Our #POETRYSLOWDOWN always says we are the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day” (Wm. Carlos Williams). We are the news between the headlines, fast-breaking, late-breaking, heart-breaking news; we are the heart-making news. Here we hear a case where the headline, late-breaking, heart-breaking news and poetry’s news converge, as we make an homage to the man who put his heart and poetic feet in his mouth and made food and language exuberant art forms: Anthony Bourdain, whose life ended in France this week. We cannot know his sorrows or life anguish, as much as he was in our public eye, televised daily in his out-sized anthropologist fearless foodie role invoking stunt-like stories about food-making, but we can cherish his working life as a writer—fearless and fierce and open and joyous.
When someone dies, people start cooking, and bringing food to each other. It is our way. And there is a way of writing about eating that enables us to go on. There are a bevy of writers who took the oxymoron out of food writer, writers like M.F.K. Fisher (How to Cook a Wolf, Gastronomic Me), writers of epic grace, writers like former New Yorker editor Bill Buford (Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany), the great literary critic and poet Sandra Gilbert,Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing. Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking, A. J. Liebling, Between Meals(remembering a typical dinner of figs, artichokes, three kinds of cheeses, oysters, ham, “sausage in crust,” clam chowder, a peck of steamers, cognac, bay scallops, sautéed soft-shelled crabs, ears of fresh-picked corn, a swordfish steak, a pair of lobsters, a Long Island duck, boar, a bottle of champagne, and a bottle of Bordeaux). This reminds me of Ratty’s picnic in Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows. I confess to you my own favorite form of writing is recipe memoir, and I’ll share some of my work, Helpful Banana Bread, writing and cooking and writing about cooking as a way to deal with family drama and trauma. We’ll hear from Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Stern, and also Gerard Durrell (his Fillets of Plaice), Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and of course, from Anthony Bourdain, for whom our show is produced as a tribute as we mourn his death. His poetry could not save him, but it does give him immortal life. We’ll end with Derek Walcott’s “Feast on Your Life,” and Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do,” which starts in the chaos of the kitchen (Bourdain terrain and M.O.), and ends with acknowledgement of nourishing memory of someone we’ve lost.
With producer Zappa Johns, we’re cooking up a show on the poetic chef, the chef who can wield knife and pen with dynamic passion. Let’s begin with Anthony Bourdain, whose life as an author we remember today as we mourn his death—how did he become famous? Not by cooking but by writing about it, with gusto. . . let’s listen . . . THE POETRY SLOW DOWN with Professor Barbara Mossberg. Podcast Sunday noon, barbaramossberg.com
© Barbara Mossberg 2018