Cooking and Poetry: 3 Poems to Ignite Your Appetite
The sensuous connection between literature and food has been featured in books such as the romantic classic Like Water for Chocolate and the verse collection The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink, edited by Kevin Young. The descriptive and visual qualities inherent in poetry make it a compatible lover of cooking. As cooking uses all of our senses, it serves as inspiration for all types of poetry, including image-driven poems.
The process of preparing a meal can be compared to the experience of writing a poem. Gathering ingredients can be like collecting words in journals. Then the real pleasure of cooking ensues: chopping, simmering, or sautéing vegetables—like refining stanzas or lines. The attention and detail paid to a dish are like the meticulous editor checking for errors. We can savor a gourmet meal the way we savor a lyrical stanza.
I’ve selected two delectable courses and one mouth-watering dessert: each paired with a poem to compliment it. We will start with a flavorful appetizer, continue with a tasty entrée, and then finish with a sweet dessert. We’ll be looking at the creative recipes of talented chef Jamie Oliver, a well-known restaurateur and food activist. By the time we’re done, you’ll be left with an appetite for poetry and a craving for a delicious meal.
“FROM BLOSSOMS” BY LI-YOUNG LEE
At home, my life partner is the one who cooks. The extent of my cooking is writing poems about it! Our favorite cooking books are Jamie’s Italy and Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver. The books include beautiful pictures to illustrate Jamie’s travel adventures and creative recipes. Jamie’s Great Italian Escape is the documentary series that inspired his book, Jamie’s Italy. He has also hosted several cooking shows, including “Jamie at Home,” based on his book of the same name. If you want videos to accompany the book, I recommend checking out these shows.
For our appetizer, we will start with Roast peach & Parma ham salad. The combination may sound strange at first, but trust me, Jamie knows how to pair flavors and textures in a way that is unique and savory. Jaime describes this appetizer as “a lovely light starter with fantastic sweet, salty and creamy flavors.” This recipe is also easy to make, which is great news for those of us who are not so culinary-inclined.
To pair our appetizer with a poem, let’s read the beautiful, romantic, and sweet “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. I chose this poem because Li-Young knows how to write sensual poems about food. He makes you want to eat his poems! As you read it, notice the lyricism and rhyme; it helps you savor the experience. Notice how the author takes you on the journey the peaches had before they reached his hands. He devours and adores the peaches, almost as if he’s making love to them. And he doesn’t only eat the peaches; he eats the shade, the orchard, “the round jubilance of peach.” They become a part of him and transform him. For that day, they make him forget about death; they make him feel full of life and joy.
“ODE TO PORK” BY KEVIN YOUNG
If you watch Jamie Oliver’s shows, you know that he loves pork, so I couldn’t pass the opportunity to pair these two together: “Ode to Pork” by Kevin Young and one of Jamie’s delicious pork meals. Just search “pork” on Jamie’s website, and you’ll have too many options to choose from! Because Kevin’s “Ode to Pork” is fun, funny, and scrumptious, I chose this pork belly roast recipe, which focuses exclusively on the hedonistic taste of pork. The recipe also calls for “crunchy crackling and homemade gravy.”
This is definitely a feast for meat lovers. Though they may regret eating it the next day, they may be unable to resist, the way Kevin is in his ending to “Ode to Pork.”
“You keep me up all night
cursing your four-
letter name, the next
begging for you again.”
“ORANGES” BY ROISIN KELLY
For our last course, we will taste juicy oranges with Jamie’s Oliver’s recipe for St Clement’s granita and shortbread. According to Jamie’s website, it’s a “summery dessert inspired by the oranges and lemons of St Clement’s pudding (which, incidentally, shares its name with a Cornish village).” This is a light dessert that reminds me of the feeling of innocence that bright, blue afternoon summers bring me.
To pair this dessert, I chose a poem that makes me reminisce of eating oranges in the warm Florida sun, the juice trickling down my cheeks. “Oranges” by Roisin Kelly brings back that playful memory of being present with the taste, texture, and sensory experience of eating fruit. In the poem, she develops a sensual relationship with the oranges as she picks them at the store, feeling her bond with the right orange, the way she would with a sweetheart: “You’ll feel warm / between my palms / and I’ll cup you like / a handful of holy water.”
Roisin’s poem is a love letter to oranges, and the ending is a beautiful reminder of how much joy we can find from the small things in life. The mere smell of the rind or the color of a fruit can create memories we’ll remember for years to come. I hope these poems and courses bring you joy, pleasure, and good times.