And so it is, a plating of lyric memoir about food and hunger, on eating and being eaten, on who is eating (or not), on what is, and is not, eaten—like Thoreau’s Walden, Where I Lived and What I Lived For, only, this is How I Cooked and What I Ate, and Did Not Eat—the same thing, of course. As actual recipes, the theme of this show is that whatever you do, is the right thing: you can’t go wrong. I find myself saying that a lot, in my recounting of cooking experience and reflecting with you. It is to encourage you to trust yourself as you live this life, knowing you have, in your soul’s pantry, what you need—beginning with the grace of your hunger.
These recipes, then, are the bones of resilience, nutritious stock for the spirit.
These are examples of poems I write while something sizzles on the stove or bakes in the oven. No matter what happens to me, if I can get to a stove, if I can get access to an oven, if I have a pan, to swirl eggs in, to sauté an onion, I am going to be okay. Or even like W. B. Yeats on a gray London street, imagining the lake isle of Innisfree—Innisfree here being a kitchen. The bee-loud glade Yeats summoned to mind is a wooden spoon, the water lapping the heart’s core is flour, sugar, yeast. I once sat at a dreadful dean’s meeting fighting despair. On my yellow lined pages on the table I worked out, earnestly taking notes, a recipe for pumpkin soup, and corn bread the color of my legal pad. My secret Innisfree got me through the gray paved-soul meeting up to no good, and I went home to my kitchen and tried my recipes. I lifted those gray skies.
I was teaching a course for the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning about food writing—Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Kenneth Graham, Homer, William Carlos Williams, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Sandra Gilbert, Gerald Stern, Nancy Willard—and I was reminded how food is a topic I not only love to read about but write about, no matter what, do write about helplessly. I promised my Ollies I would share this with you, outing my inner hungers and chef. This writing is my dog, having its day. These poems are what I cook up to help myself through the moments, a way to live, to savor what’s cooking in our lives, what we have in us to make it.
We’ll hear from Poor Barbara! Can’t Eat! (We Begin with Where It All Begins, Hunger), When Is It Ever Not About Lemon Pie?, Wild Moussaka, Slow Quiche, Cooking for John Muir, If You Promise to Let Me Write This Down I Promise You an Ice Cream, Field Notes: Going to the Woods to Live Deliberately, Napa Napkin (Don’t Worry, It’s Paper), All Things That Rise Must Converge, or, What Farmor Knew: A Meditation on Love, Rising, Patience, Rising Again, Would It Take Much More to Save The World?, 17 Across: Eros Is a Piccadilly Statue, I 5, Night Hunger, Wild Hunger, Wave Particle Theory, The Grove Market, My Neighbor, I’m Shaking It I’m Making It But the Woman in the Mirror Doesn’t Move, Helpful Banana Bread, Coho, it isn’t just you, Book Me, Sir: John Muir Takes a Sauna with the Finnish Ladies of Kuopio, Dining on Glacier, Every Day I Don’t Eat Chicken Is a Good Day, Avatar of Day, The Truth Is I Love to Cook Onions, You Can’t Go Wrong Here, The Inner Epic Life, Coconut Pie Seemed Like Such a Good Idea, Recipe for Pumpkin Soup.
This is what the Dr. B ordered, Rx we need in hard times, the news we need, the news we heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day” (William Carlos Williams). Bon appetit!
© Barbara Mossberg 2018