Nonfiction

The Bread of Kings by Teresa Lust

Fake Pies and Pig Thighs by Rachel Komich

An Essay in Which Pam Greer Oozes Out of Her Clothes by Richard LeBlond

On Pierogi(s) by Mark Lewandowski

Vegetexting by Jennifer Bal

The Benefits of Eating Too Much in the Desert by E. M. Eastick

A Question of Taste by Meredith Escudier

The Beauty of Pizza by Austin Rogers

Marmalade: The Melomeli of Modern America by Michael Pennell

Three Elizabeths, One George, Hot Cross Buns, and Hampstead Heath by Paula Panich

Duck by Eileen Shields

Food for Thought by Kathryn Jenkins

Playing Mass by Catherine Scherer

My Big Fat Orthodox Thanksgiving by Ruth Carmel

The Astrophysics of a Sandwich by Raychelle Heath

Tantric Chicken by Mara A. Cohen Marks

Full by Kelly Ferguson

Monkey Eve by Carolyn Phillips

Capon by Natasha Sajé

The Paella Perplex by Jeannette Ferrary

The Right to Eat by JT Torres

This Isn't Supposed to Happen in the Morning by Heather Hartley

Recipe for Winter by Khristopher Flack

Step One by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Flour Fool Meets Great Poet and Pie Instructor by Amy Halloran

Everett by Jason Bell

The Intrigue of Aaron Barthel by Kristy Leissle

Personal Sugar Defense Kit by Sari M. Boren

Kitchen Tirade by Eric LeMay

Eat Dessert First by Iris Graville

Parsley by Natasha Sajé

American Zen Breakfast by Dick Allen

This May Make You [Sic] by Paul Graham

Prisoner's Thai Noodles by Byron Case

Lavender Fields by Susan Goodwin

Ménage à Fongo by Kathryn Miles

All That She Could Make with Flour by Katherine Jameison

Weasel by John Gutekanst

Into the Deep Freeze by Jason Anthony

Defining Gluten by Ann Lightcap Bruno

The Text(ure) of Pleasure by Tara Deal

On the Perils of Food-Buying in a Foreign Land by Tony Eprile

American Zen Breakfast

by Dick Allen

May 2013    

When I prepared early morning bacon and eggs for Ye Feng, my former student from China who has munched on things all over the world, he exclaimed, “Dick, this is the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten!”

His was one of those unexpected compliments you remember forever. It was similar to the one from my wife’s sorority sister as we were driving from Syracuse to New York City in the days before cruise control: “You have the most steady foot on the gas petal I’ve ever experienced.

How did I make his breakfast taste so good, Ye Feng asked.

I said, more than a little bit tongue-in-cheek, that it had everything to do with Zen Buddhist mindfulness. That is, simple food cooked simply can be as artful as flamboyant food cooked flamboyantly. And what could be as simple as a scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast? Yet although I’ve had such for breakfast in literally hundreds of restaurants throughout America, no one else’s bacon and eggs are as good as mine.

Why?

A Zen Buddhist might say, grinning ear to ear with a particularly zany Zen look, that with full attention to the thing at hand, with the mind completely focused, the cook becomes one with that being cooked. Be totally in the Present. Nothing else exists but the bacon and the eggs. Do not ask which came first, the bacon or the eggs.

I wrote about it in my poem “Zen Living” (The Day Before: New Poems, Sarabande Books):

If I had great patience,
I could try to count the poplar, birch, and oak
leaves in their shifting welter outside my bedroom window
or the almost infinitesimal trails of thought that flash and flash
everywhere, as if decaying particles inside a bubble chamber,
windshield wiper drops, lake ripples. However,
instead I go to fry some bacon, crack two eggs
into the cast-iron skillet that’s even older than this house. . . .

On my last visit to my father’s condo in Idaho, my father soon to enter the rest home where he would die, I asked him what he most wanted from me. “Just breakfast,” he said, “bacon and eggs the way you make them.”

American Zen Breakfast

Three or more strips of bacon (preferably non-sugar, 40% lower sodium)
butter
two or more “high quality” eggs

optional: hand squeezed orange juice.
English muffin
fruit preserves
glass of whole white milk
coffee

In the best frying pan you can find (iron skillets are best) melt the butter and coat the bottom of the frying pan. Cook the bacon on Medium. Now, pay attention, a Zen Master would say. The bacon, after it starts to fry, must be continually watched and turned, so that each piece is done to crisp perfection—which is just in the very moment before it begins to burn. Remove the bacon too soon and you’ll get fatty, soggy bacon such as almost every restaurant in America unfortunately serves.

Place bacon on paper towel to let drain. Remember, each piece must be lifted from the pan at precisely the right moment.

Into a smaller pan, crack the eggs. Scramble them in the pan. Then as they start to cook on Medium the secret is applied: you must continue to scramble and whip the eggs, urging air into them to make them fluffy, until the precise moment when there is no slickness apparent, no runniness. To scramble the eggs outside the pan is to violate them. At the precise moment of their completed response, fork the scrambled eggs onto the plate.

Add the drained bacon.

If you want more, also add a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a glass of whole white milk, and an English muffin precisely taken from the toaster just this side of crisp, so as to retain the “bread” or yeast taste. Slather said English muffin with fresh fruit jam (sugarless), preferably on top of butter to get a two-textured taste.

Arrange the plate (which should be from Mikasa) to please the eye. Place the glass of milk and the glass of orange juice to the top right or top left in asymmetrical balance (milk glass should be tall and cylindrical; juice glass should be the same shape, only smaller). Your coffee should be drunk from a heavy mug with a thick handle you can grip with ease.

You can quietly say “Om!” or “Mu” or something equally appropriate, like “manila folders” or “goats in the darkness.”

Your fork must be neither too light nor too heavy. You need a good fork to achieve Zen.

Then do nothing other than partake with utter attention, truly tasting each bite. As you drink, truly taste each sip. You should try to live your whole life in this manner.



Photo by Lawrence Russ   Dick Allen won the thirteenth annual New Criterion Poetry Prize for his This Shadowy Place, which will be published by St. Augustine’s Press in early 2014. His previous seven books of poetry include Present Vanishing: Poems, winner of the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Poetry. Allen succeeded John Hollander as Connecticut State Poet Laureate, a position he will hold until 2015. He is a Zen Buddhist who mindfully eats cashews while doing walking meditation beside a small lake.

Photo used under Creative Commons.