Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

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 Atlantic.com, Destinations MO, Food Arts, TheLatinKitchen.com, The Local Palate, Morning Calm/Korean Air, Southern Living and USA Today.

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

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
unwashed
lightly roasted
cup of
Yirgacheffe,
I wonder-
are these labels for the coffee,
or for the drinkers?

 

– Jonathan Pacic

 

 

ABOUT 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.

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

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

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.

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry Poetry Bookshelf

Food Poetry: Cream of Tartar by Julia Wendell

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships between mothers and daughters. They can be so fraught of misunderstanding. My mother used to denounce my teenage years as the years I didn’t talk to her. How could I explain the gulf of emotion and crisis upon which I was cresting outside of writing and reading my way through those four profoundly influential years?

Julia Wendell shares a story about cooking with her mother in the kitchen, how together they shared a secret that one of them knew and the other had yet to learn. Her mother’s arthritic hands made certain small acts in the kitchen difficult for her but provided opportunities for her daughter to participate in the process. At the time, Julia questioned the validity of her contributions until she too developed arthritis in her hands year later, and with it, understanding of how important her help had been to her mom. Mothers and daughters can do a kind of circle eight dance, can’t they? So many years later, my mother and I are the closest we have ever been but it has come at the cost of all of the lessons life has taught us through one another along the way.

Julia Wendell’s new book, Take This Spoon explores this tenuous balance between mothers and daughters, grounding it in the food they make together. I caught a glimpse of her food poetry and knew that I wanted to share it with you. Be sure to read beyond her poem, “Cream of Tartar” for Julia’s Cheese Souffle recipe that includes the secret ingredient alluded to in the poem above it.

Take This Spoon by Julia Wendell

 

Cream of Tartar

by Julia Wendell from her new book, Take This Spoon

 

Pot-holdering a cloud

of toasted soufflé,

its voluptuous body

billowing over the dish,

we kept its infallible, flawless secret,

 

referencing the butter-

stained recipe card

by memory only.

Teamwork, we’d wink to each other—

and lots of stirring—never revealing

 

what separated mother and daughter

from our guests’ amazement

at this seeming perfection—

fleeting, and only as good

as our shortcut:

 

a bitter white powder lodged

in a glass spice jar

that doubles in volume without fail

what it starts with, transforming

impossible into easy.

 

 

Julia Wendell’s Cheese Soufflé

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

About 1 ½ cups milk

5 eggs, separated

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

In a double boiler, melt the butter. Then add the flour and stir until well blended. Add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cheese, stir, and remove from the heat. Beat the egg yolks until light and sunny. Add to cheese sauce which has been allowed to cool slightly. Beat whites until stiff but not dry. Fold in cream of tartar and then blend cheese mixture into it. Pour mixture into a greased ceramic deep dish and place that dish into an oven-proof pie pan that has about ½ inch of boiling water added to it. Place dish and pie pan in middle rack of oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until soufflé has risen and crust has browned and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. DO NOT open the oven door while cooking. Only check for doneness at the end of the hour. If the pie pan runs out of water within the cycle of cooking, open the oven door ONCE to add a little more boiling water.

Around my house, we always served the soufflé with baked potatoes, peas, and a “Seizure Salad”—but that’s your call.

 

food poetry Julia Wendell
ABOUT JULIA WENDELL
Julia Wendell grew up in the Allegheny Forest of northwest Pennsylvania. Educated at Cornell University, Boston University, and the University of Iowa, Writer’s Workshop, she left her mid-careers as teacher and editor for the world of horses and three-day eventing. Her children John Logan (a classical sitarist) and Caitlin Saylor (an actor/playwright), grew up with their mother and her husband, poet and critic, Barrett Warner, on their horse farm in northern Baltimore County, where Julia and Barrett still live and work. Julia is enamored of jumping horses over immovable obstacles while galloping cross country. Discover more of her work at JuliaWendell including her new book of poetry about food and the complexities of a mother-and-daughter relationship, Take This Spoon.

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

Creation and Evolution

creation and evolution | Annelies Zijderveld

creation and evolution | Annelies Zijderveld

creation and evolution | Annelies Zijderveld

creation and evolution | Annelies Zijderveld

creation and evolution | Annelies Zijderveld-4

Creation and evolution? Let’s all just break bread instead.

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

To the Next Superfood – food poetry

To the Next Superfood

To whom it may concern
and who has ears to learn,
what passes the test one

day will fall out of favor.
Even now, I try and savor
my name in newsprint,

the widespread popularity,
my far-reaching availability,
and the rich talking points

that come with this gig each day:
high in iron! Vitamin C, A and K!
Carotenoids! Flavonoids! Iron!

I can’t shake that while it’s all true
why you buy me is because I’m “new.”
Ask acai or broccoli, salmon or spinach.

Every superhero has its moment
to be eclipsed by what’s current.
I will still be as valuable when I’m

no longer en vogue. Just look at
my role in the Middle Ages, what
a supplement I played in WW II.

So even when you say you’re through
with my curly green edges or you’ve
tired of crisping me into cheesy chips,

I will keep growing and begin to regale
because nothing not even turmeric
can take on brassica oleracea, the mighty kale!

© Annelies Zijderveld. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or post without attribution. 

food poetry-kale-the food poet

 

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

Dear Plastic Bagged Bread Poem

Dear Plastic Bagged Bread,

From the center section of a grocery store aisle,
you leer at customers with your plastic smile.

If I stop too long to speculate, I wonder about why they place you
in a coveted eye level space of command- strong sales you must prove.

If I accidentally edged your long bag into my closing palm,
I could crush the squishy mass, but that would be wrong-

because what we need in America is fast access sugar.
We can’t get enough of cheaply made foodstuff.

How long will we abide the villainy denouncing whole
grains due to your packaging claims on a bag of white rolls.

But, I know how you would rebut: Americans don’t care
from where the food comes or how it gets made

as long as the pantries fill up from 10 for 1 deals –
you’re from San Francisco, you don’t partake of these meals!

I’m so sick of your bag doing all the talking
what happened to taste, smell, texture – it’s got me balking.

I’ve been learning your game to slip a curveball past you:
a rising minority is proof the ranks are changing and are through

with second rate sandwiches, toast that underperforms,
blaming grains – gluten-full or free for the sad state of norm

that is what we call bread. Just ask a starter, you of the plastic two-
face, as it bubbles up fervently to respond. What it says, we might rue

because to make fermented bread requires more than just money,
but regular feedings, time, love and care, honey.

So, maybe that is too much to ask for, but you, I will still eschew.
And, for now, I’ll go back to baking my own loaves of bread. That’s what I do.

Sourdough Bread Poem- Annelies Zijderveld_9869

© Annelies Zijderveld. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or post without attribution. 

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

Food Poetry Fete: Plan a Burns Night

Poet Robert Burns

Poetry has its way of coursing its way into conversations unexpectedly. I’ve given up alcohol for the month of January, except, of course, I’m making an exception for Burns night. Burns night. It glimmered as a side comment in the long litany of instruction on how to properly roll out and blind bake tart dough. Much like the gaps of baking education I am in the process of filling in, so did planning a Burns night.

To Scots, Anglophiles and poetry lovers, every year on January 25th commemorates the life of poet Robert Burns who wrote extensively of everyday Scottish life. He was a poet of the people. So beloved was he that he remains the national poet of Scotland. Typically a Burns Night commences with a reading of his poem, “Address to a Haggis” and then the feast begins.

In Scotland, the poem is apparently read to an accompaniment of bagpipes and the haggis is sliced and served upon completion of the poem. This can be a bit of a challenge if living in the city of San Francisco or elsewhere in the United States where haggis is not easily found.

1. THROW YOUR OWN BURNS NIGHT.
Bringing the poetry is just part of the fun. Invite your friends over and give each of them a dish to bring. You can even send them the link to the recipe. While haggis may be in short supply, rest assured a night of revelry, relishing good food and poetry can be yours.

DRINKS

Robert Burns cocktail
Bobby Burns cocktail

MAINS

Cock-a-Leekie Soup
Vegetarian Haggis
Neeps and Tatties

DESSERT

Cranachan
Clootie Dumpling

2. FIND A PUB IN YOUR AREA PUTTING ON THEIR OWN BURNS NIGHT.
Don’t fancy last minute party-planning? In this case, get thee to St. Andrew’s Society on Saturday night in San Francisco for their Burns Night Supper at 6 p.m. While the Edinburgh Castle has held a Burns night for the past 19 years in San Francisco, they’re taking a break this year (though if these Scots have something to say about it, there might be a makeshift one happening there?)

3. PLAN A TRIP IN 2015 TO SCOTLAND FOR THE ULTIMATE BURNS NIGHT.
This might qualify as an entry on a poet’s bucket list. Sometimes living in the United States where poetry can seem to live on the margins of society rather than infiltrate it, it can be downright refreshing or astonishing to encounter a culture where a poet’s life and work is honored long after he is gone. Scotland is proud of its “favourite son” hosting many events in his stead. The Haggis Highland Games with a parade and then dancing the evening of the 25th. A humanitarian award, celebration of the works of Robert Burns on display (in 2014) at the Museum of Rural Life and family-friendly events in Edinburgh will also take place to remember Burns.

4. READ “ADDRESS TO A HAGGIS” TO GET THE SUPPER STARTED.
“Address to a Haggis” by Robert Burns

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

You could always kick things off listening to someone else reading “Address to a Haggis” if you’re not up for picking your way through- plus this version comes with bagpipes. Pick up your own collection of Robert Burns’ poetry and dog ear your favorites to read throughout the Burns Night meal or pass around and have your friends take turns picking their own poem to read aloud.

Do you host your own Burns Night? What special flourishes do you incorporate into your party? Any other favorite poems you read aloud?

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Categories
Food Poetry

Stinging Nettle Soup: Greens in Winter Food Poem

Stinging Nettle Soup | Annelies Zijderveld

Greens in Winter

Stiff edged leaves want

to stick fingers, prick them

if unaware of their nature.

 

Winter has left us

bereft, for years we knew

what to expect. But now,

 

farmers throw their hands

out to the fields, then up to

the skies. When precipitation

 

makes some states quake,

ours is notably barren.

The dustbowl is what came

 

of December, long remembered

for rain. We ask ourselves if

the Bay area could become L.A.

 

even as a cloud of smog hovers

where the fingers of fog used

to snake over green hills as cover.

 

To take a season and shake it up

like a snowglobe is to redistribute

what is known with the unknown,

 

leaving us to pray for rain for a Fuyu

tree in Anderson valley, to wait and see

if in a year the fruit will blossom and grow.

Stinging Nettle Soup | Annelies Zijderveld

[print_this]

STINGING NETTLE SOUP

This soup’s bright green color is the perfect pick-me-up for a cold January evening. Sumptuous without being overly indulgent, the almond milk gives just enough of a creaminess with a smidge of warming nutmeg added that lets the subtle flavor of nettles shine. Take note and wear gloves as suggested below. Stinging nettles get their name for a reason when raw, but once cooked, they can be used in similar ways as spinach.

YIELD: 4-6 servings

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces of stinging nettles

3 cups of spinach

1 medium onion

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups almond milk

freshly cracked black pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS
Slip your hands into gloves and rinse the nettles. Bring a heavy bottomed pot 3/4 full of water to a boil. With gloves still on, move the nettles and spinach into the pot. Submerge them with a wooden spoon, letting them cook for 10 minutes. Drain them and squeeze the  liquid out of the greens between two paper towels .

Meanwhile, chop the onion. Turn the heat under a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the olive oil and butter until melted.  Saute the onion until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, the nettles and spinach. Saute for 4 minutes.

Puree the soup in two batches until it’s smooth, adding 1 cup of almond milk each time. Serve with crusty bread, the kind that has enough personality to be a bit sour.

[/print_this]Stinging Nettle Soup | Annelies Zijderveld 2014-01-14 18.11.09

OTHER RECIPES WITH STINGING NETTLES

Stinging Nettle Spaetzle – Honest-Food

Pasta with Stinging Nettles and Ramps Pesto – Sassy Radish

Stinging Nettle Ravioli Gnocchi – A Hungry Bear Won’t Dance

Nettle and Ricotta Tart – Treehugger

Stinging Nettle Omelette – Nourished Kitchen

Categories
Food Poetry

Carrot Top Pesto

Carrot Top Pesto | The Food Poet

Carrot Top Pesto

YIELD: 1 cup

 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of frilly green carrot tops, rinsed & patted dry

3 garlic cloves, skins and clove end removed

¼ cup pine nuts

pinch of salt

4 tablespoons of good olive oil

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING CARROT TOP PESTO
Amass ingredients on top of one another
on a cutting mat: salt 
sprinkled on garlic
on pine nuts on frilly leaves of carrot tops.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather until minced.

Pour and stir in olive oil.

 

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

A Message for the Sandwich Board

I will not write the word pumpkin.
I will not see the word pumpkin.
I will not smell it spiced with cinnamon or sage.

No, I will close my eyes to the round, rippled orbs
and ask more from the September sandwich board.
I will ask it for patience and if it presses, time.

I will mock its fealty to capitalism at all costs
even as it shuns the last crops of peaches,
snubs the new bounty of icebox cold plums.

What begins must end. How we speed cycle
trying to grasp immortality. In my hand, a fig,
and in the other hand, a Purple Cherokee

stained green and red that when cut oozes
juice and jelly. No pumpkin can kiss bacon
and lettuce rightly, nor can it confer to marinara

the flavor of a simple San Marzano tomato.
So, please pass on the Pumpkin Spice latte
until the air curls at the edges like the leaves

drying upon their branches. They too will fall
when the light dwindles at work day’s end.
Until then, savor the Sungold, relish the Roma,
Let the Early Girl catch the worm.

Tomato Poem | The Food Poet

 

 

Categories
Food Poetry Poetry

Tattooed by Love: Food Poetry on Exhibit

cranberry lassi food poetry at the abbey

Nails in hand, hammer in the other we assess the long wall along the Abbey Coffeehouse, already pocked with the absence of previous nails. Along the muted grey hallway, we measured and marked, then hammered and nailed up the Cranberry Lassi Food Poem.

The day started long and lazy, dead center of Independence Day weekend. We lolled about the house, sipping tea and waking up until the clock forced us out into the beauty of an overcast Bay Area day in July. We drove down the 1, one side sturdy mountain, the other breathless Pacific Ocean surf slapping the cliff. This road is deeply woven into our relationship like the gold bands encircling our ring fingers.

cranberry lassi food poetry at the food poet

A slight rapping of wood on wood came from the backseat as we took a curve quickly, nothing that my balled up jacket stuck in the box couldn’t suppress. In the backseat, two boxes with 21 picture frames in tow propelled us forward to one of our favorite California towns, Santa Cruz.

the abbey santa cruz

During July, two of my food poems, the Cranberry Lassi food poem and the Fennel Parsley Citrus Salad food poem will be hanging at the Abbey Coffeehouse. Put another way, I am the featured artist at the Abbey this month. It’s a surreal thing to see your work out in the world, to actually watch as people engage with it or provide their interpretations.

food poetry exhibit_the abbey santa cruz

In the main front room where walls already are cheerfully checkered with mismatched mirrors, a barista pulls a shot of Verve coffee, its aroma permeating the room. College students and locals don their coffee tables as appendages much like the requisite open laptops. We scooted in between high top tables, doling out apologies to folks seated against the long wall where we would soon hang 13 frames.

Among the people we spoke with, one guy wore a tattoo on his forearm that clearly stated in block letters, LOVE. As I’ve learned every tattoo has a story, and I wanted to learn a bit of Brian’s. So, in spite of being a bit of a gnat buzzing in front of him, I asked.

I wondered aloud if it might be a relationship- a special person, perhaps? He explained quickly that he saw it as a reminder of a spiritual love. He described it as a post-it tattooed on his skin. And just like that, he turned his attention back to his computer screen, plugging his ears with music.

I couldn’t let it go. We measured and spaced out the first eight Fennel Parsley Citrus Salad food poem frames, later affixing the beet purple picture name tags. Afterwards, once we had gotten the hang of it, we hung the remaining five frames of a food poem inspired by a quote of Martin Luther King Jr’s.

the food poet at the abbey santa cruz

We pulled together and scanned the long wall, taking in the photos of oranges fusing into parsley, and fennel. We surveyed our handiwork and found it to be good. We gathered what tools had accompanied us down to Santa Cruz, as we prepared to exit the Abbey and head to lunch with friends. Before leaving, I meandered over to the counter where Brian stood, talking with friends.

“Love. It’s one of the simplest mandates and one of the hardest to enact.”

He stood, nodding, as I talked about how the notion that we cannot drive out hatred with hatred- that only love can do that, compelled to share MLK Jr’s words and then point Brian to the Fennel Parsley Citrus Salad food poem and how it wrestles with the same issue of how do we adequately love our neighbor as ourselves. The golden rule isn’t honed from  a lesser element. For a few more minutes we commiserated, the whine of a cappuccino being frothed in the background as music.

the abbey santa cruz

Should you find yourself in Santa Cruz during July, make a trip over to The Abbey for a latte (or Stumptown cold-brew) and a chance to see food poetry in the flesh. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say “in print.” I’m pretty ecstatic about hosting my first exhibit of food poems at the Abbey. Each piece is for sale with a portion of proceeds going to the California Food Literacy Center. The show runs through August 2nd, so if you’re local, jot down the Abbey address and check it out.