When I first began composing the Kitchen Poets series, I thought there would be enough for ten parts. Then when I finished Part Nine, I thought I was finished.
However, shortly after that, my penpal Betsy, who lives in Michigan and finds wonderful cookbooks for me all the time, sent me a new batch of cookbooks that were especially intriguing because of all the kitchen poetry they contained! So, here I am again with Part 10 and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.
One of the best books that Betsy found is titled “FLAVORS OF CAPE COD” with recipes from the Friends of the Thornton W. Burgess society. I’ve never been to Massachusetts so I am especially intrigued not only with the poetry but the historical photographs as well. One of the very first poems in the very beginning of the book is titled Cape Kitchen.
I sing of the sturdy old black iron stove
With its trimming of bright nickel metal,
The wooden-armed clothes drier hanging above,
The bright colored braided rug grandmother wove
And the hum of the simmering kettle.
The smell of the baking of brown crusty bread
And the pies as they cooled on the sill.
The plate in the corner where pussy was fed,
The chair with its cushions of gay turkey red
And the cookie jar Gram use to fill.
The potted geraniums always in bloom,
The red checkered cloth spread for tea,
The crisp white curtains, the sunshiny room,
The glass spoon holder, the old corn broom
And the special treats Gram saved for me.
What I love most about this poem is the vivid way it recalls a time long ago. Also in “Flavors of Cape Cod” is a poem about pie! I have written extensively about pie in the Kitchen Poets; it seems to bring the poet out in all of us. The author of this one is unknown but the book notes that it was found in an old handwritten recipe book. You will love
WHY HE GOT NO PIE AT ALL
A small boy sat on the top of the fence,
And thought he was quite a bright fellow,
For he counted the days ‘til Thanksgiving time,
And he counted the pumpkins yellow.
And he said as he sat in royal state
On top of the fence so high,
“A pumpkin pie most highly I rate”
and he mused on the pleasures of by and by.
And now near at hand was Thanksgiving Day,
And the kitchen was all in a whirl,
And his mother was busy as busy could be,
Likewise his aunt and the servant girl.
To take a pie this small boy intended,
For what was one pie more or less?
No doubt his mother would be offended,
But who the culprit she’d never guess.
His chance came soon for a neighbor came in
To ask for the loan of the rolling pin;
And when one were looking or standing by,
This dreadful boy ran off with a pie.
The pie was hot and burned him so
And running so fast he stubbed his toe.
That over he fell, hot pie and all
And loudly did for his mother call.
She sadly looked at her pride and joy,
And separated pie from boy.
He cried very hard at having done wrong,
But he knew he’d cry more before very long.
Next day at dinner all wondered why,
His small boy was debarred from pie.
But his mother and he alone knew the reason,
And he thought their remarks quite out of season.
No author is given for the following, titled “The Egg” which also appears in “Favors of Cape Cod”:
I sing the praise of the versatile egg,
Clean and pure in its germ proof shell,
Easy to come by and cheap to use,
It has more uses than I can tell.
Boiled or fried, or poached or scrambled,
Main dish or extra, on the side,
Sponge cake light, and pleasingly high,
Its many uses can’t be denied.
Mile high meringue on a fine lemon pie,
Custards or icing on cake,
Omelets light as fleecy white cloud,
It’s wonderful what eggs can make.
Brown ones or white ones, what matters the shade
The treasure is what the shells hold,
The white can be whipped to a snowy white peak,
The yolks are a beautiful gold.
Queen of the barnyard, my hat’s off to you,
Never stop laying, I beg!
Meals would be duller, and life would be drear.
Without the magnificent egg!
Another kitchen poems from “Flavors of Cape Cod” is titled
COOKING IS COMFORTING
Cooking is comforting, and so
When everything goes awry
It’s wise to stop our worrying
And make an apple pie.
When unexpected sorrow comes
To make our poor hearts ache,
There’s nothing helps us more than work
So bake a luscious cake.
For, as the body wants good food
To keep it strong and whole,
Perhaps it’s work the spirit needs
To make a healthy soul.
A simple task can calm our mind,
And consolation bring;
A job well done allays our grief—
Cooking IS comforting.
(This is something I really relate to.)
Another short poem from the same cookbook:
Ready on my pantry shelves
Are cans both great and small,
Just to help me fix a lunch,
When friends make me a call.
In the corners of my heart
I store the joys I’ve had,
To cheer me up with memories
When else I might grow sad.
And this sweet poem about the herbs was found under “miscellaneous” in “Flavors of Cape Cod”:
Parsley and thyme and mint and sage,
Tarragon, chives and rue,
Basil and borage and bay and dill
All had their work to do.
Different powers in different herbs,
Everyone knew were hiding,
So Grandma put rosemary in her shoe
When Grandpa took her riding.
What was the magical spell it cast
To bind two lives together.
Tight in a love that should live and last
Through cloudy and sunny weather!
Grandma, of course, was supposed to be shy
And wait, till he spoke of his fancies,
But Grandma put rosemary in her shoe.
She wasn’t taking chances.
Prefacing a chapter on cookies, “An Apple A Day” cookbook of vegetarian cookery by doctors’ wives offered this:
“Roll them, drop them,
Press them in the pan,
Put them in the oven to
Bake to golden tan.
Warm cookies from the oven,
There’s nothing else to match,
Alas! Tomorrow you’ll have
To bake another batch.”
And from the same cookbook, under the heading for pies, comes this short and cute poem:
“Let’s be merry, let’s be mad,
Let’s be daring, let’s be bad,
Let’s be crazy and not curb it.
Let’s order pie instead of sherbet!”
Quite risqué, those doctors’ wives.
Another great cookbook find of my Michigan penpal Betsy—who finds the cookbooks, copies what she wants out of them—and then ships them to me in California—is a really wonderful book titled “Savoring the Seasons on Puget’s Sound/Summer, with the subtitle “A Readers Cookbook by Dorothy Neil & Lee Brainard”, is one of a set of four (Summer, Spring, Winter & Autumn) and really is a cookbook for you to read like other people read novels. Published in 1966, it’s the first time I have ever seen one of this series. It’s written in a folksy, chatty style…and in the Introduction, Dorothy wrote:
“Food lightens the burden of weary paths,
And brightens the future’s view,
Provides the impetus to get things done,
And makes the well-worn new;
Food, my friend, be it cookies or cake,
Though the journey is tough, you will find,
That all is forgotten, forgiven and bright
Because (please believe it) you’ve dined.”
Elsewhere I found a poem but there is no indication who wrote it:
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
“There’s one thing I would like to know,
How Grandma could relax,
Without a single modern thing
That saves our feet and backs.
Electric gadgets cook for me;
My sweeper cleans my rugs;
I call the pest control man
To rid my house of bugs.
The butcher cuts my chickens up;
The baker bakes my pies;
I just grab the pacifier
Whenever baby cries.
I’ve thrown away the recipes
Of grandma’s home-cooked food
And now I buy the frozen kind
To feed my hungry brood.
And when the meal has been consumed,
The dishes wash themselves;
Someone folds the TV tables
And stacks them on the shelves.
My grandma danced the minuet;
Had time to read and write;
But housework’s such an awful job
I’m much too tired at night!”
Elsewhere in “Savoring the Seasons on Puget Sound”, along with pie recipes, I found yet another tribute to pie – but this one is only four lines.
What a lovely thing is a pie!
Berries encased in a crust,
For a top-flight American dinner,
A fresh-baked pie is a must!
And near the end of this cookbook I came across the following—which I think I have seen before, maybe with a few different lines…but it’s cute and worthy of sharing:
“I didn’t have potatoes
So I substituted rice.
I didn’t have paprika,
So I used another spice.
I didn’t have tomato sauce,
So I used tomato paste.
A whole can, not a half can,
I don’t believe in waste.
A friend gave me the recipe,
She said you couldn’t beat it.
There must be something wrong
I couldn’t even EAT it!”
Another cookbook that Betsy sent to me is titled Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church Centennial Cookbook 1903-203/Feeding Our Flock (which in itself is a mouthful);
This cookbook was compiled by the congregation in Vilas County, Wisconsin. In it I found the following:
Her cookies were the best ones made;
No one can match her lemonade,
She cures the best of country ham,
And makes delicious berry jam.
A better pie no one can make,
Or even touch her chocolate cake.
Her pickles are so crisp and nice;
Her peaches are just right with spice.
And when I ask her recipe;
She shakes her head and smiles at me.
“Oh, I just guess at it, my dear.”
And now it seems to me quite clear,
One thing that’s used, all else above,
Her main ingredient is love.
—Esther L. Dauber
The following short verse, dated 1890, was found in Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens, compiled by the Idaho Historical Auxiliary of Boise, Idaho in 1967:
“Eggs beat with a knife will cause sorrow and strife;
Beat with a spoon will make heavy soon;
Beat with a fork will make light as a cork,”
Another short verse from the Historical Auxiliary heads the chapter on soup:
One morning in the garden bed
The onion and the carrot said
Unto the parsnip group;
“Oh! When shall we three meet again
in thunder, lightning, hail or rain?”
“Alas,” replied in tones of pain,
The parsley, “In the soup.”
–Mrs. Dan Ryan
I made a curious discovery in “Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens”! If you have been reading each chapter of Kitchen Poets, you may recall (or maybe not!) in Part three I shared with you a recipe for buckwheat griddle cakes, found in Massie’s “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake”, published in 1990 – however, Massie noted that the recipe for buckwheat cakes came from an Ann Arbor cookbook published in 1884.
Well, much to my surprise, I found a rhymed recipe for buckwheat griddle cakes in Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens—basically, the ingredients are the same, and the rhymed recipe starts out the same – but then the contributor changed some of the lines. The last lines to Massie’s Buckwheat griddle cakes read:
When baking make of generous size
Your cakes; and if they’d take the prize
They must be light and nicely browned,
Then by your husband you’ll be crowned
Queen of the kitchen; but you’ll bake,
And he will, man-like, “take the cake”.
The last lines to Buckwheat Griddle Cakes in the Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens read:
When baking make of generous size
And if they are to take a prize,
They must be light and nicely browned
So Queen of the Kitchen you can be crowned!”
The latter also notes that if a cupful is left each morning in the mixing bowl or crock, the [above] ingredients can again be added at night and left to rise for the next morning’s breakfast. This, says the contributor, has been pursued successfully at least 10 days in a row.
This concludes Part 10 of the Kitchen Poets—unless I find myself with a glut of new poems sometime in the future—so I’ll leave you with this short verse from “Savoring The Seasons”:
Cooking at my
Is fraught with
Risk and tedium.
I usually get my
My hands and