Monday, May 4, 2015

Joys of the Table: An Anthology of Culinary Verse
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Last week my contributor’s copy of Joys of the Table: An Anthology of Culinary Verse arrived in the mail. Edited by Sally Zakariya and published by Richer Resources Publications, the collection includes food-related poems by 75 poets, the majority women but not all women. Some of the women poets familiar to me are Lucille Lang Day, Carol Dorf, Erica Goss, Charlotte Mandel, Andrea Potos, Susan Rich, and Kim Roberts. The male poets include Lawrence Schimel, Nicholas Samaras, Michael H. Levin, and Conrad Geller. A full list of the contributors with bios may be found HERE.

The book is divided into six sections: Amuse Bouche, What We Eat, Food and Love, Geography of Food, Kitchen Memories, and Food and Mortality. I found many mouth-watering poems in this tasty collection. I also found some tempting recipes scattered among the poems.

My own contribution, “Linguini,” is included in the Food and Love section.

From the What We Eat section I especially liked this poem by Erica Goss:

Afternoon in the Shape of a Pear

One hundred pounds
on the kitchen counter,
shoulder- to-shoulder
like sweet, lumpy trolls.
I touch each one, feel
hidden seeds moving
and the hairy tickle
of the blossom-ends.
Something so bland
takes sharpness well:
bleu cheese,
the paring knife.
Perishable flesh
glowing like pearl
leaves sugary grains
under my fingernails.
In its lopsided heart
a lute-shaped crater
hides the worm
who, though blind
knows the importance
of being first.

             —Santa Clara Review, 2013

A favorite poem from the Food and Mortality section is this one by Susan Rich:

Food for Fallen Angels

          If food be the music of love, play on.—Twelfth Night, misremembered

If they can remember living at all, it is the food they miss:
a plate of goji berries, pickled ginger, gorgonzola prawns
dressed on a bed of miniature thyme, a spoon

glistening with pomegranate seeds, Russian black bread
lavished with July cherries so sweet, it was dangerous to revive;
to slide slowly above the lips, flick and swallow-almost, but not quite.

Perhaps more like this summer night: lobsters in the lemon grove
a picnicker's trick of moonlight and platters; the table dressed
in gold kissed glass, napkins spread smooth as dark chocolate.

If they sample a pastry-glazed Florentine, praline hearts—
heaven is lost. It's the cinnamon and salt our souls return for—
rocket on the tongue, the clove of garlic: fresh and flirtatious.

          —From The Alchemist's Kitchen, White Pine Press, 2010

The following recipe, contributed by Eric Forsbergh, sounds outstanding. I think I’d better try it soon.

Pavlovas with Berry Topping

4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar or strained lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Berry Topping
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup each fresh raspberries and blueberries

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons  sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 250 degrees. Line cookie sheets or jellyroll pans with parchment paper. Draw 3- to 3 1/2 -inch-diameter circles, well apart from each other, on the parchment paper and turn the paper over.

Combine egg whites, salt, and vinegar. Whip the whites until they hold firm peaks but are not stiff. Gradually add 3/4 cup of the sugar, then whip in the vanilla. Mix the last 1/4 cup sugar with the cornstarch and fold it in.

Spoon the meringue onto the parchment paper in the circles, spreading and smoothing to fill. Use a spoon to make an indentation in the center to hold the cream and fruit. Bake for one hour. Turn the oven off and leave them in the oven with the door open for another 30 minutes.

For the berry topping, stir the strawberries and the sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Just before serving, fold in the raspberries  and blueberries.

Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. To assemble, place each meringue on a dessert plate. Spoon whipped cream on each and add the berry topping, drizzling the berry juices over all.

This book would make a great gift for friends who love poetry and food. Don’t forget to be a friend to yourself. Bon appetit!

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