This 'Food Verse' post is dedicated to Dorothy Shaw, a gentlewoman and award winning Canberra poet.
To my mind, food writing is more than simply a receipt or set of step by step instructions on the preparation of a meal. It is an evocative art form in itself that stimulates the senses and presents facets of food, gardening, cooking and eating as a celebration of life. Food verse is written in many shapes and forms, from haiku to longer free flowing or rhyming poems.
My hope is to present here a collection of inspirational food writing in the form of poetry and verse. You'll see that I have included some delightful verse about wine, another of life's simplest pleasures. For what is food without wine? Both good things, no?
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to fellow writers Fouad Kassab, Robert Verdon, Maureen Burdett and Fiona Johnston, among others, who have generously allowed me to share their work. If you would like to feature as a Food Verse guest writer on Good Things, please send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
We begin with two pieces from Dorothy Shaw, followed by a selection of works from poets across Australia.
- Dorothy Shaw
This morning I had cake for breakfast
soaked in sherry, slathered in jam,
cream in a very large spoon.
Why must we have cake just in the afternoon?
On Love and Tomatoes
- Dorothy Shaw
In neat rows on the shelf
Love Apples grown to a pattern
all look the same
Perfect in colour, shape and size.
From a straggly bush
propped up by sticks
Love Apples hang
warm in the autumn sun.
Some are ripe, a few are green,
and some bruised by the wind
but Oh, the taste!
Love. And Love Apples grown in the sun.
© From Bright Stars and Dark Matter by Dorothy Shaw. Reproduced kind courtesy of Peter and Andrew Shaw.
- Peter Steele
Hear distinguished poet, priest, scholar and educator, Peter Steele, speak about his work and his life. He recites a beautiful poem titled Rehearsal, which begins 'Upright again, fritters of mint in my fingers, I'm given pause in the kitchen patch...'
This link posted with kind permission of ABC Radio National.
Butter = Life and Lard = Death
- Steve Cumper
When I taste butter, it tastes of life
so very rich and able
to gild the meekest of dish
at the humblest of table
The point of its allure
Is that the cow is still living
Its life is not ended
For the fat it is giving
Which is sadly not the case
I’m very sorry to say
for the tubs of congealed lard that we derive
from the all animals that we slay
There’s something familiarly gruesome
Could be it penned by the Brothers Grimm?
The notion of a bubbling hot cauldron
rendering hooves, trotters and limb
The process is dastardly and rank
A tragedy akin to Macbeth
That’s why butter tastes of life
And lard always tastes of death
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Steve Cumper, chef owner of the Red Velvet Lounge and The View From My Porch blog.
Fish Parcels with Lime Coriander Dressing
(Fish with chilli in paper)
- Alison Styles
Cooked in paper white and clean
this colourful surprise…
Fish that kicks - with limey mix
will greet your hungry eyes!
Salmon Fillets with Red Capsicum Butter
(Shown all in row…capsicum dots and herb strips)- Alison Styles
Regimental in their row…
Uniform gleam -
Green thread weaves round
startling red buttons
…all dressed to serve your plate.
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Alison Styles, 'Styles of Writing' email: email@example.com
- Fiona Johnston
Tonight I will bruise
with wild perfume, it is
summer time to pick
sweet spearhead leaves,
tonight I will cry
salted garlic tears for
resistant leaves, it is time
to grind till they bleed dark
into oil and cheese
tonight I will chop
cream pine cone pips from
Turkish hills, not my mother's kitchen
these smells of earth sweat
and acrid green
tonight I will dress
in leaves, nuts and bulbs,
fresh sharp and slippery,
it is summer time...
- Fiona Johnston
I know a way to eat
summer in the cold, to
taste January's hot breath
in red globes before an open fire,
to savour at solstice
the yellow sweet furred peach.
I peel and core colour
for long winter hunger,
pungent basil, sweet tomatoes,
with strawberry green apples,
I pack and seal fragrance
to feed me in the dark,
new years' apricots
for early spring pie.
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Fiona Johnston. Fiona grew up in a family where cooking and eating were necessary functions rather a source of social and sensual pleasure. She has since discovered the joys of sharing and savouring lovingly grown and prepared food. Fiona lives with her husband in the city of Adelaide only a five-minute walk from the beating heart of Adelaide - the Central Market. She has two adult daughters and two grandsons who live too far away in Sydney. She earns her living through freelance writing and academic editing. Fiona is also involved in the life at Sophia, a feminist spirituality centre, where she manages the small public library. Her poetry has been published widely and she has produced two books of poetry, Thresholds (1998) and Kindling (2004) (Seaview Press). Copies ofKindling are available from Fiona at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Robert Verdon
with a sprig or sprinkle of every herb I can think of
slow-cooked turnips carrots, garlic
potatoes and beans onions and olive oil
brown rice and lentils too
in winter can’t do without it
has to cook all afternoon bubble like the cauldron in MacBeth
is the best part.
- Robert Verdon
white banks of clover, honey from the ground
flank the path, as God plods home from shopping.
bright gift of unseen amber with no sound
of swarms upon each ragdoll flowerhead dropping.
the demos’s ambrosia, from the bee
and this, another democratic flower --
its architects should roam forever free,
though to the world, but minuscule in power.
the sun behind the noonday cloud is black,
an olive regimented in white oil;
the glaring path a riverbed: no lack
of countless little buzzers hard at toil.
the silence of the vision lingers on
as God prepares a repast, and is gone.
- Robert Verdon
in the dark byre
pull the teat
not too hard
sprays my fingers
fifty years ago
i am five
and life is
- Robert Verdon
curved the green edge round a
summit seen from the back seat
by a sleeping child
green, pungent promise
summer fruit bitter juiced in 1969
the juice we could not drink
the smell divine
expectant rain the promise
of minted smiles
a lightning vein running silver along a cloud
descending into salad country
young and very heaven
safe as a sweeping crowd across
a street of fallen money
manna milk and honey
munching through our twenties
looking back at eden green
pungent promise in a lime limousine
thundercloud skidding lightning juice
falling into salad country
zest on the back of a hand
the Countenance Divine
(it was 1969)
in that long gone land
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Robert Verdon. Verdon was born in London, UK, in 1954. His father was a gardener turned botanist, and his mother a library officer (now retired) with an interest in literature. Verdon lives in Canberra and has much prose and poetry published in Australia and abroad. He came close to winning the Anutech Prize in 1992 and was a finalist in 1994 and 1998. He was Highly Commended in the erbacce Prize in the UK. His books include The Well-Scrubbed Desert (Polonius), Her Brilliant Career (Aberrant Genotype Press), My Cat Eats Spaghetti(Ginninderra Press), The Artful Dole-Bludger [with Caroline Ambrus] (Irrepressible Press) and Before we Knew this Century (Erbacce Press). Verdon has an Honours degree in English and a Masters in Applied Linguistics. He is currently working on a PhD on Literary Composition with the University of Canberra. Robert can be contacted at email@example.com Or visit his web site.
Visit to a Cellar Door
- Maureen Burdett
Long lines of lush green vines
either side of the narrow road
lead to a small car park, empty
except for the beautiful Marissa
there before us, on time as usual.
Grey days and lengthy spates
of heavy rains makes for few tourists.
The sign above the door proclaims “Cellar Door”
They’re not all the same these Cellar Doors,
it’s always an adventure.
He was definitely a very dry red,
the long lean and weathered barman
offering tasting, while the other,
more a shiraz, definitely a man of the region.
Which shiraz, well let’s taste.
If you were a wine, what would you be?
“Clonakilla” the cellar tells us
is Gaelic for meadow by the Church.
Are Clonakillas in Ireland the same as Royal Hotels
in country New South Wales?
Not near a church or not very royal?
Spicy Marissa, her twinkling eyes
bright with laughter is O’Riada Shiraz,
especially the 2009 with its splash of Viognier,
The barman is patient and generous
there is history in this vineyard,
perhaps not yet like the Armenian cave
and its 6000 year old press and vats,
but a gentleness, history in the making.
Pure Viognier, the red drinkers white
maybe today is me, maybe – but...
the blessed Syrah Shiraz seeps into
my senses and stays,
that it is of the earth,
a festival of its savoury spice,
to be savoured.
and I am entranced.
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Maureen Burdett. Maureen is a published Author and Poet with a diverse writing style. Maureen’s poetry, prose, commentaries and articles have been published widely through local and national newspapers, magazines and touring exhibits. The serialisation of her first book, Nerrigundah an Anecdotal History by the Southern Star newspaper established her regional reputation as a writer, with several awards establishing credibility as a poet. The position of President with the ACT Fellowship of Australia Writers led to her spearheading the formation of and later Chairing the ACT Writers Centre (a project on which she and I first met and worked on together). Maureen has now been honoured with Life Membership. Maureen is based next to a bush reserve in Canberra from which she regularly receives visitors. Contact +61 2 62911705 or mobile 0402 189 802.
cold Korean winter
hot potato in pocket
warms body and soul
© Reproduced kind courtesy of the writer, who prefers to remain anonymous.
For the Love of Crumpets
- Food Poet
The dear soul who invented crumpets was truly a genius
My favourite way to eat them? Twice toasted for extra crispiness and firmness.
Generous dollops of butter spread over and over
The creamy golden goodness oozes ohhh so sensually I discover.
Topped with slices of banana so precious
A loving sprinkle of juicy blueberries, truly delicious.
For the grand finale a luxurious drizzle of maple syrup, only pure
And a lazy shake of sweet smelling cinnamon, mmm... what a lure!
Bizzy Lizzys Good Things
- Food Poet
She generously ladens
Simple and true
A joy to follow.
Bursting with flavour
From the heart.
So fresh and tasty
Colours so vibrant
Instant response? Drool.
Three cheers to Bizzy Lizzy
And to all her Good Things
For a long, happy life
In this wonderful
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Food Poet Food poet is a lover of The Wonderful World of Food. She indulges her passion by eating, cooking, photographing and the written word. She believes in food that is local, sustainable and fresh, shared especially with those who have so much less. Her philosophy is that food is most fun made with love and care, and shared in good spirit with as many people as you dare! OHH Food Glorious Food!
- Carrie Vibert
Amidst stacked scarlet strawberries,
purply pomegranate pyramids and
orgasmic origami oranges–
visions of perfection, tempting one to capture
their eternal essence–
is a deeper, darker secret.
This is not a food store.
Bushes of vivid green broccoli
in prickly pineapple forests
stand guard, their hair a mess:
sentries shielding the secret.
This is not a food store.
Kaleidoscope of colors and shapes–
cherry swirling with tomato, grape, citron, and lime–
presented to distract, dazzle, defy
those who do not know.
But I do.
This is a factory.
scam. THE illusion.
Instead of the amorous aroma of
ripe oranges, fresh bread, rotisserie chicken–
anything that would make mouths water,
hearts thump, desire demand and stomachs grumble–
there is nothing.
Absence. Emptiness. Sterility.
Garish fluorescent lights,
frigid floor, harsh, stainless steel.
Automated clerks you pay for the privilege
to pack your groceries yourself.
Distant. Detached. Inhuman.
A whole aisle of liquid rainbow–
full of poison and death.
A floral oasis in the middle–
where blossoms have been robbed
of their scentsual allure.
This is not a food store.
Step right up and get your Pop-Tarts,
your Hamburger Helper,
your heart-attack in a box
and slow death in a bag.
Then keep coming back
for more, more, more!
That’s the way they like it
at this circus freak show.
Don’t believe me?
Ask the pomegranates.
But don’t dare photograph them –
they’re protecting their identities.
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Carrie Vibert. Carrie Vibert is a stay-at-home mom, food blogger, recent college graduate, wanna-be baker, and amateur photographer. Read more about Carrie and her work at Poet in the Pantry.
The Perfect Baba Ghanouj Recipe
- Fouad Kassab
To reach the goal of baba ghanouj perfection
For the eggplant fruit you must have affection
This Lebanese dip is destined to be great
So don’t settle for something second rate
Start off with fruit that are heavy and shiny
While not too big and not too tiny
Pierce holes in the skin so as not to explode
While preparing them as we are told
These unnecessary explosions during preparation
Give good Middle Easterners a bad reputation
To cook them you’ll need a charcoal barbecue
For neither gas nor heat beads will do
If you wish to get that authentic flavour
Think charcoal an ingredient you should learn to savour
The eggplants must grill, their skins must burn
So that deep, rich smokiness they truly earn
When they give up their form, go limp and sag
Put them in a bowl covered with a plastic bag
They’ll continue to soften, the smokiness will infuse
Into the flesh until the heat would diffuse
Then take them out, peal and drain them well
Do not rinse with water as it will break the spell
Those small specks of black are a desirable thing
For the story of charcoal they will loudly sing
Once well drained and cool, you’re ready to proceed
Throw the eggplants into a bowl, cover with sesame seed
That has been pressed into tahini
It’s true Lebanese Tahini is best, so only use that please
Two tablespoons per medium fruit you’ll require
And the juice of half a lemon to give some fire
But remember that lemon juice is only there
To compliment the creaminess of the tahini affair
The taste of lemon juice should not be intrusive
Its existence must remain elusive
Crush a bit of garlic with a teaspoon of salt
Before you use too much, you really must halt
In the same way the lemon’s used discretely
The garlic’s existence should almost completely
Be hidden, it’s there just to balance the fruit
A heavy hand and garlic turns into a brute
It’s really that simple, needing no herb nor spice
But here’s my most important piece of advice
Mix only with a fork and not a blender
For machines destroy the textural splendor
Season to taste, adjust as you wish
And there you have it, the perfect dish
© Reproduced kind courtesy of Fouad Kassab. Fouad is a writer, blogger, eater and SMH Good Food Guidereviewer. Phoenician god of food and wine. Lebanese born and raised - living life in Sydney. Contact Fouad via The Food Blog The
Note, this Food Verse page was originally under it's own tab on Good Things, however, I'd like to share it with a wider audience, so will re-blog it from time to time, as new poems emerge. It's long, I know, but I don't mind.
Tell me, do you enjoy food verse, dear readers? Perhaps you've penned some of your own pieces? I'd love to publish them here.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.