The Poetry of Curry, or, a Traveler’s Tale

For numerous reasons, lately I've been indulging in one of my passions - cooking the food of the Indian sub-continent. I just ran across again William Makepeace Thackeray's "A Poem to Curry," quoted by nearly everyone who takes a stab at writing about the mystery of curry, and how it traveled to the nooks and crannies…

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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…

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…

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…

Seeking Honey, in the Bee-Loud Glade

The journey begins, with a glimpse, through the kitchen window, of golden dust shimmering in sunlight, a phantom shadow darting through the air. Hive-bound, the soaring bee dips and kisses the blue-hued flowers once more.  Life blossoms with the promise of fruits and grains to come. Auriferous, gilt-laden with pollen. Honey. Nectar. Food for the…

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…

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.…

“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…

A Reflection on Poetry and Writing About Food: Mark Doty and “Souls on Ice”

As I cooked a Diamond Jim-sized American breakfast this Super-Bowl-Sunday morning - pancakes with real maple syrup, thick-sliced bacon from Edwards' Surry smokehouse, scrambled eggs, and orange juice - I considered taking a picture of my cholesterol-laden plate for "Gherkins & Tomatoes." But hunger beat me to it. In the end, the only picture I…