I couldn't resist reading Eat This Poem, especially during April, National Poetry Month. Actually, I'm a fan of poetry and food all months of the year. Nicole Gulotta is too so good for her for blending her two passions, along with writing, in this delightful collection of poetry and recipes. "Food and poetry are kindred spirits," Gulotta says as well as a "natural pairing."
Poetry came first for Gulotta when her tenth grade English teacher had the class memorize a poem. Gulotta composed a poem of her own and following high school went on to become an English major and to study poetry in graduate school. Over time "literary journals were replaced by food magazines, and poetry writing gave way to food writing."
She had kept her poetry books though and after many years during which time "poetry had slipped away," Gulotta opened a cabinet of books saved from her college years. When she took The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Gluck down off the shelf, she realized "a part of you is imprinted inside," when you see passages you've underlined or noted in some way.
While reading "Baskets" by Gluck, Gulotta followed the speaker into a market, watching her pick up lettuces. Suddenly, Gulotta wanted salad. She started conjuring up recipes while reading poetry and came up with the concept of Eat This Poem. She posted her first blog with that title in January 2012. In her book, four sections explore the way food and poetry intersect in the kitchen.
Some of the recipes are adapted from those of her maternal grandmother Edna who was a food writer throughout the 1960s. All the recipes begin with Gulotta's personal stories about them including memories of Thailand; travel to Italy, the land of her ancestors; or eating Cornmeal Waffles at the Tea Room Cafe in Petaluma, California. There are lovely drawings throughout.
Louise Gluck's poem, "Basket," is in Part Two, "On Moments in Time." Gulotta reflects on the poem: "There is a strong sense of reconciling abundance with loss and solitude, recognizing beauty in the moment yet realizing 'nothing is fixed,' and life is temporary." The recipes that follow this particular poem and reflection include Slow Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Kale Caesar Salad with Paprika Croutons.
My favorite poets are included in the book. Among them are Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Shihab Nye and Philip Levine. I was also introduced to poets I hadn't read before. Jehanne Dubrow's beautiful sonnet entitled "Tea" precedes recipes for Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies and Almond Poppy Seed Scones.
Joy Harjo's marvelous poem, "Perhaps the World Ends Here," is in Part Four "On Gathering". In the poem, Harjo describes the kitchen table and all that happens from gossip through birth, preparation for burial, praying, and giving thanks.
"This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun," Harjo writes. Gulotta includes recipes for comfort food including Oregano Roast Chicken and Perfectly Simple Green Beans.
It seems like the icing on the cake or dessert after a delicious meal to end the book with "How to Eat a Poem" by Eve Merriam. A poem, the poet writes, "is ready and ripe now, whenever you are."
Besides the wonder of the poems and the author's thoughtful insights about them, the recipes are enticing. All of the pairings are meant to be savored. How wonderful it will be to have poems in the kitchen not only dog-eared but splashed with remnants of various meals enjoyed.
To end with the author's words: "So let us raise a glass in gratitude as often as we are able and discover the poetry in our daily lives, especially in the kitchen."
Read an excerpt from this book.
Nicole Gulotta is a writer, recipe developer, and the creator of Eat This Poem, a literary food blog. She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and studied literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gulotta lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. Visit her website.
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