Food Poetry

Avocado- Poem by Arthur Kayzakian

Avocado Poem


my dad once told me to never mess with an unripe avocado

he said if you cut it open too soon

then it will know you are not interested in its growth

so it will begin to die even if you do not eat it

that in some parallel universe

the avocado is a baby gator waiting to hatch

sometimes I watch him crack the shell open

carve out the big wooden seed

and cut its green body into thin slices

I wonder if in that distant universe

the baby gator watches us in horror

with pity for our version of hunger




Arthur Kayzakian is a poet and MFA candidate at San Diego State University. He is also a contributing editor at Poetry International. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Northridge ReviewChaparralTaproot Literary ReviewConfrontationSan Diego Poetry Annual, and Rufous City Review.

Food Poetry Poetry

Long Live Gastronomic Poetry

mark strand

Mark Strand passed away in November. Somehow I always expect there will be a flurry of magazine covers and articles to eulogize poets with the same kind of attention afforded to celebrities. And, perhaps that might be the case if the world resembled Brattleboro, Vermont where a stranger walked up to a poet friend of mine, delighted to have recognized him and asked for an autograph. While I didn’t know Strand personally, I owe him a great debt.

During high school and college, I coursed my way through reading poetry—either for classes or for leisure. At the time I knew I wanted to write, but hadn’t completely decided on the form. Journalism had caught me in its net and I pursued it, working at the school newspaper as a features editor, senior reporter, and at one point as an assistant arts and entertainment editor. I loved the pace of the newsroom and the camaraderie. We were a family of misfits who asked questions and told stories.

I could never shake that absurd desire to push the Word beyond fact and into letting it play and carouse with other words though. So, under the tutelage of Jack Myers and in a room right off of the front door of Dallas Hall, I met with other students to workshop poems and fell into part of a poem by Mark Strand that is all brilliant wordplay and keen precision. I would return to it on occasion if I needed to be reminded of how words can cut and thrill.

Years later, when I experienced a crisis of raison d’etre proportions, I came back to poetry… and Mark Strand. When applying to poetry MFA programs, his name showed up high on a list of my influential poets. That bit of wordplay worked itself into an anthem cheering me on as I considered the course on which my life was racing. And his book on poetic form urged me on to attempt to write a good villanelle and pantoum.

Poet Charles Simic at New Hampshire Poetry Fest 2015

It’s a strange thing to live during a time where so many celebrities exist and are venerated for just showing up while others hunker down outside of the wide lens and do the work until the right time for the grand reveal. I didn’t know Mark Strand but have long been aware of the role he and poet Charles Simic have played in coining the term, “gastronomic poetry.” Heck, he wrote a poem in 1979 called “Eating Poetry.” It seems as though we would share that particular appreciation in common if we had ever met over glasses of good wine, thoughtfully prepared food, and a short supply of the right words.

Poet Jeff Friedman and Poet Ross Gay

Last fall, I happened to be in New England during the first New Hampshire Poetry Festival. Without missing a beat, I canceled plans in Boston and made reservations in Manchester so I could attend. Early on Saturday morning, I sat in the session listening to Boston area poets read, appreciating the different approach of each of the poets, especially Wyn Cooper and Anna Q. Ross. From there—and one of the big draws for me—a group of us assembled around long tables for a workshop on writing in open forms with Jeff Friedman. During my MFA experience, Jeff mentored me and we became friends. His poetry is ripe with food and he definitely falls into the foodie camp. Later on in the trip, I visited one of his writing classes as a guest and spoke about food writing and poetry. 

After lunch at a local pub, I sat in on a panel during the New Hampshire Poetry Festival about the poetry of lost voices and how the poets approached the writing process, seeding research and interviews in the process. An international poetry reading followed and made me a new fan of Ewa Chrusciel’s work, plus I enjoyed seeing my friend Ross Gay and getting to hear him read poems from his newest book made the afternoon unforgettable, especially a poem about a fig tree. To close the festival, poet Charles Simic read from his newest collection, The Lunatic and from previous works. Quickly, I thought back to an article by Simic in the New York Review. In it, Simic described gastronomic poetry’s genesis, “Both Mark and I had noticed at poetry readings that whenever food was mentioned in a poem—and that didn’t happen very often—blissful smiles would break out on the faces of people in the audience.” It’s a rollicking, fun look at how they intentionally started adding food in their poems. He draws several comparisons to cooking and poetry, before adding about Strand that, “[w]e were just a couple of short-order cooks who kept trying to pass themselves off as poets.”

I never had a chance to meet Mark Strand, but I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to meet Charles Simic pass. And so, I perked up as he read from the poem, “O Spring” in The Lunatic, “my chin high / Like a pastry cook standing / Next to a prize-winning wedding cake.” Later on, once I tucked the book into my bag and pulled it out in my hotel room that evening, I pondered how a mouth open in surprise might find “one tooth in front / Waiting like a butcher in his white apron / For a customer to walk through his door” in the poem, “With One Glance.”

Poet Charles Simic at New Hampshire Poetry Fest 2015

After the reading, when a short line had formed, I joined the queue to say hello and perhaps talk about food or poetry for a moment. In answer to how “gastronomic poetry” came about, he described that one evening, he and Strand were talking about the universal receptivity to food in poems. “I had a cheeseburger and a tongue-in-cheek idea to write poems that include the kind of thing everyone eats three times a day.” And with that, I thanked him and moved on.

Writing about food in poetry is one way I stay tethered to the form. Then again, there is a poetry in food that is equally compelling. In 2007 when I started the original inception of this blog, I called it “La Vie en Route” and used it as a place to chronicle great meals on my travels in the food business and what I learned along the way during studies for my poetry MFA. What I learned quickly and informed the transition to changing the blog name to “the Food Poet” is that all too quickly poetry gets elbowed out for the louder voices in my life. To tie me to it, I needed an anchor. Fifteen years ago, I began working in the food industry, but my passion for food started well before then. To marry two of my greatest loves in one spot of the internet might just keep me coming back to refill the tank of my soul. Blogs evolve as their people do. Some people take down their tents, opting not to continue blogging when life gets harried. Others opt to reimagine what their blog space might resemble as they transition to new careers or passions. I am still pulled by poetry and food here, and also cognizant that giving you a thoughtful morsel means more than slapping a post on the site just for the sake of consistency (though I wish I could blog more).

For months, we have worked to bring a fresh varnish to the blog, knowing activating plans always take longer than you expect and that hard work behind the scenes can lead to a better reader experience. We have updated the website to make recipes easier to search and to put a gleam of polish on the online edifice. The sections have been broken out a bit with a left sidebar search that invites you to plumb the pipeline deeper– I’ve relished reopening blog posts from years ago, finding what is written must have been at the hands of another person as we sometimes rediscover in reading our earlier voices. I hope you will find it pleasing to navigate the blog and that you might even discover some new-to-you compositions based on the way we have categorized the sections. When you do visit, you can count on food, poetry, and art a la carte. I send the heartiest of thanks to Michael for the beautiful blog design, Jillian for the lovely calligraphic logo, and Stephanie for being prescient enough to pull out the camera one afternoon and convince me to smile without a stitch of makeup on my face. My thanks also goes out more broadly to fellow poets and cooks who find symmetry in the line and saucepan, who pursue their love of the craft diligently. 

Food Poetry Poetry

Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

This is where you write something pithy.
This is where you tell a funny joke.
Or where you share a photo to awaken
an urge inside for just one bite.
Life comes to us, a whole pie, lattice intact.
We share one slice. We take one for ourselves.
We feast in quiet corners on the crumbs or lick
the juice pooling by the fruit so none of it is waste.
This is where I try to make you like me.
This is where I pretend it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
This is where I tease you with something sturdy
like oats, wickedly bathed in oil and simple
syrup, hazelnuts knocking into chocolate chunks.
And I take out one bowl for you and I take out
one bowl for me that we might sit in the silence
of our thoughts, knowing all we can do is feed
the need to be known even if we appear
as composite photos of our actual selves online.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

You can find the Earl Grey syrup recipe and several other ways to use this simple sweetener in Steeped. The hazelnuts make this granola great, coated in Earl Grey syrup. I’m already a fan of hazelnuts and citrus, so this pairing continues the love affair. I detest the flavor of canola oil and do not find it neutral in flavor. If you don’t have safflower, try using grapeseed instead. I add the chocolate at the end so it doesn’t melt into the granola but instead keeps its girlish figure. I like to eat this with almond milk or cow’s milk. And let me just say if you like to slurp cereal milk, you will find the dregs of this granola subtly redolent of sweet Earl Grey.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Earl Grey simple syrup

¼ cup safflower oil

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped or ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 275F. Line a roasting sheet pan with parchment paper. Stir together the oats, hazelnuts, salt, sesame, syrup, and oil in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until coated. Dump and flatten the Earl Grey oat mixture into a thin layer on the prepared pan. Cook for 40 minutes, removing the pan in eight minute intervals, to stir the granola and flatten it back into a thin layer before putting it back in the oven. Cool the granola for 10 to 15 minutes before mixing in the chocolate. Store the granola in a sealed container in your pantry.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

Food Poetry Poetry

Metamorphosis by Jonathan Pacic

Coffee Poetry

This summer has been full of coffee. Iced coffee. Head back to the previous post (and nab the Spicy Sweet Tea Glazed Chicken recipe) to learn why. I’m a passionate tea drinker but I can drink down a cup of coffee with the best of them. I’m an equal opportunity caffeineist. Initially, I had wanted to share this poem, “metamorphosis” with you in June, where the poem starts, but life got in the way and I’m glad it did. Jonathan Pacic’s affinity for coffee goes deeply enough that he has written a whole series of coffee poetry, two of which he has kindly let me share here. If you haven’t read his poem “Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3” then head there first. We will wait for you before starting the metamorphosis. The “#3” is what gets me most about that poem. Tea snobs, coffee snobs, and even macaron snobs can relate to the idea that something worth caring about is worth writing about several times over.

Back to “metamorphosis”, the poem’s lack of punctuation only reiterates the idea that summer is endless. There’s a lazy slow molasses-like quality to how time moves. I can relate to how “hot afternoons yawn.” Heat becomes a formality that gets kicked-off.  As seasons change if we look for the transition in the sky we might find it floating down to our cups and into the ways we spend our days. This is what I think makes “metamorphosis” perfect for sharing as summer comes to a close. Those practices that we seek to invite into our lives as the season begins hold valuable lessons for the season to come. If we let them, we might be able to unearth the metamorphosis happening inside each of us which might just mirror what is transpiring outside.



in June
when the conditions are perfect
and hot afternoons yawn into warm
nearly-summer evenings
dinners move outside
televisions hibernate
the borders of bedtime
get pushed back
and coffee kicks off
the formality of heat
and kicks back
as iced-coffee


© by Jonathan Pacic, 2015


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. Visit his website, to see more of his poetry and work.

Food Poetry Poetry

Wine Poetry: Terroir by Phil Coturri

Terroir Poem_Stone Edge Farm Cookbook

Terroir is an Expression of Place



an expression of place

enhanced by organic practices

soil enlivened from extensive cover crops

breathe flavor and intensity into fruit.



vineyards surrounded by gardens

the complexity of arugula,

Padrón peppers,

ripening tomatoes,


to the bane of the farmer,

the chicken,

lending to exactness of flavors.



the expression of the views

the owl sees

in the morning light as it perches

in an olive tree.



explosion of flavor with each sip of wine

that defines its origin.



chickens the bane of the farmer

let loose in the vineyard hopping up

to steal a sugar-laden berry.



exudes life

life in the soils

life in the flavors

of Stone Edge Farm.



the expression of the roots

embracing the alluvial stones

bringing minerality to the wine.



the cool bay breeze in the evening

after ninety-degree days

that brews the development of ripe flavors.



the flavor of soils defined by respect

not by abuse.



flowers blooming year round

inviting bees and beneficial insects.


Terroir is controlled or enhanced by humans,

we don’t control it

we guide it

to an expression of flavor.



the decisions we make

daily in the vineyard

how we prune

how we train

how we thin the crop so each cluster hangs with integrity

ripening in dappled sunlight.



the decision to harvest

the grapes

send them to the winery.



let the alchemy begin.


—Phil Coturri
Reprinted with permission from “Stone Edge Farm Cookbook


In 2014, something happened in Chicago at the IACP 2014 conference that set tradition on edge: a self-published cookbook won the cookbook of the year award. The author, a lanky man with salt and pepper hair and the widest grin you can possibly imagine set his mast toward the front of the room and sailed on, surprised! So full of glee! John McReynolds, the culinary director for Stone Edge Farm accepted the award on behalf of the Sonoma winery and ever so briefly mentioned the journey that brought them to self-publish their stunning coffee table cookbook full of photos and recipes that might just make you want to head to Sonoma for a long weekend. I caught up with him between sessions, curious to hear more, especially after I found this beauty of a poem written by Phil Coturri, the viticulturist at Stone Edge Farm (and a bit of a legend in Sonoma County for his dedication to organic farming) printed in the cookbook. Seeing poetry incorporated into cookbooks is something that makes me endlessly happy and hopeful that more opportunities might arise for culinary and literary cross-pollination.

In “Terroir,” like the grapevines flanking the sides of highway 101 in Sonoma, I appreciate Coturri’s use of concrete poetry, letting the form guide the eye as it curls toward a long line or dips into an abbreviated one, all shoots and tendrils. Terroir reverberates throughout the poem almost as a mantra as if saying it often reminds the reader and writer that “we don’t control it / we guide it / to an expression of flavor.” When talking to people about tea and notably, terroir, often it is described akin to wine. The place, climate, and condition of the soil all seeps into the final cup, showing how terroir extends beyond the vine. What this bit of wine poetry does well is instruct the reader into the nuances that make up terroir as if we too might join Coturri on a hot Sonoma afternoon in October during crush, as if our eyes might alight upon the grapevines differently. With responsibility. As if they are a gift to be nurtured. As if the domain of terroir expands beyond the vineyard into our own lives, asking where does the alchemy need to begin?

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

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
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.

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 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.


Writing Recipe Headnotes for the Heart

Writing Recipe Headnotes - Words as Honey

Words can stick like dried honey to a countertop, catching any stray bit of paper towel. They can swirl and fuse into a person like stirring a spoonful of honey from a jar into a hot mug of tea. Sometimes we can be so carefree with our words, forgetting this quality they possess that rivals the handiwork of honeybees. Sometimes, we linger on words spoken a long time ago, letting them marinate within us that our response might tenderize until the right time.

One evening this past winter, a chill pierced the air that could penetrate even the thickest Ugg boots or puffy jacket. I had set out cross-town in San Francisco to attend a poetry reading and arrived early knowing the race might be on for the metered parking spots, free after 7 p.m. It had been months, since I had attended a reading. It didn’t help that I was a walking ball of influenza, all half-used tissues and sniffles, wrapped in layers of black outerwear. I kept to myself until I couldn’t keep myself from seeking out people to talk to, visually apologetic for my sorry state but not so disapproving of my health that I would let it keep me from indulging in listening to some favorite poets inflect their poems with their voices. To read a poem aloud is to give it new breath and life, to discover another side of it like unexpectedly catching someone you love doing something kind for a stranger. We crave igniting our aural capabilities. In that way reading a poem on the page and hearing the author pause in different spots than the line breaks on a page which stop the eye is akin to releasing the poem anew.

What pulled me out of bed and into the bookstore reading that night were the poets lined up to read from recent collections and getting to see Chard de Niord, who with Jacqueline Gens, had co-created the MFA Poetry program at New England College, of which I am an alumnus. The evening’s reading began. Peter Everwine read softly, his vowels long and his consonants clustering around each other. I craned forward then, determined not to miss one word and surprised as my eyes glistened as if on command when he finished reading a poem that caught me in its net and held me in the quiet space just after a poem finishes and before people begin clapping. The imagery kept me cornered in his mother’s kitchen, my eyes fixed on her rag rug that served as a striking symbol of grief. Chard de Niord stepped forward and read with tenderness, leaning ever so slightly on the podium, caught in the current of words he had penned but had taken on their own life. Alejandro Murguía spoke of finding love in Paris, even as the listener knew early on that this love would not last, even as the listener ate the clues of foreshadowing that would take the beloved back to Caracas. Forrest Gander told a story describing the human need for connection with such fluency it left me breathless.

When the reading ended, I sat there, still soaking in the words and truths relayed in the small span of an hour, feeling changed. With glassy eyes and still sniffling my way through a purse-sized pack of tissues, I introduced myself to another poet in this room made up mainly of poets. As we navigated our introductions, I described the food poetry that’s kept my attention the reading regimen of cookbooks and poetry books. He scoffed, not meanly, but said, “What good writing can there be in cookbooks?”

It’s been many months since that poetry reading and the scoffing poet’s words continue to bubble up within me like a tomato sauce that simmers for several hours, letting the ingredients concentrate. What I think the scoffing poet was missing that night, is that cookbooks possess their own possibility for weaving a good narrative or lyrical play of language if done well. What I think the scoffing poet was pointing to that evening is an innate need to push the Word forth. As someone who jots recipes down on scraps of paper pocked with sauce in my kitchen and occasionally shares them in this spot of the internet, I, too am perplexed by the formulaic qualities of recipe-writing, but then, just as quickly, I can be dazzled by a writer who displays a sense of voice with clarity of instruction and the right choice of evocative detail. I think that might just be as hard as writing a really good humorous poem. The key is to not muddle the method with so much self that it is cloying, but instead, to also not be afraid to step out of the norms of recipe diction (within the parameters of a publishing house style guide).

The scoffing poet’s words pushed me forward to consider what good writing looks like in a recipe, while adhering to a recipe’s particular requirements. I can certainly attest to the necessity of tightening language even after it seems like a belt that’s been cinched one rung too snug before Thanksgiving supper. In my own experience, crafting a cookbook reminds me so much of sitting among sheaves of poems strewn on the ground, determining how they thread together into a chapbook and in which order. Writing a recipe requires the concision of language that poetry already understands. The heart of the writer and their personality often come out in head notes.

If I could continue the conversation with the scoffing poet, I would underscore the opportunity in head notes. They can give explanation for any oddities that might throw off a home cook in the instructions. They also sometimes tell a story that threads the recipe into the larger narrative of life. Poetry and poetic devices with their keen eye of economy can disturb the status quo of the ho hum head note. Is it be possible for a cookbook to win a Pulitzer Prize or a National Book Award? It is a question I brought up to a friend that elicited a guffaw for my bravado. I look forward to clapping aloud for the food writer who clinches that golden apple, if it is one that can be extended to members of the cooking community. That it hasn’t been done yet is impetus for cookbook writers to set writing goals as high as recipe testing limits. There is much yet to excavate.

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
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.


20 Ways to Combat Poetry Writer’s Block

poetry writer's block

Writer’s block is a myth. Do you think chefs have cook’s block? Do you think Rick Bayless wakes up in the morning and thinks to himself, I don’t know what to cook?

Michael Ruhlman probably uttered other statements I jotted down during IACP, but that is the one my mind keeps regurgitating with regularity. Rick Bayless and I took the escalator down afterwards, so I asked if Ruhlman was right. Bayless replied, You cook through it. 

If you’ve ever experienced the sensation of writer’s block, it’s like a blinking cursor on the vast expanse of the blank screen. Do you break out in a sweat? Think you will never be able to string together intelligible words again? It may be a myth but it might also be the cause of a lot of consternation.

Here are 20 ways to kick poetry writer’s block. If you’ve got a tip to add, post it in the comments and I will add it with attribution so we can make this a workable list of ideas.

20 Ways to Combat Poetry Writer’s Block

1//  Give your work a break. Don’t open the document or notebook for a day or two after you’ve written something, so that you can bring fresh eyes to the piece. Open a poem you haven’t revisited in a while and revise with really fresh eyes, even if it means you scrap the bulk of the poem and only keep one line. Use that line as a diving board.

2// Pick up a book like 642 Things to Write.

3// Go to a museum and see if you connect with one of the paintings hanging there- perhaps you will be primed to write an ekphrastic poem.

4// Go to a poetry reading and keep a notebook in hand to write down phrases or lines that catch your attention.

5// Pick up a book of a master poet whose work inspires your own. Steal the syllable count from a poem you think has good flow of theirs. If the finished poem still has the same flow and framework as theirs, credit them in the title.

6// Swipe the rhyming end words from a poem and fashion them into a poem of your own words.

7// Read often.

8// Subscribe to the New York Times (or look elsewhere for large blocks of text to manhandle). Create erasure poems using a thick marker.

9// Learn a new language. Let the sounds creep into your ear and loop around your tongue that you might think about your own language differently.

10// Take a writing class and find peers to workshop your work with you. As you read their work listen for new ways to approach your own work and tics to cut out.

11// Take a sensory walk around your neighborhood. What do you smell? What are the sounds enveloping you? Is the fog thick and damp or sun sticky and hot?

12// Go to work as a barista, a restaurant server, a stay at home mom (or dad), a web designer, advertising executive, marketing professional or cook. Keep a small notebook near you for snippets of poetry that break through everydayness.

13// Begin journaling your days using constraint of only 100 words. Let this force you to be intentional about word choice and be a first draft on hard topics.

14// Write a thank you note. Be specific. Let it serve the purpose of gratitude while being an opportunity to practice concision and description.

15// Read often. Research a subject that interests you. Become an expert. See how it might naturally elbow its way into work that originally has nothing to do with it.

16// Take a photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, cooking or mixed media class. Let the precepts behind one form of creating bleed into your writing.

17// Read a poet’s life work from start to finish. Look for how their voice changed as they aged. What stayed the same? Don’t be hard on yourself. Keep writing.

18// Cobble together a writing tribe for workshop. Listen for comments on your work that line up with the edits you see are needed. Nurture these relationships.

19// Volunteer at a local homeless drop-in center. Eat dinner. Make friends. Listen for the stories you don’t expect to hear. Dedicate yourself to helping a cause you believe in. Let the importance of what it’s seeking to eradicate worm its way into your work. Let your heart expand and your poetry will too.

20// Write one draft. Underline the phrases that are essential. Scrap the rest of it. Write a second draft that largely forgets the first draft, but looks for ways to incorporate those essential phrases. If they don’t work? Scrap them. Keep writing.

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.