes good to you.

Makes 4-6 bowls
2 leeks, whites only, rinsed and sliced

6 russet potatoes, peeled and 1/4 inch-sliced

3 sliced bok choy, leaves only, 1/4 inch-sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

5 cups bone broth or really good chicken stock


Place a heavy-bottomed pot over medium low heat for 1 minute. Swirl in 1 tablespoon each olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the leeks and stir to coat. Saute them until they are transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil, potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook them for 5 minutes letting the potatoes and leeks get acquainted. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer. Cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Blend half of the soup until smooth. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and stir to combine with the remaining soup. Stir in the bok choy leaves and cook for 4 minutes.

A Tea Cookbook for You

Tea Cookbook_Steeped Book_Annelies Zijderveld

Adequate words do not exist to describe the jumble of emotions that all piled out of my mouth as I caught sight of the padded manila envelope. I’m pretty sure that even before the envelope was wrested from Nathan’s hands, I uttered, “No way!” at least fifteen times amid peals of delight. There might have been a squeal as one shimmering book of 144 pages sailed from the envelope into my hands. It’s real. And it resembles a metallic tea tin. Holding it was nothing short of surreal. All of the work of over-writing, editing, cleaning pots and pans like it’s my job (it is) as I whipped through multiple rounds of tasting spoons and recipe testing is bound into twelve signatures. It would not be overstating to say I poured myself by way of copious cups of Earl Grey into this book that I cannot wait for you to get in your hands. I’ve been teaching cooking classes locally in the community (more on that soon, I promise) and a cooking class I’m scheduled to teach in April on cooking with tea has sold out. The idea of making tea in all of its possibility accessible to you cooking or baking at home was something too delicious to just keep to myself. Just yesterday I was chatting with a local pastry chef about his favorite ways to bake with tea (more on that soon too). So, this post is a love note going out to you well before the greeting cards of February- tea tastes far better than a yellow waxy candy heart that reads “Text me.” I wrote this tea cookbook for you. And your mom – and Your aunt Lucille in Boston and your best friend Emma in Austin – even your cousin living abroad in London because a tea party is a great way to bring your favorite people together over breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

So preorder your copy of Steeped today to snag the bonus recipes e-book before the end of January. Invite your friends to this #SteepedBook afternoon tea party. Grab your favorite teacup. Start to heat the water. Settle in for upcoming explorations on the making of a tea cookbook and exciting news. Let’s Get Steeped!

Coffee Poetry: Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3 by Jonathan Pacic

Coffee Poetry

Breakfast is on the brain. Last week’s food poetry morsel included a plate of scrambled eggs that would have been perfect for Sun-Tzu, served up by poet Roy Mash. For many, the beginning of a day would be less welcome without a cup of coffee in hand. Even though I veer toward tea nine times out of ten, sometimes, a roasted cup of strong black coffee or sweetened and served with milk is downright glorious. Poet Jonathan Pacic shares his poem, “Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3 – Labels,” part of a series he has written on his ruminations while caffeinating. Enjoy the buzz.


Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3- Labels

I confess
on this measured midlife morning
as I slowly savor
my hand ground
French pressed
fairly traded
cooperatively farmed
single origin
lightly roasted
cup of
I wonder-
are these labels for the coffee,
or for the drinkers?


– Jonathan Pacic



Jonathan Pacic is a student of the moment and a teacher of fifth grade in Aurora, Colorado.  His work has appeared on the board of his classroom, the food literature journal Alimentum, and on sticky notes in the lunchboxes of his three children. He is currently working on a collection of poetry for all readers and a middle grade novel for children.

Egg Poetry: A Plate of Scrambled Eggs by Roy Mash

In a crowded East Bay kitchen, I met Roy Mash as we sipped sparkling water before the start of a poetry reading. We began talking about the intersections between food and poetry and he mentioned he had written a bit of food poetry, especially one about eggs. Intrigued, I proceeded to devour the food poem shortly after it hit my inbox.  So, with Mash’s permission, I give you, “A Plate of Scrambled Eggs.” Next  time you are whisking eggs to scramble, it might make you look at breakfast differently.

Scrambled Egg Poetry | The Food Poet

A Plate of Scrambled Eggs

by Roy Mash


Attila Me surveys

the battlefield’s pastel

upholstery from here

on high, and salivates,

imagining how grand,

how glorious to slash

the spineless masses through.

Take that! And that! You shreds!

You mangled carcasses,

you bundled, beaten goo.


The once exquisite yolks

are rumpled luggage now,

spreadeagled spongy flesh

I pummel with my tongue,

the battered yellow pads

like mud squished from a fist.

The cushion of a throat

submits like this, or would

were Jack the Ripper Me

arisen from the mist.


A good thing he’s not. Else

these docile clouds defiled

with ravishment might well

belie the dignity

of that One True God: Me,

who sharpens even yet

his appetite among

the bright utensils

in the quiet kitchenette.


This poem first appeared in The Evansville Review


Roy Mash is a long time member of Marin Poetry Center. He holds degrees in English, Philosophy, and Computer Science, though he currently doodles his time away staring out of café windows, dabbing up the seeds that have fallen from an everything bagel, and mentally thumbing over his poems that have appeared widely in journals such as AGNI, Barrow Street,  Nimrod, Poetry East, and River Styx. He is the recipient of the Atlanta Review International Publication Award. His first full length book, Buyer’s Remorse (Cherry Grove Collections), debuted in 2014.