About Food


You may think me a noodle (see “H”) when you discover that noodles–in life, in history, and of course in sauce–are the topic of my latest A to Z (abecedarian). Behind every noodle is a memory–or behind every memory is a noodle?–with bits of trivia thrown in for good measure. I love this form and come back to it now and again for the fun of it and as a way to challenge, stretch, and use my noodle (see “U”).

“Noodling A to Z” was published in a special food issue of Room, a Canadian print journal that features “literature, art, and feminism since 1975.” Read “Noodling” here.

My daughter’s fondness for lobster didn’t come from me, but it’s in the family. I readily recall my mother relishing every morsel as she dabbed at the butter dripping down her chin. I wrote about their shared passion as a quirky, perhaps unique recessive trait, like red hair and twins, in “Lobster Tales,” which was published this summer in  Oasis Journal 2016. The almost-500-page annual is available in print from Amazon, but you can read my contribution here.

What a brilliant concept, tailor-made for me–an exhibition that displays creative writing works about eating with original photographs to accompany each piece. Drawing from among my many food-related personal essays, I chose “Love at First Bite”–an homage to sushi nested in a recap of my love life, originally published in City Works Journal in 2012– as my submission, and it was one of thirteen works chosen, three of them prose and the rest poetry.

The installation is on exhibit at The Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky through the end of the year, though I’m not likely to find myself in Kentucky to see it. Happily it’s online, and you can see the whole exhibition here. Scroll down to find my piece and have a look at some of the other scrumptious works too. Unfortunately only thumbnail-size reprints of the photographs are shown on the site; the originals are gorgeous. Mine–I have a print–is a glistening jewel-like piece of salmon roe nigiri surrounded by delicate lace.

 

Now there’s a dynamic duo – what writer can resist? Not this one. Once I got started, the memories and the meals came flooding back, and I just had to grab them and get them on paper as they went by. And dig out a few old recipes.

The result is “Catch of the Day,” which you can read here. It was just published in Issue 3 of the print journal, Killing the Angel, “a literary experiment inspired by Virginia Woolf.”

Has it really come to this – writing about root vegetables?

I’m quite tickled (rhymes with pickled, which is one of the things you do with them) that “The Last Turnip” was accepted for publication in the journal Souvenir. It’s linked here. Be sure to scroll all the way down, beneath my photo, to see the “souvenir” referred to in the story. Thanks to Ava for sharing the experience with me and for the photo.

Virginia Woolf isn’t in this essay, but she wrote a lot about food, knowing, as I’ve discovered, how it captures so much of life. In a letter to a friend, she said: “Why is there nothing written about food—only so much thought? I think a new school might arise, with new adjectives and new epithets, and a strange beautiful sensation, all new to print.”

You’re probably wondering – can this be beet? And what will turnip next? Stop me if you carrot all…

My friend and mentor Priscilla Long introduced me to the abecedarium, a collage format in 26 sections, “a considerable space to contain and thankfully to restrain a large subject,” she says in her excellent manual, The Writer’s Portable Mentor. Two of Priscilla’s alphabetical essays inspired me to try my own. There are a lot of ways to look at life from A to Z, but I seized on food as the natural choice, the source of much of my writing and the ideal way to encapsulate some highlights and lowlights, from the comfort food of childhood to the haggis in Scotland.

An additional treat was to have my essay, “Leftovers on Lettuce: ABCs of a Life in Food,” published in Middlebrow Magazine, with its play on Virginia Woolf’s snooty but tongue-in-cheek essay in which she castigates “middlebrow” as “the bloodless and pernicious pest who comes between” the highbrow and the lowbrow, “the bane of all thinking and living.” The editors seek to reclaim it as a positive concept, calling Woolf’s own essays middlebrow, so I consider myself in good company on their pages.

My piece opens with an epigram from Woolf, who wrote frequently and evocatively about food. So, in homage to Virginia and with thanks to Priscilla, here’s my latest.

I sometimes say that I don’t like to write from prompts–I’m a slow starter, & brilliance doesn’t flow at the drop of a hat or a word. I need to mull it over, let it steep. And yet. And yet, a number of my successful essays have come from prompts, especially the ones from Judy Reeves’ Saturday retreats. Back in the summer of 2011 a theme was food, one of my favorite topics in life and in writing. My notebook section from that day is marked with a red-stamped strawberry. At one point during the day Judy distributed some paeans to food from Pablo Neruda’s brilliant Odes to Common Things. We read them aloud–I remember bread and tomatoes, onions and artichokes. When we finished, Judy said, “Now write your own.”

Last summer I sifted through my old writing notebooks, where I sometimes find hidden gems, what Virginia Woolf calls “orts, scraps and fragments” that I might stitch into something new. And there was my long-forgotten “Ode to Basil.” I rewrote it in prose form–I don’t think I changed a word–and sent it to Susan Bono’s charming Tiny Lights Journal. A feature at Tiny Lights is the “Flash in the Pan,” what Susan describes as “those shining flecks of pure gold that often appear when we least expect them, when our hunger for bigger prizes is temporarily sated, when we relax and take the time to look at what’s really in our hands.”

I’m delighted to have “Ode to Basil” (linked here) in the latest “Flash in the Pan” from Tiny Lights. With thanks to Judy for stirring the pot of creativity.

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