Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poetry Jam: Where I'm From

I mentioned that I'm taking an online poetry course and one of our assignments was to write a "Where I'm From" poem, based on George Ella Lyon's poem and website. I decided to focus on food, thinking that would narrow my topic. Instead, I wrote 4 pages of ideas, which took a long time to narrow down to this still very long . . . let's call it a poetic list.

Food: A Life Story, or Where I’m From

I’m from asparagus poking up at me, watermelon lolling around, cornstalks “as high as an elephant’s eye” in Grandad’s garden
I’m from family eating together:
  • the bright-red pot containing my mom’s beef-and-potato hash
  • Mom’s battered roaster holding my favorite pot roast every time I came home from college
  • Dad scaling trout in the sink which Mom fried and I ate with ketchup
  • drinking Grandad’s “coffee milk” in bed, with china and demitasse spoons
  • sneaking a taste of Grandmother’s boozy Charlotte Rousse in the red glasses in the fridge
  • celebrating with escargot, scampi, spumoni at our family’s special restaurant
  • colored-Crisco frosting mixed with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream every birthday
  • hush puppies are best eaten hot at bayside family fish fries
  • eating lunch after church with Great-Grandma’s friends
  • counting out snowmen and star cookies when Mom and I baked for the holidays
  • turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas, ham for Easter
I’m from a handwritten note from Mom in every bagged lunch
I’m from campfire cooking (and singing) with Girl Scout friends—s’mores, banana boats, hobo stew
I’m from waiting for the ice cream man with my next-door neighbor on a hot Houston day
I’m from talking all night over a box of fudge-covered Oreos with my best friend
I’m from college bonding over midnight bean-and-cheese runs and cheesecake by the river
I’m from studying abroad:
  • tart yogurt with honey near the sunbaked ruins of Greece
  • dark chocolate with cookies for casse-croĆ»te after excavating in the 114F Tunisian summer
  • the best gelato in the world, near the Pantheon—zabaglione, pistachio, nocciola “con panna”
  • crusty baguettes with butter and cheese every meal of my Parisian weekend
  • worst meal ever, under most beautiful view of Neuschwanstein Castle
  • afternoon tea--oh, clotted cream!--with friends in a manor house in the British countryside
I’m from we met in grad school, over my breakfast of a diet coke and a bagel
I’m from newly in love and eating out in Chicago: Japanese? German? Delicatessen? Middle Eastern? Swedish? Deep-dish pizza? Hot dogs? Mexican?
I'm from liking almond horn cookies, then finding a recipe, losing it, mourning it, and rediscovering it
I’m from teaching my beloved to bake, long distance, and setting off the fire alarm
I’m from sobbing over burnt candied orange peels in a ruined pot
I'm from giving tours with Chinese platters, American syllabub cup, Felix Gonzalez-Torres's pile of candy
I’m from traveling with my beloved
  • fish boils in Wisconsin
  • beignets in New Orleans
  • cornish pasties in London
  • peanut soup at Gettysburg
  • apple dumplings in a bag on a farm somewhere
  • the best hot dogs are grilled at the World Trade Center plaza
  • historic open-hearth cooking in Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts
  • drying off from a drizzling rain in a tearoom in York
  • walking down Fifth Avenue to the promise of corned beef at Carnegie Deli
I’m from Christmas is . . . Teuscher truffles
I’m from mozzarella, prosciutto, balsamic, and bread to welcome the Millennium
I’m from making gumbo to comfort us in the pain of September 11
I’m from eating with my in-laws:
  • the flopping fish in the cooler is about to be dinner
  • being the only white person at dim sum
  • learning to negotiate chopsticks, with witnesses
  • mango sticky rice
  • the ritual foods of Chinese New Year
  • mooncakes every fall
  • talking food with my gourmand brother-in-law
I’m from cornbread must be made in a cast-iron skillet
I’m from “Is that roux the right color, yet?”
I’m from reading the Julie/Julia blog real time
I’m from becoming a vegetarian because of the horse killed at the Kentucky Derby 2008
I’m from Frappuccinos and chai are the secret elixir of new motherhood . . . of twins
I’m from playgroup bonding over lunch and jars of baby food
I’m from learning to cook for my family
  • no soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, or nuts when the kids were little
  • the crockpot is my best friend
  • blogging all my recipes online
  • surviving the pickiness of preschool
  • picnics under the Japanese maple as soon as it’s warm enough to sit outside
  • Wilton cake classes to make the kids’ birthday cakes
  • play food restaurants and mudpies stirred with sticks
  • packing lunchboxes with notes, just like my mom
I’m from watching my beloved’s summer-grilling production, waiting for grilled pizza
I’m from excitedly putting out bowls the night before for snow for ice cream
I’m from helping my daughter sell Thin Mints and Samoas on a Saturday morning
I’m from eating homemade:
  • reading Bittman, Pollan, Kingsolver
  • PYO apples, blueberries, strawberries, pears . . . and putting up the little bit that makes it home!
  • cooking adventures with our CSA—what do you do with kohlrabi?
  • popping real pocorn on the stove
  • making all of our bread for 40 days and beyond
  • gardening with the kids and watching my son eat a grape tomato from an upside-down plant
I’m from beans, chocolate, and no-knead bread, but no raw tomatoes, cilantro, or cucumbers
I’m from our family blessing, “All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family . . . .”

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