#Ferguson : My Thoughts on an American Flashpoint

Originally posted on Afroculinaria:

“…It was the corroboration of their worth and their power that they wanted, and not the corpse, still less the staining blood.”  James Baldwin, “To Be Baptized,” from No Name in the Street, 1972

I have been asked by many people to take a close look at the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri and offer my opinion.  I felt it best to take a step back and really absorb all the circulating currents of opinion and matters of fact before I made any personal pronouncements.  This is my best attempt to answer that call, hopefully soberly, responsibly and with as much restraint as I can muster in the face of this deeply American tragedy.  This is inherently a blog about food and food culture, but anyone who regularly reads this blog understands that it also is a blog about social and cultural justice.  It is clear to…

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What You Eat: Fearless Quiche

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open until November 1, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were setting off smoke alarms in a zealous attempt to impress or, as in the case of this entry from Clarinda Harriss, learning life lessons from Julia Child, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, Clarinda Harriss:

Clarinda Harriss

Clarinda Harriss

For an early-1960s Christmas, my then-husband’s sister, a fabulous cook, gave me a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Betty had a satirical bent, and I thought the present might have been offered in that spirit. The kitchen in our 2-room Charles Village grad student apartment clwas a 6 x 6 space that housed, in addition to the entire upper floors’ huge hot water heater, a dorm-size refrigerator whose tiny top was also the only “counter space,” a miniature sink, and a toy-size stove.

One day I returned home from a late-afternoon class needing to put together some dinner for my husband to gulp down before heading out to night law-school and found that the larder was completely bare except for a pitcher of half-and-a half, a stick of butter, a couple of eggs, a slim wedge of cheese, and two strips of bacon. A desperate search revealed nothing in the pantry (read “linen closet”) but half a small bag of flour, shoved into a mason jar to discourage the roaches.

I can’t imagine what impulse, what good genie, what goddess, what on earth made me turn to Julia. But there, near the front of her tome, it was revealed unto me that I had all I needed to make a quiche. Bear in mind that this occurred long before Real Men and their position vis a vis quiches became a popular issue. So I did what Julia said to do on pages 140 and 147: I made a quiche. And lo, it was good.

The following Thanksgiving I heeded the indomitable spirit of that great cook: think of Meryl Streep as Julia Child warbling “I was FEARLESS.” We hosted sister-in-law Betty, her husband, and her many children at the tiny apartment for a full-scale traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, Virginia – and Betty, and everybody – you can cook a 25-lb turkey in an oven that looks smaller than the turkey itself.

And yes, Betty, I suddenly understood your gift. It was the gift of a food-loving, cookery-loving, risk-taking cry: “Have No Fear.”

And I’m not just talking about food.

Fearless Quiche

What I do now, quick-quiche-wise:  Line a pie pan with a Pillsbury (NOT store brand) pre-made pie crust and prick it lightly all over; bake at 350 for about 7 minutes.  Beat together 2 or 3 eggs, a cup of heavy cream, a big handful of shredded cheddar or whatever cheese you fancy, and a dash of salt. Scatter a few strips of cooked bacon, crumbled, over the baked crust.  Pour in the egg-cream mixture.  Dab bits of butter (about a tbsp total) over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes.  Serve with a green salad to ease your guilt.

Clarinda Harriss is a professor emerita of English from Towson University and 40-year director of BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland’s oldest literary press. Her most recently published poetry collections are Air Travel, Dirty Blue Voice, and Mortmain. Several years ago, CityLit initiated the annual Harriss Award for Poetry in her honor. With poet Moira Egan, she edited Hot Sonnets: An Anthology. A collection of Harriss’ award-winning short stories, The White Rail, was released this year. One of her main interests continues to be prison writers and restorative justice projects.

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What You Eat: Home Brewing

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open until November 1, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were pushing ourselves to do more than just survive or, as is the case with my entry, trying to feel at home while driving away roommates with the smell of boiling malt and hops, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, well, me:

“They’re good, but I don’t think they have enough flavor for brewing.” Martin picked a wild plum off of a tree growing alongside the trail and handed it to me. I popped one in my mouth and picked another before following Martin around a bend to look over the marshes and coastline. He handed me the binoculars and pointed to a spit of beach, “Over there, by the boat.” I lifted the binoculars, and surrounded by samphire, sea purslane, godwits, and gulls, I watched the tourists snap photos of seals while their boat paced the coast.

The Blakeney salt marsh. (Photo: Gerry Balding)

The Blakeney salt marsh. (Photo: Gerry Balding)

A year and a half before, I was clutching a rag against my bloody thumb while dumping wort into a carboy in my small kitchen in Brooklyn. I was bleeding onto the airlock, scrambling to find my sanitizing solution, and finding all my clever preparations for this moment failing. I was brewing my first beer—an English brown ale. But after six months of drawing maps in my notebook, learning the best places to buy groceries, and finding a good slice within walking distance of my door, I would still hesitate to call myself a homebrewer.

Martin Warren in the smokehouse of JWH Jonas Fishmongers, a business now nearly two centuries old. (Photo: Steve Adams)

Martin Warren in the smokehouse of JWH Jonas Fishmongers, a business now nearly two centuries old. (Photo: Steve Adams)

I first met Martin while cycling the length of the Norfolk coast in England. He opened the doors of his Poppyland Brewery for me on a Sunday morning, and I stepped into the biscuit-sweet smell of malt. As we talked shop and shared ideas, we sampled his Stewkey Gose, named (phonetically) for the Stiffkey River which feeds the marshes. The aroma coming off of the hazy pale beer told me how much I’d missed in the miles between the train station in King’s Lynn and this tiny brewhouse in Cromer. Martin had been in the marsh, foraging fistfuls of plants that call this unique ecology home. He told me that he wanted to transport his drinker here, and to celebrate this place. In its delicate balance of sour and salt, herb and earth, I found one of the most interesting and thought-provoking beers on the island.

But the gose isn’t alone in Martin’s range. He brews with barley grown just two dozen miles away from the brewhouse door. He has taken that malt and his hops to a local smokehouse, giving his smoked porter a distinctive tobacco character I haven’t found anywhere else. He brews a saison to be paired with Cromer crab. On this recent visit, we walked into a candy shop and ordered a slice of fudge to split while walking about town. “This is where my gluten-free brewing all began,” Martin said, indicating the clerk behind the counter. “Digby’s got coeliac, and I wanted him to try my beer. There are so few gluten-free beers out there, but it’s so easy to do.” Martin uses an enzyme to degrade one of the two proteins implicated in coeliac disease (the other is naturally degraded during brewing by enzymes present in the barley). When Martin held out some bills for the fudge, Digby shook his head and pushed the fudge over the counter to us.

Cromer Pier (Photo: Garry Balding)

Cromer Pier. (Photo: Garry Balding)

Homebrewing simply refers to brewing within the confines of one’s residence. I still brew in my kitchen. Two years ago, Martin moved his operation into an automotive garage (opened just two decades after the birth of the automobile) across the street from his house. But Martin is much more a homebrewer than I am. As a retired curator of the Cromer Museum and leader of geology walks, brewing is one more manifestation of Martin’s sense of home.

Most of my life, I’ve felt out of place. I didn’t grow up fishing, sailing, or pitching crab traps full of chicken necks off a pier. My first time at a tryout for lacrosse saw me flat in the mud as more experienced players trounced me. I hardly saw Baltimore beyond the commercial island of the Inner Harbor. Whether or not these experiences would’ve made me a Marylander, hearing my peers’ chatter put me on the outside. When my travels took me to suburbs of Chicago or Long Island, my disorientation was only exacerbated by finding the same houses—homes to others. I don’t know my geography.

But while cycling through farms and woodland bridleways with Martin, learning how he’s shaping his geography through guerrilla gardening and rerouting trails, I had hopeful thoughts that maybe I’ve succeeded in sowing some seeds in Brooklyn. Just a few blocks from my apartment, a homebrew shop hosts a community pulled together from all reaches of the city. We’re all fascinated by fermentation. I am hopeful that these seeds take root, and by spring be budding. Martin is planning a visit, and I’d like to be able to show him the home I’ve been brewing.

Bottles of my first brew. I served samples while giving a talk on homebrewing as part of an informal graduate student lecture series at NYU.

Bottles of my first brew. I served samples while giving a talk on homebrewing
as part of an informal graduate student lecture series at NYU.


English Brown Ale

This is a version of the first beer I ever brewed, with some modifications that I think simplify and improve the recipe.

  • 1 satchet Fermentis SafAle S-04 dry English yeast
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings hops
  • 8 oz 120L caramel malt
  • 4 oz 40L caramel malt
  • 4 oz chocolate malt
  • 6 oz Victory malt
  • 5.5 lbs light dry malt extract
  • 3+ gallon pot with lid
  • 6 gallon food-grade plastic bucket with lid
  • Sanitizing solution (StarSan or 1 tbsp bleach in 2 gallons water or 12.5 ppm iodine solution)
  1. Place your crushed grains into a muslin bag (the shop where you bought the grains should crush them for you). Fill your largest pot (hopefully 3+ gallons, from now on called your brew kettle) with water, leaving at least a half gallon headspace. Bring to about 170 F, cut heat, and submerge grains. Let steep for 10–15 minutes, agitating to make sure all the grain is wet. The water will turn dark.
  2. Remove the grain bag and set into a colander above another pot to collect any goodness dripping out of the grains. You can squeeze the grain bag if you dare (the grains are hot!). Bring the brew kettle to a boil, uncovered. Once the grain bag stops dripping, you can dispose of it and add the collected wort (jargon for unfermented beer) to the brew kettle.
  3. Once the wort is boiling, dissolve your dry malt extract into the wort. Be careful, as it will foam, and boil-over is possible. If the foam is getting out of control, cut the heat. Also, once the malt extract is exposed to humidity, it starts to clump and stick, which can make handling it more difficult. Dissolving it all may take 10 minutes or more depending on the intensity of your boil and the amount of headspace in your kettle. If you feel you don’t have enough headspace, just let the wort boil off some water until you’re comfortable with the volume.
  4. Add one ounce of hops, and set a timer for 45 minutes. Hops add bitterness, and the longer you boil them, the more bitterness is extracted. Therefore, it is important that if you want to reduce the volume of the wort in your kettle, you should allow it to boil off before adding hops.
  5. After 35 minutes has passed (i.e., 10 minutes on left on the timer), add another ounce of hops. You may want to begin preparing an ice water bath in a sink or tub.
  6. After 45 minutes, when your timer goes off, turn off the heat. Move the brew kettle to the water bath. Once the temperature of the wort drops below 180 F, cover with lid. Let it sit, replacing the water and/or ice in the bath when it warms, until the wort reaches room temperature.
  7. Sanitize your food-grade plastic bucket by making sure your sanitizing solution contacts all surfaces that the wort will touch. A spray bottle helps. If using bleach solution, make sure to rinse with boiled (and cooled—don’t melt your bucket) water. Other sanitizers needn’t be rinsed. Pour contents of brew kettle into your food-grade plastic bucket.
  8. Open satchet of yeast and add to wort. Legally, your wort is now beer. Cover bucket loosely with lid. Fermentation produces a lot of gas, so you’ll either need an airlock to allow gas to escape or you’ll need to leave the seal of the lid loose. Move the bucket to a cool (~60–65 F) place if you have one. Anywhere around 70 F is okay.
  9. Anytime you’re feeling curious, lift the lid and sneak a peak. But not too often! You were so careful to kill bacteria and yeast that were in the bucket before you started, don’t go letting them in now. After two or three weeks, your beer is probably done fermenting, and you should go over to How To Brew to learn about bottling. And you should learn more about brewing and do it all over again, but even better.
Posted in Brooklyn NY, Food, Maryland, New York NY | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What You Eat: From Grandmother’s Hands

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open until November 1, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were wandering in a new city wondering at new smells issuing from carts and open doors or, as is the case with this entry from Pat Valdata, being shaped by our grandmother’s hands at the same time those hands shaped our traditional foods, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, Pat Valdata:

Pat Valdata

My Hungarian grandmother’s hands rock forward and back, moving the rolling pin over a ball of dough in even, rhythmic strokes. From the pressure of her hands and strong arms, the dough spreads and flattens into a thin ellipse. The elastic kifli dough smells of butter, eggs, yeast. I like to watch the edges expand and pull back with the sweep of the rolling pin.

I am only six years old and my small hands can barely thread a needle, so I marvel at my grandmother’s dexterity. Her wrinkled hands transform dough into strudel, kifli, or noodles; pare and slice apples into uniform segments; crochet white cotton thread into doilies so quickly my eyes cannot follow the motion of her fingers. Now her practiced hands pick up a knife and cut the dough into neat rectangles that look like little windowpanes.

She spreads each rectangle with a thin film of apricot jam. With a butter knife she lifts a corner of one rectangle, pulls it up and lays it flat on the outstretched fingers of her left hand. She scoops up half a teaspoon of chopped walnuts and lets them fall onto the dough, which she then rolls up into a tube smaller than a lipstick.

One by one my grandmother fills and rolls the kifli, the way her mother taught her when she was my age. One by one she places them gently on the cookie sheet until it is filled with kifli in five neat rows. Finally, Grandma paints each kifli with a thin film of milk to help it brown. She places the cookie sheet in the oven, traces a cross in the air with her right hand, whispers a prayer, and closes the oven door.

Photo: Kaja Avberšek

Photo: Kaja Avberšek

Her prayer is in Magyar; a language I don’t understand. All I know is that she appeals to Uralom Jezusum: Lord Jesus. “Lord Jesus, bless my cookies,” I imagine she says, or “Lord Jesus, don’t let them burn.”

As the kitchen fills with the sweet aroma of baking, Grandma takes another cookie sheet and begins the process all over again. She patiently lets me help. The day before, we cracked walnuts and picked out the meats. Grandma ground the nuts and flavored them with lemon peel, vanilla, and sugar. She let me taste when she had it just right, so I would learn to make the filling sweet, but not too sweet.

Years later, when Grandma’s arthritic hands lost their dexterity, my mother and my aunt made the kifli, every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I cannot remember a family holiday without a heaping platter of kifli sprinkled with powdered sugar. And when my mother’s hands grew stiff, and my aunt’s back became too sore, I made the kifli, the same way my mother and my aunt did, the same way Grandma did, placing them in the oven with a whispered benediction.

This recipe for an easy kifli* dough may be used for other cookies and pastries, too:

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ pound salted butter, room temperature
  • ½ pound cream cheese, room temperature

Mix the ingredients in a food processor (or mixer with a dough hook). When the dough holds together, flour your hands and pat it into a smooth ball. Wrap it in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator and cut the dough into four pieces. Roll one piece at a time and fill as described above. Bake at 350⁰ until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Filling:

  • 1 pound of finely ground walnuts
  • Grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs. sugar (use more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix well.

*If you want to read more about kifli and other Hungarian foods, read Pat’s novel, The Other Sister, available from Plain View Press.

Pat Valdata is a novelist and poet whose Hungarian-Italian family lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Pat and her husband Bob live in Elkton, Maryland. Pat’s newest book, Where No Man Can Touch, a series of persona poems about women aviation pioneers, won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize and will be published in 2015 by Story Line Press.

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What You Eat: Taste Test

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open August 1st, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were cooking too much pasta while learning to be independent or, as is the case with this entry from Kim Roberts, finding food as an anchor after the turbulence of cancer, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, Kim Roberts:

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts

I am cured of cancer. For that, I am extremely grateful to my surgeon and my radiologist. But our treatments for cancer, though improving, remain fairly crude. We cut out what we can see, then use electromagnetic radiation to kill any cells in the area—healthy or not, indiscriminately—as they are reproducing.

The part of my body that got radiation therapy was my jaw and neck. I had to wear a medieval torture device to keep my head immobile during the treatments. For a few months, I got X-rayed five days a week, a strange sort of part-time job. I had been warned that I would lose my ability to taste food, but promised that taste would come back.

But in a small percentage of patients, taste does not ever return to normal—alas, I am one of those patients. There are still some foods I can’t taste at all—they are just texture in my mouth, and I have learned to avoid them and the disappointment they bring. But most foods do have taste, just a different one. Not bad—just clearly not as I remembered they should taste, and therefore, to my mind, wrong.

The only food that remains exactly the same after treatment as it did before is coffee. As a result, I have become a connoisseur of coffee. Here is my recipe for iced coffee, which I adore:

Iced Coffee

  1. Pretend you’re a hipster and go to one of the most overpriced and stylish coffee houses you can find.
  2. Buy some single-source, organic, house-roasted beans. If there are “tasting notes” (and you know there will be “tasting notes”), look for coffees that are described as “caramel” or “chocolate” or “honey” toned, combined with something fruity or astringent, such as “lemon” or “white grape.” This will give you a nuanced taste—a warm, sweet flavor combined with something that has a little bite.
  3. Get the surly young sales clerk to grind your beans. Pay the ridiculously high price.
  4. Sniff the fresh aroma all the way home.
  5. Make the coffee strong—an important detail since you’ll be watering it down as you drink it over ice. Let the coffee cool for an hour.
  6. Fill your tallest glass with ice cubes and pour the coffee over. Do not ruin the flavor by adding milk or sugar. The point is to savor the coffee. Pride yourself on becoming a coffee purist.
  7. Sit in your favorite overstuffed chair with a really good book and drink.

Kim Roberts is the author of five books, most recently Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, 2011), and the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010). She is editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and coeditor, with Dan Vera, of DC Writers’ Homes. www .kimroberts.org.

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What You Eat: Pesto Change-o

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open August 1st, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were stewing in teenage angst while mom burned the pot roast or, as is the case with this entry from LPR’s own Laura Shovan, falling in love with a new family and food together, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, LPR Poetry Editor, Laura Shovan:

Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan

Every year, my mother-in-law says the same thing.

“Pesto tastes of summer.”

She’s right. The basil leaves that give body and color to this light, green pasta sauce are so easy to grow, they’re found in even the most basic summer vegetable gardens.

For pesto and me, it was not love at first sight.

I was seventeen years old. I’d grown up in a house where Italian food was pizza, frozen lasagna, and pasta with sauce. RED sauce.

My British mother had a few recipes we all loved: her hearty beef stew, a traditional shepherd’s pie dish she’d brought with her to the U.S. On busy days, though, it was egg noodles with tuna, mayo, and frozen peas for dinner. If my brothers and I were lucky, we had Swanson TV Dinners. My favorite was the Hungry Man dinner that came with a square brownie.

My mother grew up in post WWII Britain. Food rationing made ingredients scarce. You ate what was in front of you and liked it. That’s how she’d learned to cook, so that’s how she cooked. And I did like it.

Until I met this guy. I was sixteen, a junior. He was a senior at a different high school. It was love at first sight. Rob is an only child and was, at the time, an only grandchild – an oddity in his big, extended family. I found myself adopted by his mother, Linda, and his grandmother, the matriarch of their Italian family, Rose.

Three-generation Sunday dinners were mandatory affairs. It was at one of these meals that I was introduced to pesto sauce. Green. On pasta. It just looked wrong.

But Rob and I had been dating a few months by that summer. I was in love. To say I was willing to try a strange-looking, garlicky dish doesn’t capture my feelings. I was in love with Rob, in love with how readily his family had accepted me, and in love with food for the first time in my life.

No exaggeration. Every dish that passed through Rose and Linda’s kitchens was delicious. Simple fried chicken cutlets for lunch. American recipes like pot roast. Hamburgers on the grill. It didn’t matter. I was learning that when you pay attention to the food you prepare, it repays the favor by tasting amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, the pesto. Just a few dollops of what looked to me like green mayonnaise on a pound of rotini cooked al dente. Yes, I was learning that pastas have names – this is the curly kind. It traps the bits of pignoli nuts and parmesan in the sauce best. With each bite, there is a perfect combination of basil, cheese, nuts, and garlic.

Pesto sauce can be served as a spread on thick slices of toasted Italian bread or French baguette. On pasta, it’s a great side dish for grilled chicken. Slather it over a nice piece of salmon and bake it to your liking.

Rob and I celebrate our 23rd anniversary this summer. He’s the cook in the family. My kitchen specialties are soups made with homemade stock and baked sweets. But I was brave enough to come up with my own pesto. When we served it to Linda, she asked for the recipe.

Pesto Sauce for Pasta

  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. to ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup pine (pignoli) nuts or walnuts
  • 2+ cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup to 1 cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt

Use a blender or food processor. Combine all ingredients except oil. Blend or process with on-off turns until a paste forms or ingredients are chopped small. Gradually add oil and blend/add until sauce has the consistency of soft butter. (If the oil separates, add more of the other ingredients.) Makes three portions. Can be frozen up to one month.

Note: Stale pignoli nuts have a bitter after taste. Before adding this ingredient to your pesto, do a taste-test. The flavor should be slightly nutty, slightly sweet.

Laura Shovan is Poetry Editor of Little Patuxent Review. She will be publishing a novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade Of Emereson Elementary, with Random House Children and keeps a blog about children’s literature and education at Author Amok. Laura was a finalist for the 2012 Rita Dove Poetry Award. Her chapbook Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems (MWA Books) and Voices Fly: Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches.

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The Language of Food

Sashimi. Injera. Pasta e fagioli. Tagine. Bibimbap.

How many tongues can you access only through the language of food? How many minutes could you commune with a family at a foreign table, supported only with the language of food? What ancient miracle can you invoke by calling out “godisgood“? Let poems and stories ferment in your mind. Our next submissions period, opening August 1st, will focus on food.

Design by Deb Dulin

Design by Deb Dulin

As a brewer and baker, I feel food to be a powerful and lively symbol. The acts of producing these ancient and fundamental foods connects me through all of my senses with humans everywhere and everywhen. When I am kneading my dough, I feel a duty to French refugees in Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s “Flight to Arras” who do not flee their homes for fear of invading Nazis, but because the town’s baker has already evacuated. When I feed flour to my levain, I feel a duty to Martín Espada’s oppressed and downtrodden whose symbol of salvation is the angels of bread. I draw a deep meaning from this duty. As I wrote to a friend today, “If I don’t bake, the village will starve.”

A few years ago, I was a student in a workshop taught by Stanley Plumly who had given us the prompt of writing an homage. One week later, a student shared a poem with us expressing her gratitude to everyone who has ever shared food with her. Listening to her read, I thought of my father, whose expressions of love through careful cooking were unintelligible against my expectations of games of catch and a treehouse. I thought of  homes where I’d felt most welcome once invited for dinner. I thought of the chocolate chip cookies a friend baked me as a parting gift, sustaining me during a drive from Minneapolis to Portland with a maxed-out credit card and too little cash.

I remain mindful of that poem and Saint-Exupéry and Martín Espada, not only for the beauty of their language and expression, but for the effect they have in putting me in contact with one of the most concrete and tangible conduits we have for experiencing and sharing life—food. I am certain that the contributions of the LPR community that will create this issue will only broaden and deepen these feelings of mine, and already I cannot thank you enough for that.

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