Recipe Poems

A Conjuring by A Conjuring

Grandmother's Bread by Wilda Morris

Raspberry Mousse; or, Wherein I Unwittingly Assist My Ex-husband, Who, On Behalf of our Son, Prepares My Mother's Day Dessert by Joanie DiMartino

Deconstructing Chicken by Adina Cassal

Collage by Lisa Mase

Foraging by Carolyn Wells

The Baker by Janine Certo

A Poem That Wants to Call Itself a Recipe by Jax Peters Lowell

Corn Chowder by Penny Baert Zywusko

Kugel by Sharon Lask Munson

Muffin of the Morning by James B. Nicola

simplicity by Lois Baer Barr

Recipe for Disaster by Jonathan Pacic

Affogato by Lettie

Fall Harvest by Holly Mitchell

The Apple by Kerry Ruef

Brunswick Stew by Lyle Estill

Two Poems by Brenda Butka

Bread by Eva Szabo

Squash Blossoms by Allison Wilkins

Our Table by Joan Seliger Sidney

Recipe for Spaghetti all'Amatriciana by Georganne Harmon

The Agony of the Leaves by Gail Bellamy

Greens by Paulette Licitra

Strudel by Eva Szabo

The Almost Adulterer's Guide to Menu Planning by Michele Battiste

The Pie Series by David Colagiovanni, Melissa Haviland, and Becca J.R. Lachman

Midsummer's Night's Spaghetti with Saffron by Johannes Berchtold

A Cannibal's Suicide by Dean Kostos

From the Garden by Nancy Vienneau

orang slizez jell o shotz by Amy Stetzl

Phở bò Hà Nội by Kelly Morse

Cooking Class, Marrakesh by Georganne Harmon

Spread Triolet by Dana Stamps

The Things Kids Eat by Paulette Licitra

Maybe This Year by Esther Cohen

Braociole by Joseph Bathanti

Basque Cooking by Richard Hedderman

Two Poems by Adrienne Christian

Jailhouse Crack by Harlan Richards

Cinnamon Sticks by Wally Swist

Best of Both by Nancy Vienneau

Phở bò Hà Nội

by Kelly Morse

May 2013  

Mismatched chopsticks are worse than mismatched spouses.
– Vietnamese Proverb

Rattle two chopsticks like matches
out of the tall plastic box that states Work is Glory,
the french chef below with his mustache,
big nose grinning beneath the grime.
Hit the bottoms to the table to check length, solidity, taper.

Reselect. Cleanse them with a dip
in the squat, yellowed plastic jar of chili vinegar.
Pluck a wide spoon, shallow like a skiff,
from the spoon bouquet and wipe it with a napkin.
Throw the napkin on the floor.

Take a dark lime, small as a penny marble,
from its little bowl of brothers, tops sliced
almost completely off, cleanly, squeeze
the surprise of its orange sweetness onto the spoon.
Make a chopstick funnel and strain

juice from the seeds to slick across the murky broth.
Flick the seeds under the table.
Add a spoonful of tiny red chilis, and garlic,
fatly diced in their vinegars.
With spoon and chopsticks together give a heave

to the mass of white noodles and flip like an omelet,
dragging up from below the fresh herbs hidden in the inner curve.
Turn and plunge like a toy claw machine fluid with grease and skill, fold
the noodles, fresh from the village that only makes noodles,
up into the bright acrid flecks of lime and chili.

reak apart the bánh quẩy's crispy skin oiling its plastic dish,
dunk the hot filaments in the shimmering dark
sudden with white and green.
The yolk, brought separately in its bowl of hot water,
the server a harried one man procession,

slips into the broth like a seal. Press it
with the sharp edge of the knifespoon, watch it drift,
a slow silk amidst the brown fog
of pig foot and cow vertebrae,
cinnamon and star anise.

Author’s Note

This poem is inspired by a pho shop in Hanoi, Vietnam named Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc.

About 80% of restaurants and street stalls in Vietnam only sell one dish, or else sell a few items based on a theme: for example, a bbq chicken restaurant on Chicken Street will also serve sides of grilled bread basted with honey and chilis, along with squewered yams lacquered with the same sauce. However, multi-plate restaurants are dinner affairs. For breakfast and lunch one usually goes to a little shop that only makes one dish, but makes it perfectly. Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc is one of those places - all one can get there is phở and bánh quẩy, crispy pieces of fried dough reminiscent of a Spanish churro, but harder and with a greasy blandness that soaks up the broth. And as for the name? "Thìn" is the owner’s last name, and "phở thìn" is a ubiquitous title in the Vietnamese system of naming restaurants either for a) what's being served there, b) the first name of the shop’s owner or c) options a and/or b plus a number to distinguish which restaurant it is in a family-run mini empire. Hence Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc, which is actually the name plus the street address.

No two phởs are exactly alike, and each restaurateur guards her broth recipe like the family heirloom that it probably is. This poem is titled Phở bò Hà Nội, (Hanoi Beef Pho), because the phở of Northern Vietnam and the phở of the South are actually quite different. Phở in the north comes in a much smaller bowl, and features fresh herbs placed beneath the noodles so that the liquid lightly cooks them. The broth is saltier and less sweet than southern phở. There are no bean sprouts, no hoisin sauce, no bushel of basil served on the side. Even the noodles are different! The author Camilla Gibb describes the phở of Hanoi as ‘austere’, and in a way I suppose it is compared to that of the fecund south. For obvious historical reasons, the majority of phở shops in the US serve the Southern style.

Once back in the US after living in Hanoi for two years, I found myself desperately missing the food; one of the ways I deal with this yearning is by writing dish-specific poems. In Vietnamese culture there is a traditional way to prepare or eat every dish, and a proper time to eat it. Many Vietnamese would be surprised at this assertion, but that’s because they learn how to peel a pomelo in one long strip while sitting in their dads' laps; before they can even talk their mothers are teaching them to scoop congee only from the edges of the bowl. Eat something ‘the wrong way’ and a Vietnamese friend will immediately correct you. One of my coping mechanisms was to covertly watch how people ate a dish, and then mimic the motions exactly. After all, eating is a serious business; as the Vietnamese say, “Mismatched chopsticks are worse than mismatched spouses.”

  Kelly Morse grew up in Idaho, but has since drifted to Europe, Asia and even the exotic East Coast, where she received an MFA at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Side B Magazine, PoetsArtists, Conversations Across Borders and elsewhere. Currently, she is working on a series of poems that explores linguistic and world-view gaps between Eastern and Western cultures. Kelly lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for two years, and recently returned there on a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship.


Photo under Creative Commons.