Breath and Air and the Mysteries of Spring

  One day you wake up to icicles and yet another dark, distressing gray morning, powdered with snow. And then, the very next thing you know, you're marveling at the miraculous resurgence of greens and yellows and purples scattered along the sides of the road, the warm sunshine cascading through trees, their skinny bare branches…

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Black is the Colour of My … Food

Black is the colour ... “Black is the colour of my true love’s hair, his face is something wondrous fair,” goes a traditional ballad sung in the Appalachian Mountains, with origins likely from Scotland. I started thinking about colors and food when I read of the passing of Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Heaney wrote of…

Home is the Place Where …

“Home," he mocked gently. “Yes, what else but home? It all depends on what you mean by home. Of course he’s nothing to us, any more Than was the hound that came a stranger to us Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.” “Home is the place where, when you have to go…

A Happy New Year Nugget of Wisdom for Writers: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book.”*

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore Cheers to all of you, wherever you may be, whatever you may be doing, whenever you're dreaming. __________________________ *Quote from Brad Paisley © 2013 C. Bertelsen

The Powers of an Unsung Poet: Finding the Universe in a Fragment

Sometimes life hands me gifts in sly ways. A few years ago, I sat in the sunlit reading room at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, worshiping at the shrine of the M. F. K. Fisher papers, pulling blue files out of green storage boxes, luxuriating in the correspondence between that brilliant writer and Julia Child,…

Moonstruck, a Meditation on Earth’s Moon

The crescent moon rises in the early night sky, a scythe among the clouds, sharp against the fading blue and the sun's dying light. Cooking by the light of the full moon, the shadows in the corners illuminated, tugging at my mind. I bend low, hunting for a knife to chop the onion, slice the…

Lavender, France’s Balm for the Soul

The lavender lingers on my sloping hillside, autumn rain running in rivulets between the dying leaves. At summer's peak, the purple flowers tantalized the bees and butterflies and me, the glorious scent perfuming the air of evening and morning both. No lambs frolicked in the lavender this year, but maybe someday a friend's weanlings will…

Lemons – Tiny Cathedrals of Gold

Lemons, their pitted, nay, prehistoric, skins secreting golden oil, Shielding sourness, evoking memories of a grandmother's kitchen, A grandfather's garden. Born in the East, fruitful India, A kiss of cold, albeit fleeting, spawns the yellow Immortalized  in stone, paint, and clay. A fruit reverenced, Blossoming from mountain and lake, Urging cooks to slice, pierce, and…

Eating the Wild Air …

From the first gasping breath, when tiny hands claw at air, reaching futilely for an anchor, a rope, air feeds us. Even  fish of seas and lakes and rivers seek that building block of air --- oxygen. Fire roars when coddled by oxygen and whimpers like a teat-deprived newborn lamb in its absence. Steam, the…

Salt of Earth, Crucible of Life

Just a pinch, and the primal sea surges, memories filling your mouth. Weep, and you'll know what fish first knew. Bleed, and you'll smell the earth. Sweat, and you'll sense ancient waters flowing. Building block of blood, sweat, and tears.  Salt, not sugar, primeval taste. Ancient, this elixir. The essence of legends, myths, stories. Pillars…

A Taste Sweeter Than Meat, More Ancient Than Wine

Olives, pungent, demanding, a taste acquired. Their beauty belying their bitterness, their hardness. Sunshine and human hands transform tartness into fragrant fruit and nectared oil --- fare of  peasants, armies, kings, and saints. From ancient, twisted roots comes timeless provender, oily, meaty, food until long journeys' end. Spread out under the vast sky, waiting for…

The Provençal Pantry in Poetry and Photos

Readers of Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons & Tomates will see something new in the coming weeks --- tiny photo essays. A weekly showcasing of some of the basic components of the Provençal (and frankly French) pantry, enlivened with a blessedly small pinch of poetry, these meditative snippets incarnate my intense desire for fresh, nay…

Forgotten Recipes and Forgotten Cooks

If you think that real cooking needs to be resurrected, you'd be right. You can't exist on McNuggets alone, as the film Super Size Me proved. But if you think we should all go back to cooking everything just like our foremothers (and sometimes forefathers) did, you'd be a bit misguided. Romantic, yes, and it's…

When Life Gives You Lemons, Dream of Sorrento

Lemons --- the smell of them teases out dreams of sunny days and slower ways, of light twisting through splintery pergolas hung heavy with purple wisteria. And, of course, bees buzzing above the wine glasses and darting through clumps of flowering thyme on the ground below. Lemons --- the sight of them conjures up visions…

A Poet’s Take on Organic Food

Fashionable Fallacy #2: Organic Food** The proponents of all things organic Will lapse into a shuddering panic: "One can never be sure If a substance impure Has seeped into this lab-furnished food." And yet, nevertheless, They consume without stress What by Nature was grown, Composition unknown, And all the more random and crude. ~~ G.…

Strawberries, a Meditation

The following poetic musings by Alison Luterman come from Bread, Body, Spirit: Finding the Sacred in Food (edited with commentary by Alice Peck; quoted here with permission of Alison Luterman): Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then…

“Food,” by John Updike

The other day I discovered a delightful book, small, about the size of  a deck of Tarot cards, adorned with one of those old-fashioned ribbons for marking favorite passages, like a tiny red tongue sticking out. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Poems about Food and Drink, selected and edited by Peter Washington (Everyman's Library Pocket…