MenupoemsA Celebration of April-National Poetry Month
April 2013We asked poets to write menupoems about their favorite restaurants. (We also asked them to send along a link to the restaurants themselves, in case we wanted to hunt down a great dinner or diner.) Here are our favorites!
by Joy Cartier
The sweet tiramisu of the situation is this…
Sitting with you in a neighborhood restaurant,
which is no longer in our neighborhood, we clink glasses
of French sparkling cider because I’m too pregnant
to drink wine and you are too thoughtful.
Still, our night of Wild Abandon, an evening
of a bacchanal of pan fried oysters,a debauchery of ziti.
This is our Willamette Dream Salad,
a toss of good food and unpretentious community,
as warm and genuine as homemade soup.
There is heart here that goes deeper than Mike’s post-Roman,
swap meet décor, it goes deeper than the menu,
which once a year yields its profits to support HIV/AIDS causes.
We eat here because the food is made of love and we are in love
and Portland is having a love affair with food.
|Joy Cartier's work has appeared in the Denver Post, the Salt Lake City Tribune and Our Portland Story. She lives and eats in Portland, Oregon where she is a co-founder of p:ear, a program for homeless and transitional youth.|
Getting to the Rosemary Lemon Three-Way at Johnny V’s
by Elisa Albo
What can possibly follow the cheese feast
at Johnny V, a mini bacchanal on a square
plate with L’Explorateur, “the ice cream”
of French bries, 75% butterfat dissolving on
the tongue? To toast it, a martini glass brims
with marinated olives, spicy candied pecans
make the South proud, fig-balsamic grapes
send us to a Roman vineyard in paradise.
What can follow the Four Shells, a quartet
of crustaceans laid out like a line of poetry—
luscious grilled scallops, tender clams, sexy
mussels recently plucked from the sea, shrimp
too meatily immense to bear their name—
nestled on a chorizo-kissed tomato saffron
bed of herbed rice, smoky, macho…. What
can follow is the elegance of a pale, pastel
yellow castle of rosemary lemon cheesecake
layered over lemony pound cake and a cloud
of custard, islands of blueberry compote adrift
on swirls of mango sauce and crème Anglais,
the tower bedecked with crunchy sugary sticks
of star anise and cinnamon, and a fragrant mint
leaf like a little flag heralding a royal finish.
|Elisa Albo lives and works in Ft. Lauderdale. Her poems have appeared in Bomb, Gulf Stream, InterLitQ, MiPoesias, Tigertail, The Potomac Journal, Irrepressible Appetites, and elsewhere. She recently completed To Sweeten the Flesh, a collection of food poems. Born in Havana to Sephardic Jews, she grew up in central Florida eating Cuban, Spanish, and Turkish food. Most recently, she spent two weeks with her family eating her way through Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid. Viva the long, wine-soaked Spanish mid-day meal!|
by Karla Daly
They say JFK proposed to Jackie in that tiny, pew-like booth
where we sit and watch tires spin on N Street,
but all I know is Martin's Tavern
is where we trudge to lunch when it snows
because there's really nothing like the shepherd's pie,
the Brunswick stew, or the Welsh rarebit on a day like that,
nothing like the windows steaming up
from the breath of so many glowing neighbors
(and a Georgetown ghost or two, I'm guessing)
hoisting their Irish coffees by the staunch wooden bar
still festooned from Christmas, long past,
grateful for the snow day and the stained-glass warmth,
which lingers as they catch a plane the next morning
or drift back to their old, Federal rowhouse to rattle chains.
|Karla Daly is a freelance writer and editor living in Washington, DC, and is lucky enough to have cookbooks among her editorial projects. She also has a food poem in The Prose-Poem Project and another forthcoming in an anthology, District Lines.|
Boulevard Diner, Worcester
by Sharon Abra Hanen
Late night, neon light,
hand-lettered wall signs call:
liver and onions,
aproned tough guys
behind the chrome-edged counter
serve up scrod, ham steak,
grilled cheese, pancakes,
chicken parm, good brown gravy
the wooden booth, a pew for worn spirits,
welcomes us in the dream-fed pre-dawn hours.
I bless the one who brought me
here to the neon glow,
the heavy round-edged plates
graced by slabs of roast pork,
the handled cast-iron block
ever ready griddleside;
I show off, naming it for him, proud
to be a food lover who knows
a bacon press when she sees one
we warm our hands on curving mugs
filled and refilled with cascades of coffee
from bulbous glass carafes, or with Lipton tea,
yellow tag friendly like the waitress, as bright-eyed
as if it were ten in the morning or two in the afternoon;
and we warm too on the stability of this place,
always open, breakfast all day, changes so few
the regulars don't take offense,
not even the flannel-clad con who bets us
the cost of his three fried eggs with
sausage and mountain of homefries
on a card trick he fumbles,
or the couple spinning on red leatherette,
she so high from the just-closed club she can't
stop laughing at the clash of color and pattern
when omelette with peppers, tomatoes, onions
falls on her pink Pucci knockoff skirt
we will all go separate ways
but here I remember imminent departures
do not mean all must change;
friends, despite distance, time
shall not change in what runs under the surface
just as the Boulevard Diner will always
smell of thick-cut toast and hopeful refuge.
|Sharon Abra Hanen is a poet, writer, creativity coach and food-lover based near Boston, Massachusetts who cooks up joyful ways to help writers, artists, and all kinds of creative thinkers feed their best work. She has published on food, travel, and the connected memories of plate and place, and written lyrics and music performed at public celebrations of season and environment. As a teenager, she survived one weekend (including a daunting number of lemon tarts) as chef's assistant in a tiny bistro kitchen, forever cementing her appreciation of the labors of restaurant workers. Connect with her work online at www.wellfedpoet.com, and listen to her reading selected poems here.|
by Esther Cohen
A poem of a restaurant,
La Palapa always wins
not the only
reason I every opportunity,
(I will be there this Friday to celebrate
my friend Laurie’s birthday) always
want to eat at La Palapa. One of
those rooms where you know
a room is always more than a room
and the food, because Barbara
cooks and Barbara too is
a real poem, the food
is as good as a dream.
|Esther Cohen, Alimentum's Menupoems Editor, loves food and words. Someone is often eating in all that she writes (novels, poems, stories, essays). In restaurants, she wishes that menu words were different. If only poets wrote menus, there would be no more cold crispy salads. Food and all the words that food deserves, all the surprise and the texture, fragile, unforgettable and sometimes even deep bright green, would be part of each menu if poets were in charge. She teaches writing at Manhattanville College and is the author of five published books, most recently, a poetry collection, God is a Tree. Esther's website.|
Our Trattoria by The Bay
by Kathleen O'Connell King
Did we intend to invite a third party to our most intimate celebrations?
Descending the slope of Sausalito we passed what would appear on our plates later, but for that moment it sat thriving in terraced beds. Feasted eyes on the vast spread of glistening bay, no doubt nourishing those growing gardens.
Snug in a leather booth, wood-fired pizza welcomed a new year, toasted two years married. Crunchy crostini and burrata announced the big promotion. Acceptance to grad school was paired with a Napa pinot and house made spaghetti bolognese. Prosciutto and pea risotto revealed it's a girl. The final meal of braised lamb bid us 'ciao' for the move across country.
Poggio, the trattoria by The Bay, our times spent propel us forward, but for what will you welcome us back?
Forget the food served, no matter the dramatic backdrop, the moments are ever vivid, deliciously savory, because you were there.
|When she’s not tracking behind her two young daughters Briar and Callie, Kathleen O'Connell King tutors students in Language Arts and Spanish. Her thesis, published on the U.S. Department of Education website, was born from a passion for Young Adult Literature, and explores how to teach students to exercise critical thinking skills through YAL themes. Her time living in Ireland, Spain, Boston and Sausalito, CA, paired with her adventures in education, have inspired much of her creative writing which she currently pursues in her spare time. Her poetry has appeared in Alimentum Menu Poems and cited on Eat This Poem. Kathleen currently resides in Nashville, TN.|
by George Yatchisin
Ground up you build your goodness,
from near, from dirt, from sea. So simple and
so everything. All it takes to attest to something
between subsistence and exuberance
is naming names, farmers and suppliers,
and you’ve done so from the beginning. Too humble
to come out from your kitchen, you let your plates speak
for their simple, stunning selves, one at a time, choruses
of flavors – arugula, bosc, butternut, saffron,
sundrieds, shiitakes – an alphabet of exotics
and not so, everything itself so much
it’s like peeling away world from world from world,
like an onion, or skin, or the sense we’ve been
here before but never quite like delicious this.
|George Yatchisin is the Communications Coordinator of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara and the Food Writer for the Santa Barbara Independent. His poetry and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications including Antioch Review, Sunset Magazine, The Village Voice, and Quarterly West. He is co-author of Writing for the Visual Arts (Pearson).|
by Jenny Holm
Gritty business of life dripping
from umbrellas at the door
leave it lie
here unlikely pairings fall
into place as we do
Come to taste
the forbidden made edible
all raw heart
grapefruit and roses
Such wild elegance
Do I dare?
I spear a tomato and smear
its sticky char onto
bread we’ll share
We question our morals and order
crispy pig’s head, give in
to the flesh and bite of it
a most satisfying
Salt sheen lips
glossy pepper gleam and
focus me like a
meditation on fire
New tastes, old wine
twist and echo in the half light
as we dally on light heads and
lighter hearts, condensed
to our most basic stuff
Pour one more and swirl forks
in whorls of toffee cream and
anticipation, leaving traces
of smoke that tickles the trees
now naked in the dark
|Jenny Holm is a Washington, DC-based writer and recipe developer with a passion for gastronomic adventure. Much of her work focuses on foods of the former Soviet Union, particularly the Caucasus region. This is her first published poem. You can read more of her work on her blog, Eat with Pleasure, or find her on Twitter @eatwithpleasure.|
Two Menu Poems
by Peg Duthie
As neighbor after neighbor
orders "one to go"--
the mitten-sized cheese-and-egg
packets of "good morning"--
I settle in with the newspapers,
the Tennessean and the Times,
blessing every drop of my coffee.
A child chooses a cupcake.
A visitor asks, "What's good?"
I'd tell them to start with the scones
for I've not found any lighter
this side of anywhere. Before,
I'd thought that scones were merely
clusters of fishing shot.
When life keeps heaping
heaviness on my heart,
I come here to remember what's good.
Fountains of Wayne sing a sassy song
as a mom marches in to order a cake.
I wave at a retriever waiting for its owner
who's ordering bone-shaped biscuits and
the "Anytime Salad." For me, that salad
tastes of Tel Aviv -- the ancient brightness
of salt and sunshine meeting on my spoon,
the lemony couscous pearls on my tongue.
I'm so far away, but I'll keep saying blessings
to the crumbs on my plate, the sheen of oil
lingering inside the lid of the salad,
and all the other reminders of meals
I've carried with me on other 16th Streets --
Manhattan, Denver, Boston -- my loves,
the world is so wide. I'm staying here a while
so that I'll remember how to hold it close.
Getting things right
is exhausting work
so we almost didn't steer
our feet toward Brickell
but how very good
it turned out to be:
you speaking Spanish,
me studying the skyline,
both sipping Malbecs
and savoring the squid,
to match our separate tastes.
Behind me, a woman
grilled her brother
about his friends.
Behind you, a man
raised his glass high
and his voice to concert pitch,
toasting films, fashion,
fungi, and frenemies.
All around us
such different people
trying so hard
to get things right,
the flow of red wine
both prayer and reward.
|Peg Duthie is the author of Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012). There's more about her at nashpanache.com.|
Salt N Pepper
by Sandy Hiortdahl
“Warning: Salt N Pepper Customers Have
Been Known to go home and slap their
Mamas,” but once you’ve been, you can’t
Not go again and you can’t
“not order” the two-piece dark chicken, though
also you have to order everything good you had
last time plus everything good everyone else shared …
Fried Green Tomatoes, with a Salt N Pepper
Twist, Chicken Livers breaded and fried—
Fried pickles, Wings “our wings
Are the best”—made to order, deep fried choose from
Naked, mild, shut ya mouth, lemon pepper,
Fresh hand-crafted half-pound burgers,
Shut Ya Mouth burger, fry sauce available,
Fish n Grits, Shrimp n Grits, Fried Chicken
With pick your sides, collard greens and bacon,
Sweet potatoes with pecans, and all with
Cornbread and Kool Aid.
Shut ya mouth:
Don’t get any better than that.
|Sandy Hiortdahl is a recipient of the Sophie Kerr Prize and a Maryland State Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Novel. She received fellowships from the Bennington Summer Writers’ Conference and George Mason University, where she received an MFA. As well, she holds an M.A. from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Poetic Story/KY Story, MatterPress Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Washington College Review, Crux, and Nemesis.|
What Mama Tells Us
Mama Irma Peruvian Restaurant, Fountain Square, Indianapolis
by Terry Kirts
When she pulls up a chair and sits down with us,
telling us how long the pot roast has simmered,
how light the fried fish will be under its crown
of purple onions, how can we not assume she is Irma
herself, strolling in from the market like she did in Miraflores,
a rainbow of tubers in her upturned apron? We believe
her that the mussels will taste like the ocean, that the pasta
will be al dente, even when it is a bit soft under a sauce
as green as the Chillón Valley. When we ask her what’s in it,
she trills a whole lexicon of aromatics: garlic, of course,
fresh lime—yes, cilantro!—hot yellow peppers slender
as a girl’s finger. How could something so creamy
be thickened by bread? Today, there are no papas rellenas,
she is sorry, only chicken salad under a dome of silken
mashed potatoes, beets and string beans on a briny tangle
of lettuce—not from Spain only did our immigrants arrive—
shrimp with their eyes still inquiring. No dish comes with less
than two starches: yucca cut into golden spears, rice sopping juices.
Platters and bowls pile on the table draped with black linens,
a banquet that could sustain us through juntas and coups.
How could we know she turned ten in Miami, this smooth-cheeked
woman named Hilda who brings us flan cake frosted with cheese?
All those years cleaning houses while she missed a revolution,
all those inscrutable faces of newcomers she searched for words.
Only when we stand do we see her mother, stern
as a Kahlo portrait in its unpainted frame, furrowing
her dark brows at every dish that exits her daughter’s kitchen.
|Author of To the Refrigerator Gods, an Editor’s Choice selection of Seven Kitchens Press in 2010, Terry Kirts is a senior lecture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a contributing editor and restaurant critic at Indianapolis Monthly. His poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Gastronomica, Third Coast, Green Mountains Review, Sycamore ReviewAlimentum.|
by Giovanni Zuniga
a So Cal landmark
happy family dinners
nickel and dime music jukeboxes
at every bright red booth
and long polished wooden counters
American brewed Coors light
and waitress three generations back
An order of hot pastrami
with Swiss cheese please
and why not add an order
of volcano like chili cheese French fries
and a whirlwind pink milkshake
and you know what
throw in your famous Kosher style pickles
I’m feeling good tonight
Elvis playing on the loudspeakers
singing about Jailhouse Rock
Gotta love that American spirit
small food joints
going way back
Who needs a time capsule
when you got Johnnie’s Pastrami
down the block growing up?
|Giovanni Zuniga 'currently lives in San Francisco and is a junior at San Francisco State University studying Cinema with an emphasis in screenwriting. Every time he drives down to LA he diner-hops to every mama & papa joint around town. When he graduates he plans to embark on a wanderlust adventure starting in Prague to teach English, drink beer, and write in his free time.|
by Jake Young
I sit down to a dozen
small plates, salads
set out with warm pita,
and I can’t help but wish
I’d eaten at Sima’s,
the older, smaller diner
across the street.
The restaurants are rivals;
they share similar names and
identical menus. From beneath
an orange overhang, Guti,
the owner of Sima’s,
had called out to me
in Hebrew, “Come, eat
here!” The kitchen,
set into an old stone wall,
had just enough room
for the grill and the counter,
there were a few plastic seats,
and tables with glass ash-trays.
The lack of grandeur
was attractive. Tomorrow
I’ll return here, to the
Machane Yehuda district,
to Agrippas Street, to eat
me’urav at Sima’s,
their signature dish—
pita filled with the internal
organs of chicken, served
with a side of fries.
|Jake Young lives in California and works at a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He received his MFA for poetry at North Carolina State University. His most recent work appears in Red Wheelbarrow, Miramar, and Solo Novo. He publishes essays about wine, food and culture on his blog .|
Denver in Silhouette
—Breakfast on the Edge
by Colette Jonopulos
Hollandaise slides off my fork,
I break open the perfect egg
yolk, deep yellow tributaries
rush over my plate, cantaloupe
slices moved just in time.
We’ve moved from Oregon to
Colorado, from ferns and
moss to unforgivable light
bouncing off Sloan Lake
across the street, downtown
Denver in silhouette. I bite
through warm spinach, feel
almost holy for not eating
meat. My husband slices his
Taylor ham, asks why I never
order anything but Veggie
Benedict. I say it is just too
good not to order. In truth,
it is my only constant in
this new town. A piece of
avocado, grilled tomato,
fresh sautéed mushrooms,
warm pouched egg, slick
center of the familiar.
|Colette Jonopulos lives, writes, and edits in Edgewater, CO. Her poetry has appeared in Alimentum, PMS, Clackamas Literary Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, Crab Orchard Review, The Bellingham Review, and North Coast Squid. She is co-owner of Tigers Eye Press, and edits and publishes Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry and Tiger’s Eye Chapbooks, with JoAn Osborne.|
by Richard E. Mezo
So now, these memories of the seventies—
a long time gone, & still there. At college,
fresh, then, from the Navy at North Island:
the aromas of southwest, & ocean and sand,
trying to ward-off incipient cold with food.
Enchiladas, tamales, beans, scalding mouth;
perspiring, wiping my forehead on a napkin,
pulling Henry James’ Portrait from my bag.
It floods in: the far afternoon tea in England,
mixing the halipinos & rellenos so perfectly.
|Richard Mezo is retired and teaches part-time at Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge. The menupoem is a memory from the 1970s, when he was an undergraduate student in English at San Diego State College. Richard has published poetry and other work (including another poem in Alimentum).|
by E. Marie Eastick
Edamame, cold tofu,
Kelaguan, miso soup.
Tobiko, tempura shrimp, mahi mahi salad.
Spider roll, dragon roll: pink and red and white.
Yakisoba, spicy bacon. Curry nabeyaki udon.
Teppanyaki, New York steak.
Now dessert. What do you make?
Green tea ice cream. Two scoops? Yes.
Benii t-shirt, extra-large.
|Australian-born, E. Marie Eastick once worked as an environmental manager in Abu Dhabi. She now lives on Guam and writes. When she is not enjoying the Asian and Chamorro cuisine of the island, she is working on a creative memoir about her road trip through Namibia, and penning short fiction inspired by the culture and history of Guam.|
Milan's Slovak and Czech Restaurant
by Raj Chakraberti
The curtains are always drawn, but figures can be seen inside
Is Slovakia in central Europe or more on the eastern side?
Nothing on the menu is familiar save the potato pancake
How many “skys” “zs” and “ys” can there be for food's sakes?
At Milan's the owner's economy of words were oddly appealing,
So I plopped down at a table despite the hesistant feeling.
On his suggestion I went for the pork chops with a golden potato batter,
It was satisfying and included salad, cole slaw and cabbage on the platter
While not the swooning type, I was very impressed,
That this would become a favorite restaurant I would not have guessed
I now consider it my comfort food of choice,
When it's time for celebration, it's here I rejoice.
|Raj Chakraberti's writing has appeared in India Abroad, Little India magazine and Cititour. He enjoys all manner of food but closest to his heart right now are Indian, Southern, and Slovak. His blog is called Roodonfood.|