Mar 21, 2018
Food isn’t just sustenance. It’s also inspiration for great poets like Robert Frost and Pablo Neruda. On World Poetry Day (March 21), we decided to pay homage to foods that have been enshrined in legendary poems, along with delicious ways to eat them!
Dark, sweet and luscious, plums can certainly evoke poetry. In ‘This Is Just To Say”, William Carlos Williams politely apologises for polishing off the plums that someone else was probably “saving for breakfast”. The plums were “so sweet and so cold”, Williams says.
Poached plums: Boil sliced plums with sugar, cinnamon, star anise and some vinegar. Serve warm with hung yoghurt or vanilla ice-cream.
What is it about fruits and poets? D. H. Lawrence paints a rather risque picture with parallels between a burst fig and a woman’s innocence in “Figs”. The poet and novelist was known for his brazen works of literature, foremost among which is “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.
Rose and fig laddoos: Make laddoos of dried figs, rose petals, castor sugar, butter, almond powder, raisins and some water. Watch here.
“The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream” declared Wallace Stevens in his poem of the same name. The poem is rather difficult to understand and has sinister overtones. But for ice-cream lovers, the verdict is clear.
Peanut butter ice-cream: Blend 1 cup whipped cream, 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup fresh cream, condensed milk and vanilla essence. Freeze. Remove, blend again and freeze again. Watch here.
4. Osso Buco
Billy Collins has beautifully depicted the feeling of contentment following a full meal in his poem “Osso Buco”. A fancy dish generally seen on five star restaurant menus, it’s a dish of veal shanks with vegetables and broth. ‘But tonight the lion of contentment has placed a warm, heavy paw on my chest,’ writes Collins.
The fruit of the original sin is bound to be in this list. Robert Frost writes of a plentiful apple harvest in “After Apple-Picking” and the sleepiness that follows. The lines ‘Of apple-picking: I am overtired | Of the great harvest I myself desired’ seem strangely metaphorical.
Apple chutney: Roast hing, bay leaf, red chilli flakes and a cinnamon stick. Add turmeric, sugar and apples, followed by some apple cider vinegar. Cook until soft. Watch here.
‘An Ode to the Onion’ almost makes the reader feel as though Pablo Neruda were in love with the spherical vegetable. His lines ‘Crystal scales expanded you, and in the secrecy of the dark earth your belly grew round with dew’ smack of poetic perfection.
Caramelised onion jam: Roast onions, garlic, cloves and salt in olive oil. Add balsamic vinegar and allow onions to caramelise. Watch here.
American poet Galway Kinnell compares the way ripe berries ‘fall unbidden’ to one’s tongue, to the way certain words do, like ‘strengths and squinched’. His poem refers to late September but we see no reason why you can’t indulge in some blackberry compote right now.
8. Hot dogs
Shel Silverstein has written more than one poem featuring food in it. But ‘Every Thing On It’ is particularly hilarious. The protagonist asks for a hot dog with everything on it, and lives to regret the request. ‘A bee in a bonnet, a wristwatch, a wrench and a rake’ are some of the items piled on the hot dog!
That’s a cuisine and not a dish but Craig Arnold’s ‘Hot’ deserves to be on this list for its pure contemporary genius. The lines ‘Friendships based on food are rarely stable. We should have left ours at the table’ sums up many modern-day relationships pithily.
Thai Papaya Salad: Make this salad with half peeled raw papaya, 5-6 garlic cloves, 3-4 red chilies, roasted peanuts salt, lemon juice, mint leaves, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tomato, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp fish sauce. Watch here.
Nursery rhymes are possibly the first poems we ever encounter. So how can we forget the memorable ‘one a penny, two a penny hot cross buns’?
What these poems do is make you realise how food is indeed a work of art, capable of evoking intense awe and appreciation. Remember that the next time you think your lunch is boring.