Tag Archives: Food and Drink

Song of the Cherry Tomato

The Song of the Cherry Tomato

Welcome me, greet me;
it’s so easy to eat me.

Smell me, feel me,
admire my compact shape.

Then pluck me from my vine,
just as you would a grape.

Stroke me, preen me;
the best way to clean me.

Place me, with my friends,
in a plain, white bowl.

The colours, the arrangements,
are good for the soul.

Paint me, write poems to me,
if such art is your goal.

Or just pop me in your mouth,
and devour me, whole.

While eating some cherry tomatoes recently, I suddenly got the urge to write a poem about them.  I had previously written a poem about tomatoes in general, and it hadn’t worked out  particularly well, but this time I was inspired by the beauty and simplicity of these tomatoes – and how ridiculously easy it was to eat them.  I started out with some ideas about how easy it is for us these days, compared to our ancestors having to hunt, kill, and labour with their hands to provide food for their families.  But the whole thing started to become over-elaborate, until I suddenly got the idea to write it in the “voice” of the tomato.  After that, the poem flowed along quite easily.

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Peach Schnapps

Peach Schnapps

I drink it as a nightcap, so potent,
so sweet, my senses swoon under its sway.
But a drink of such richness,
so delicious, so strong, I know,
deep within, to drink it is wrong.

At first, half a glass, then a little bit more,
each successive evening, my trembling hand
pours a more generous measure,
then more, and yet more. So enticing,
in its guiles, resistance is futile.

I laugh to myself, shamelessly,
openly admit my dependency.
This is my laudanum;
I am with de Quincey.
My belly balloons, voluminously.

When I look in a mirror,
unsurprised, I see
an unsettling image,
staring back at me.
The bald head, swollen cheeks,
dull gaze, sickly grin,
of an ageing, chubby cherub,
unrepentant, steeped in sin.

My eyes close; I slide into ecstasy.
Coleridge and de Quincey swim towards me,
waving and smiling beatifically.
We link hands, we three, condemned to be
doomed souls, sinking, slowly,
in an opalescent sea.

I have had no qualms, in many previous posts in this blog, in stating that alcohol is, for me, one of the pleasures of life.  But the pleasures of alcohol bring with them the attendant dangers of addiction, and I have, occasionally, found it a bit of a struggle to keep “moderation in all things” as my guiding rule.  The above poem resulted from a recent flirtation with the addictive properties of Peach Schnapps; but you will no doubt be relieved to hear that the addiction came to an abrupt end, as soon as I read the small print on the back of the label, and realised that 100ml of the liquid contained 278 calories – mostly in the form of sugar!

 

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Instruments of Pleasure

Instruments of Pleasure

Cherry-stoner, apple-corer,
bring delight, impose order.
In a world of mush and mess,
they cut through cleanly,
ease the stress.

Cherry pulp, cherry flesh,
submit to the simple press,
thumb down on the silver gun;
the stone bursts out, its race is run.
Hard stone removed, at your leisure,
softness, succulence, simple pleasure.

The apple-corer’s humble duty:
a perfect circle, simple beauty.
Hand on top, a firm push;
no need to chop, no need to crush.
It performs its function, equals its station;
pips and core leave the equation.

Cherry-stoner, apple-corer,
bring delight, impose order.

Cherries are currently in season in the UK, and I usually try to incorporate them into my “5-a-day” fruit and vegetable regime around this time of year.  Because I don’t indulge in them during the winter, it always comes as a bit of a shock when I bite into the first cherries of the year, and encounter the large, hard stone in the middle.  This year, for the first time, I found myself thinking of how to extract the stones – instead of just chewing around them, as I’ve always done before.  I went into a large department store, deliberately looking for the appropriate device, and was pleased to find one, and purchase it, fairly easily.  The first time I used the device, I was immediately impressed by its efficacy, and by the explosive force it generated.  It’s basically like a staple-gun, with a steel rod, or plunger, that drives through the centre of the cherry.

The results were so pleasing – being able to eat cherries without worrying about the stones – that I started to think about similar devices for other fruit.  The next time I was in the department store, I bought an apple-corer, and found that equally effective in increasing the pleasure I get from eating apples. It was when I used the apple-corer for the first time that the idea for the above poem came to me.  For someone like me, who invariably finds difficulties performing simple manual tasks, it’s just a joy to find devices like this that work so simply and effortlessly. 

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Banana Cure

BANANA CURE

I like alcohol, eat all the wrong food;
hypertension is driving my blood,
but I know these bananas are doing me good.

Not inculcated, in my childhood:
that eating bananas was doing me good.
I never ate them; never understood.

Doctors don’t tell you; I think they should,
for these bananas are doing me good.
It’s all the potassium, purging the blood.

Internet info, a veritable flood;
I digest what I read, as cows chew the cud.
I know these bananas are doing me good.

A simple poem of praise for the humble banana.  Followers of this blog may remember that, a few weeks ago, I was having problems with high blood pressure, or “hypertension”.  My doctor had prescribed pills that did not agree with me, and – whether coincidentally or not – I had the rather alarming episode I described in the poem “Curtain of Blood”.  In rebellion against the medication prescribed by the doctor, I took to the Internet, in search of alternative cures.  Bananas seemed to be a possible option.  Apparently, a recent experiment had shown that people eating two bananas a day had experienced a 10% fall in blood pressure after only two weeks.  My blood pressure was averaging around 160/92.  If, by simply eating two bananas a day, I could lower it by 10%, it would be reduced to just over 140/90 – the “healthy” target range I was aiming at.  I thought it was worth a try.

Two weeks later, after sticking to the regime of two bananas a day, I found – to my astonishment – that my blood pressure was now registering 131/83!  For the first time in living memory, I was actually averaging healthy scores under 140/90!  Admittedly, when I felt as if I was suffering from a surfeit of bananas, and reduced the daily intake to one banana a day, the blood pressure started to rise again.  I now hope I have reached a compromise solution – two small bananas a day – that seems to be just as effective, and slightly less onerous.

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Sacraments

SACRAMENTS:

My “First Communion”; lost, in the mists of time.
“The Body and Blood of Christ Our Lord”
made little impact on me, apparently.
What remains, strongly, in my memory
is “The Holy Sacrament of Confirmation”.
Not the ceremony itself, just the walk back home.
My white-clad form, cradled in sunlight;
the footpath, devoured by my eager tread.
We were “Soldiers of Christ” now; armed for the fight
with missals, and little red catechisms.
But no martial thoughts in my ten-year-old head.
No conflicts of belief, religious schisms;
just a haze of effulgence, confirmatory light.
We’d been let home early; I should be there by three.
I wondered what Mum had got for my tea.

My poem “Sacraments” is, I think, pretty much self-explanatory.  My mother was a devout Roman Catholic, and did her best to inculcate a similar devotion in me.  She was, however, always fighting a losing battle in this.  Apart from a juvenile flirtation with the idea of becoming a priest, in my early ‘teens, I never expressed any serious interest in Catholicism, and became a “lapsed” Catholic in my late ‘teens.  The sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation were supposed to imbue us with spiritual sustenance, but sustenance of a more corporeal nature always had a greater interest for me.  The line from The Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” was obviously more relevant to me at the time.

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Tomato

Today I am returning to a theme I’ve often written about in previous posts: food and drink in poetry.  I’ve mentioned my surprise at the relative scarcity of poems written on the subject.  They may be few and far between, but occasionally you come across one that is exceptional and becomes an instant classic – like “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams, which I cannot resist quoting, again, in full:

This is just to say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I’ve always loved tomatoes, and wondered if I could write a poem about them.  I remember hearing an Italian pop song, a few years ago, that was called something like “The Tomato Song” and seemed – as far as I could gather, from my poor grasp of Italian – to be saying “Wouldn’t it be lovely if life were like a tomato”.  Perhaps it was that song that first prompted me.  Anyway, after many false starts and struggles along the way, here is my attempt at the subject:

TOMATO:

Emissary of the blood-red sun.
It is compact, perfect, smiling within.
You must taste the music of encrimsoned
spheres; hear the juice fizzing through its veins.

Its rubicund flesh, its genial spirit,
spurns brutality.  Bite it, like a barbarian,
and it bursts into violence; a spiteful
rebellion of spray, spatter and stain.

Place it, whole, in the mouth; the caged bars
of teeth cannot contain the uproar
of slivers and seeds.  It imposes civility;
the clemency of cold steel.  Slice it,

chop it into quarters, and it accedes
to its fate.  Its lips peel back, revealing
Its vibrant vessels and capillaries;
Its valedictory seedy grin.

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Summer Twilight on the Street

I closed my front door, and started walking along the street, intending to do some local shopping.  I heard a man’s voice, shouting something indecipherable, and, looking across the street, saw a couple of men on top of a ladder, doing some work on one of the roofs.  I suddenly realised they were addressing me, so came to a halt, gazing in their direction.  The man then repeated what he’d originally said to me: “Are we in England, mate?”  I had no problems in hearing him, this time, but the meaning of his question still eluded me.  I stared at him, shrugging my shoulders.  “Is this England?” he then said, pointing in the direction of a group of young Asian women in brightly-coloured saris, who were chattering and laughing – “. . . ‘cos it don’t sound like it!” the man concluded.  Finally getting his point, I shrugged again, made some anodyne comment like “Oh, you get used to it” and walked on.

I happen to live on quite an interesting street: St. Martin’s Street, in Peterborough.  It’s a fairly innocuous-looking street, in a working-class area, with a lot of ageing terraced houses; what makes it interesting is the constantly-shifting nature of the populace.  I was thinking about listing the nationalities concerned, but, as it would be a virtually endless list, it’s easier to simplify it as mainly immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe.  I hasten to point out that – unlike the man on the roof – I have no problems with this at all, and find it an enlivening factor of living on the street.  When you add to this mix of population such elements as drugs, alcohol and a lack of available employment, you get an atmosphere that many could see as “unsavoury”, but I find intriguing and invigorating.  The introduction of bollards, halfway along the street, a few years ago, made a big, positive difference.  Prior to the bollards, the street was plagued by the intrusion of cars, speeding along, using it as a short-cut.  The introduction of the bollards transformed the street, turning it into virtually a pedestrian precinct – a place free for all to stroll and walk at their leisure.

Watching the passers-by, a few evenings ago, I started feeling nostalgic, at the ending of a glorious Summer; and my poem “Summer Twilight on The Street” is the result.

SUMMER TWILIGHT ON THE STREET:

White candyfloss drifts in pellucid blue sky.
Evening sunlight falls, as Summer ends,
on the street.

Gentle breeze flutters the white moustache
of an elderly sikh, cycling slowly,
magisterially, down the centre
of the street; fusing the stresses
and strains of this eventful season
into his calm visage.

Two Italian women argue volubly,
elegantly dressed, as if for
a Passagato Milanese.  Sun flares
off the silver nose stud of an Asian
woman in a shimmering sari.

A grey-bearded man, in robes
and fez, paces thoughtfully.
A skinhead in shorts marches
urgently, carrier-bags bristling
with clinking, jostling cans.

Two stocky Oriental youths,
hyper with MSG, stride past
a Polish woman cleaning her car.
Her small blonde daughter
is on a tricycle, cycling
an endless orbit around the car.

Another Summer slips by; Summer on the street.
Front doors succumbing, Police shields glinting.
Doorstep-sitting, cider-fizz-swigging,
bare feet padding, young lovers kissing.
Endless evenings of blissful blue sky;
comings and goings, neighbours, passers-by.
Kids trudging to school, then merrily returning;
enervating heat, pallid skins burning.
Shouting, spitting, drinking, eating.
Life on the street; transitory, fleeting.
And so it goes on; new sights, new sounds.
The girl on the tricycle goes round and round.
Round and round she goes; round and round . . .

 

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Skol Super Lager

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my liking for various alcoholic beverages, including cider and lager.  My particular passion for some of these drinks has inspired a number of poems, and “Skol Super Lager” is the latest.  When I mention the fact that its alcoholic strength is 9% vol, you may begin to understand some of the references and flights of fancy with which I indulge myself in this poem.

SKOL SUPER LAGER:

Skol the skull-splitter!
Skol the stealer of souls.
Skol the de-skiller, the destroyer,
sealing the spirit with spittle and spume.
Spraying, sozzling, sizzling the synapses.
NOT a drink for a scholar.

The legendary can; its black
and gold livery, glimmering,
clenched in the fists of
countless vagrants.

To sip this muddy amber fluid
is to dip your toes into the delirium
of the down and out.  Sliding into,
sharing in their disordered,
dishevelled delusions.

But you can’t just sip!  You slurp;
you gulp it, voraciously.  The only way
to quench the thirst for self-destruction.
The only way to feel its cold, clammy
grasp tightening around your liver,
sucking you down, joining in the flotsam,
floating in its murky depths.

For what we seek, we Skolars;
we disillusioned, disinherited,
depressed dipsomaniacs; we
bloated, bleary-eyed band
of brothers – what we seek,
as we sink, drowning, not waving;
five-fathoms deep, draining the dregs
of this devilish drink – what we seek
is not enlightenment, but the oblivion
awaiting, over the event horizon.
The annihilating blankness,
the unfathomable mystery
of the black hole at the heart
of darkness.

 

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Bus Station Cafe

Never having learned to drive – due to a combination of factors, some accidental, some intentional on my part – I’ve been reliant upon public transport, in order to get to work and back, for most of my life.  As a result, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time hanging around at bus stops, train stations, and bus station cafes.

I can’t say that these experiences have been all that rewarding, creatively speaking.  In fact, I found them tediously dreary and soul-destroying, most of the time.  Just on the odd occasion, something would happen to spark my imagination, and a poem would eventually ensue.  Watching the manoeuvres of a particularly portly pigeon was the genesis for one poem; and sitting in the bus station café, listening to the drivers’ conversation, on a bleak winter’s day, was the inspiration for the following poem.

BUS STATION CAFE:

At the bus station cafe, the drivers stand,
or sit, wreathed in steam; a warm fug.
Drink hot, sweet tea, from a mug.
Forget boredom, complaints; all of that.

Sizzling pools of saturated fat,
to fry pink, succulent pig.
Hot bacon rolls, sausage sarnies, egg baps.
‘Heard ‘bout Jim?  Died.  Heart attack.’

These men and women; their everyday cares.
You sense the feelings; imprints in the air.
Heart attack, cancer; anytime, any season.
Can you predict?  Is there rhyme or reason?
Who knows what will kill us?  And what’s life for,
if you can’t eat what you like, and ask for more?

‘Jim!  Of all people!  He wasn’t even fat!’
So cold outside.  Forget it.  Forget all of that.
‘You gotta laugh, really.  It’s just a joke!’

The egg bap greets you with a playful spurt of yoke.
It drips from your jaws, as you bite into it.

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Food for Thought

I’ve written quite a few poems about the pleasures of food and drink, and I’m quite unapologetic about that.  Poetry can address the most mundane subjects, just as it can the most high-flown, spiritual musings.  Occasionally, you come across a subject that has potential for combining the material and the spiritual, as in my poem “Food for Thought”, where a humble fish supper is the starting point for nostalgia and thoughts about religion.

John Donne wrote some of the greatest poems on the subject of religion; one of them being his Holy Sonnet “Batter my heart, three person’s God”.  Towards the end of “Food for Thought”, there is a blatant reference to Donne’s sonnet.  My apologies to the shade of John Donne, but I just couldn’t resist it!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Fish supper tonight; I have been enticed.
The Chinese chippy; its friendly hubbub,
wafting aromas, glowing bright lights.
I stand in the queue; people come and go.
Memories of childhood flicker and flow. . .

I knew, every Friday, going home from school,
what awaited me, glistening, on a plain, white dish.
Week in, week out, an unbroken rule.
Unwritten, understood: it would be fish.
Cooked by my mother’s fervent, Catholic hands;
pure, white fillets of haddock or cod.
As clean, as virtuous, as Sally Army Bands.
Wholesome, nutritious; an offering to God.
Jesus and fish, I could understand.
The disciples, fishermen of Galilee.
Peter and the others, harvesting the sea.
Loaves and fishes fed the five thousand.
But bread and wine as Christ’s body and blood;
(the priest got the wine, to savour and taste;
we got “The Host” of cardboard and paste.)
that was a problem, never understood.
In no way did this artifice fill my need.
“Transubstantiation”, indeed!
When Host met tongue at communion rail,
all faith and belief would begin to fail. . .

Will it batter my heart, this oleaginous cod?
I anoint it with condiments; can of beer for
libation.  Insert a mouthful; await revelation.

It tastes of grease and salt; but what it tastes of most
is paste and cardboard: it tastes of The Host.

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