Here’s another kitchen poem about lemon pie, which seems to inspire poets everywhere. This one was composed by Edgar A. Guest, one of my favorite poets:
The world is full of gladness,
There are joys of many kinds,
There’s a cure for every sadness,
That each troubled mortal finds,
And my little cares grow lighter
And I cease to fret and sigh,
And my eyes with joy grow brighter
When she makes a lemon pie.
When the bronze is on the filling
That’s one mass of shining gold,
And its molten joy is spilling
On the plate, my heart grows bold,
And the kids and I in chorus
Raise one glad exultant cry
And we cheer the treat before us –
Which is mother’s lemon pie.
Then the little troubles vanish
And the sorrows disappear,
Then we find the grit to banish
All the cares that hovered near,
And we smack our lips in pleasure
O’er a joy no coin can buy,
And we down the golden treasure
Which is known as lemon pie.
–Edgar A. Guest
Mr. Guest also wrote a poem about raisin pie, something you seldom see anywhere, anymore. I thought this was once also called “Funeral Pie” so I double-checked with John Mariani’s Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, and sure enough—it was a Pennsylvania Dutch pie traditionally baked before the imminent death of a family member for the purpose of easing the grief of the mourners at the funeral.
There’s a heap of pent-up goodness in the yellow bantam corn,
And I sort o’ like to linger round a berry patch at morn;
Oh, the Lord has set our table with a stock o’ things to eat,
An’ there’s just enough o’ bitter in the blend to cut the sweet,
But I run the whole list over, an’ it seems somehow that I
Find the keenest sort o’ pleasure in a chunk o’ raisin pie.
There are pies that start the water circulatin’ in the mouth;
There are pies that wear the flavor of the warm an’ sunny south;
Some with oriental spices spur the drowsy appetite
An’ just fill a fellow’s being with a thrill o’ real delight;
But for downright solid goodness that comes drippin’ from the sky
There is nothing quite the equal of a chunk o’ raisin pie.
I’m admittin’ tastes are diff’runt, I’m not settin’ up myself
As the judge an’ final critic of the good things on the shelf.
I’m sort o’ payin’ tribute to its lasting charm an’ worth,
An’ I’ll hold to this conclusion till it comes my time to die,
That there’s no dessert that’s finer than a chunk o’ raisin pie.
— Edgar A. Guest
The subject of “pie” seems to bring out the poet in all of us. From a little booklet, titled The Book of Kitchen Jingles, compiled by Olivia Barton Strohm and published by the Kalamazoo Stove Company there are several little poems about pies – and judging from a picture of the Kalamazoo Gas Stove, I’m guessing this must have been published about a hundred years ago. However, someone sent a copy of the booklet to me so I don’t have an actual publishing date. Google wasn’t much help, this time. I’m guessing that Olivia Barton Strohm was an author of some note, back in the day. I found references to a children’s book. Referencing Strohm, the Kalamazoo Stove Company notes “The writer has edited and compiled them from authoritative sources”—so there isn’t any claim to these having been written by Strohm. Additionally, I found a Google reference to the Kalamazoo Stove Company going into business in 1901.
The French are awful stylish,
They fix things up “a la:”
But when it comes to cookin’
They ain’t in it with my ma.
I like her homely dishes,
Best of all her punkin pies (sic)
They keep a fellow healthy,
Maybe wealthy, too, and wise.
Two eggs, three-fourths cup sugar,
And take one cup of “punkin”
And maybe, of some butter,
Ma puts a little chunk in.
She also adds a cup of milk
And plenty of good spice:
then makes a real flaky crust
(there’s nothing half so nice).
So I cut out fancy cookin’
I’ll tell you plainly why—
I must prefer my mother’s
Old fashioned punkin pie.
Also from “The Book of Kitchen Jingles”:
Eve’s Apple Pie
While Eve in the Garden of Paradise
An apple tree she did espy:
And said, “just the thing: I’ll gather
And make Adam a ice apple pie.”
She pared, quartered, cut them in
Slices quite thin,
Lined a pie tin with light, flaky paste;
Then put an abundance of apples
And sugar and nutmeg to taste.
And then, as she passed to her
Husband the pie,
The first man said “after you,
But Eve must have left in a wee
For it stuck in the throat of poor
The following brief verse is from an old church cookbook:
There are men who never, never eat a single piece of pie,
Be it pumpkin, peach or apple, so ‘tis said,
No, the explanation is simple, when you know the reason why
Like the women who don’t gossip, they are dead.
At some point in time—no clue when—I clipped something from the Los Angeles Times that appears to have been in response to a poem that had been printed in the paper. The woman who wrote the poem titled it:
TO EAT A POEM
First you need apples
Green, tart, pared and cored,
Breathing apple aroma
Through every pore.
Then fill an unbaked
Pastry shell to overflowing.
Blend aromatic cinnamon,
Add small dots of butter
Pause to inhale
Tuck all under a pastry
Seal edges tightly.
Place gently in oven,
Let the wonderful
Redolence surrounding you,
Once delicately browned,
Remove from oven.
Eat and revel,
You are devouring a poem
For all your senses.
On the same clipping is a poem called
Grandma fixed her meals from scratch,
Chopped the wood, then lit a match.
Mother’s cool was never lost,
She simply let her food defrost.
Daughter put her beef or mutton
In a microwave, then pushed a button.
— Walter J. Frisch
I found a poem about wild grape jelly but have no idea which cookbook it came from:
She said “grape jelly” and I tasted it.
Grapes, yes, but something else.
Something strange, elusive, wonderful:
Sunkissed hills and winds in autumn trees,
Bare brown feet and little brooks,
Deep tangled woodlands where the wild vines grow,
And long-forgotten dreams.
All this because I ate of slice of home-made bread
Spread with wild grape jelly.
This other poem about jelly, written by Barbara Overton Christie, was published in the 1970 Farm Journal Christmas Book. It’s called “The Jar of Jelly” and sometimes I give copies of the poem with jars of jelly and jam as Christmas gifts.
THE JAR OF JELLY
To others’ eyes, it may not look like much;
“It’s just a jar of jelly” some would say,
“Wrapped up in festive ribbons and some seals
To make it look more Christmassy and gay.”
But you for whom it’s meant will find,
All that is packed within the little jar,
You will translate the label properly
And see just what the contents really are.
“Wild grape—“ you’ll say and suddenly
You’ll not be walking dusty city halls,
But down an autumn-gilded little lane
Between the jeweled vines of old stone walls.
Instead of dingy bricks beyond a court
You’ll see a spruce-green hillside, sharp
Sweet fern and bayberry will scent the breeze,
The whirr of partridge wings delight your ear.
It is not much to send, this one small jar,
But you will see that in it, pure and true,
Shimmers the essence of the place we love,
Preserved especially by me, for you.
The following poem about vegetables was published in the Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook:
Said a squash to a turnip, one bright summer day,
“Let us hide, for I see the cook coming this way,
A Pennsylvania Grange Cook Book is under her arm
The look in her eyes fills my heart with alarm.”
”Foolish squash,” said the turnip, “Why raise all this fuss?
Of course she is coming, and coming for us,
Ere she cuts off my tops and my roots, I will pause,
To say, if we die, it is in a good cause”.
While we are on the subject of vegetables, the following little verse has appeared in many community cookbooks:
The onion strong, the parsnip sweet,
The twining bean, the ruddy beet—
Yes, all the garden brings to light
Speaks of a landscape of delight.
Another on the topic of vegetables from the Fortnightly Cook Book, published in Winchester, Massachusetts in 1922:
I would I had time to the merits rehearse
Of squashes and corn, which I find not in verse,
I wish I could give the potato its due,
In the finest of rhymes and the most tuneful lays.
Cucumbers and cabbage, I also would praise
Or sing of tomatoes, served hot in a stew.
But onions! Oh, onions! Dear me, I suppose
They should not be mentioned except in dry prose.
(You’ll excuse me for putting my hand to my nose).
While as for that homely old family of beans,
There’s nothing much lower, unless it is greens.
I’ll except that patrician branch from Lima
Than which, in succotash, what could be finer?
Others there are, but we must on to receipts
If it were not for that, I’d at least speak of beets,
But space is precious, so no more will I write,
Merely wishing you health and a good appetite.
And here is something about Puddings, from the Rio Bravo Farm Home Cookbook:
‘Tis only a pudding stuffed with plums,
there in the baker’s stall;
but I pass it by, with a longing sigh,
and a tear that’s ashamed to fall.
But I’d give—oh, what I’d give today—
Just to be a boy again.
With the same old joy in childish things,
And the same old trust as then.
When a crooked pin and a string were joys;
And a pudding stuffed with plums
Was a mine of wealth, as I sought them out
With my trembling little thumbs.
– Phila Butter Bowman
*Sandy’s Cooknote: Is it necessary to add that the pudding in this poem is plum pudding which, for American palates, is not a pudding at all but a steamed cake?
Another “pudding” poem appeared in the Elkhart Cookbook by the Ladies of the First Congregational Church of Elkhart, Indiana, published in 1891 -
The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide,
The huge hall table’s oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board,
No mark to impart the squire and the lord.
Then round the merry wassail bowl,
Garnished with ribbons, blithe did trowl,
And the huge sirloin steamed on high,
Plum-pudding, hare, and savory pie.
Sandy’s Cooknote: Advise the ladies of Elkhart Congregational Church, “in steaming puddings, pot-pies or dumplings, to not remove the cover from the steamer till done, for if the air strikes the batter, or dough, before it is fully cooked, it will surely fall, never to ‘rise again’. A pudding may be re-steamed, and be just as good as the first time of cooking”. Well, it’s a good thing they told me. I’d hate to make a plum pudding and have it fall!