November. Month of food. Of eating. And overeating. And giving thanks for what feeds us.
During this month we have a holiday at whose center the celebration of food radiates.
Indeed, it has been said that a thoughtful meal is a wordless way of saying grace.
Though an ancient rite, the appreciation of good food has intensified through television programs such as those on the Food Network. Names like Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, and the now notorious Paula Deen have achieved rock star status in our culture. Whereas years ago we knew of one or two famous chefs (think Julia Child, for example), now we’d be challenged to list all of the TV chefs and shows on every finger on our hands and every toe on our feet (and those of our family members, friends, neighbors, etc.). Media, art, and literature have all contributed to the glorification of food. And poetry is no exception.
One of the most famous food poems is this one by William Carlos Williams:
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold.
At least he confessed to his crime. I’ll admit (now that I’m safe due to the statute of limitations pertaining to the stealing of food) that I’ve pilfered cookies, the icing from cakes, my children’s French fries when they weren’t looking, and I could go on…
In his poem, “Osso Buco,” Billy Collins describes the title’s rich and meaty Italian dish:
Soft as a leg of an angel
who has lived a purely airborne existence.
And best of all, the secret marrow,
the invaded privacy of the animal
prized out with a knife and swallowed down
with cold, exhilarating wine.
These lines actually make my mouth water. How can words do that?!
Howard Nemerov wittily describes his favorite breakfast in this two-line poem:
Bacon and Eggs
The chicken contributes,
But the pig gives his all.
Praise be to the heroic pig.
And the poet Joy Harjo states (from her poem, “Perhaps the World Ends Here”):
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has
been since creation, and it will go on.
Sitting together with loved ones and breaking bread—maybe the world does begin at a kitchen table or dinner spread. I wouldn’t mind if when life ended, it ended there too. Thanksgiving, and poetry, reminds us of the sacred and necessary act of eating, sharing, being nourished. How lucky we are—we must never forget—to be given these taste buds to taste with, and the food that makes our mouths wet in anticipation of the first bite.
Address poem submissions and correspondence to: email@example.com or Neil Carpathios, Shawnee State University, Dept. of English & Humanities, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).