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Cooking with Poems

Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10 Video Workshops.

Anchovy Pasta
Whiskered litte gondola
You float in the salt of my exhistance
And string my capered
Heart into the canal
Of my dreams!

-Dave Johnson

Humble Heirloom tomato (the only kind)
In 3 bright colors on the plate
What pyrotechnic genius came up with this creation
Planted historic seeds
Nurtured you to fullness
Carefully sliced and plated you
Then, as if your rosy ripeness weren’t enough
Smeared you with chèvre
Sprinkled some sugar
Lit a torch to melt that crispy brûlée crust
And launched you into my mouth
Perfection exploding on my tongue
Like crunchy, creamy, juicy, dreamy fireworks

—Vivian Tedford
Sent from my iPhone

Nacho Cheese Doritos

           after Rita Dove
Dextrose temptress, isosceles sunrise
I hold up to gaze
at each dappled shard.
How you soothe me,
you darling tea with madeline!
Your dust stains my fingers
that primordial hue.
Perfect tooth crunch, if I let you
you’d replace every meal.
Natural and artificial flavors,
malodextrine jezebel,
for a morsel of you any woman
would gladly funnel your crumbs
from tilted bag directly to mouth!
Enough chatter!
I am ready for
the Family Size.

—Meara Levezow

Chick pea—not a chick nor a pea
I love you!
Dried, wizened little skull
you spring to usefulness when
soaked and cooked
smashed and mixed
or stewed or sprouted.
Like the first day of spring or
a favorite sweater
I could live without you
but I don’t want to.

—Jean Lamberty
Autism Speaks Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador

Just caught your April 1st lesson on Food…I always like sending it to you first…I think it is amusing

It is called

I am fond of fruit
I also like gay men who are tutti fruity
How do I choose?
Do I have to?
They both have their merits
One tastes good
The other feels good



Layers upon layers of pillowed creaminess,
woody mushrooms and béchamel.

Layered with love, oozing cheese,
zucchini strips peeking out. Color of sand,

foam of the sea, scenting of garlic and thyme,
peas peep out of the wrinkled, silken sheets,

Bubbling cheese is a richer bed for a princess
than ever she deserved. I sink into the puddles of cream,

blanket myself in the arms of downy noodles,
drowning in the passion, only to rise again

– a phoenix.

—Lenore Rosenberg


Steaming lake of buried
White rainbow treasures
You massage my nostrils-
An effortless dilation-
Even before our palms embrace

I could never compare
No, never choose,
Which is sweeter-
The dive into your clear waters
Or the calm of your memory!

I used to blush in grief
For the lost years
When we travelled apart
But now I blush with love
From the warmth of your hug.

—John Clifton
MD Candidate, Class of 2023
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Huaraches al Pastor: an Interrogation
If you’re named after a shoe
how tasty can you be?
How can a sole made from Mexican corn meal
topped with roasted meats inspired by Lebanese merchants
claim to be anything but counterfeit?
Where are you walking from?
Where are you going?
How did you get here?
Who else are you with?
Who brought you here?

Are you not street food, but a corrido?

Stainless steel grill,
pork turning on a spit,
bullet-sized peppers,
ground spices left in mounds,

outside, the guards stand in long lines.

—Austin S. Lin

Humble wheat disc,
you gleam with dabs of ghee,
ready to be torn and wrapped
around curried morsels,
each piece a bite of home.

—Monica Shah

O, Citrus,

crisp and bittersweet,
booster of our immunity,
font of Vitamin C,

how is it I’ve ignored you,
not adored you, until now?
Deliciously you spit

when I split you
open; lewd sprinkles
scent my fingers

as I pry you from your rind.
You colour sunset:
bright lemon halo;

sweet sui generis of orange;
ruby grapefruit, a concentrate
of fragrance.

And that famous green ray
that flares up sometimes,
a squirt of lime

adorning the Corona.

—Moira Egan

Food Poem

Bright, puckering, opens
My palette with the delicate
Floral notes of orange

Thick, peeling rind,
Dissipating into cold
Stringy flesh of pale
Orange criss-crossed
With white veins

Exciting, delighting,
The prospects of a fresh,
Juice dripping orange

Zests my soul

—Bella Dail

French Fries
Whittling potatoes, the shards
made are the works of art – wedged,
or crinkled, curly or straight,
we anoint them in oil and baptize
them in a color we crave:
ketchup, mustard, or ranch,
gravy, tartar, BBQ or jerk sauce,
painting the insides of our mouth.

—Sherese Francis

Color I plant with crocuses
or paint on my house, I can’t
get enough, its scent of cream
right before it turns. A blonde
pat spreads on a swarthy square
of toast. Butter changes its tune
in the oven-warm kitchen,
longing to slouch into froth.
Melted butter, you are top
of the morning on pancakes,
but you will never swim
on my coffee. Bitter
does not need an oil skim.

—Marion Brown


Green flags
waving in July
from my garden.

I crush seeds for you
pumpkin, sunflower

Cut garlic and pour
olive oil into a blender

Pesto, the green paste I put
on my pasta,
butternut squash ravioli
egg sandwiches

Even now, I slink into Panarama
our local coffee shop
and order their tuscan ciabatta
wearing a mask, as if I was a bandit

Eggs, tomatoes, fresh salad greens, cheese
and pesto

for you
I wave the white flag.

—Mike Cunningham

Ode to Peach Cobbler at Make My Cake Harlem c. 2002

Discovering Make My Cake bakery c. 2002
While exploring Harlem for a new abode.
There I was, for the first time, on
Legendary Striver’s Row on W.139th between 7th/8th ave;
Make My Cake just around the corner, on 7th,
Cozy in its then obscurity, but
Convincingly yummy, even staring in
From the street.

This enclave of matriarchal warmth
Cared little my unused-to coloring;
They knew that the moment I tasted my
First bite of their other-worldly peach cobbler
I would be a member of the family;

—Jim Wintner (Harlem, now social distancing in Eastern Connecticut)

Ml 32 (In all of existence known and unknown, all that has passed and is and is yet to be, this is perhaps the most truthful a speck of dust like you could ever be)

And now if you could make me forget about why I wanted you to begin with, that’d be great. No more ginger lots and steeped seitan, and no more digging out peanut butter from the jar like I was hanging on for dear life.

You know I don’t live for any of that. I used to, it’s true, but when I saw my old man and how he’d shovel it in, every meal, just to keep himself happy, or what he thought of as being happy, that’s when I knew I’d never be one to partake.

It would seem to fake, and I’d know before ever digging in, that it wasn’t going to help, that it’d never make me forget all my mistakes.

So I drink coffee and watch them eat the meal I make for them, for each of them. It’s made with love, with what I think of as love. And maybe that’s why I want nothing to do with such a meal…as one I’ve made myself.

—Garth Ferrante

My Moringa
How to write about something that I love?
Thick, smooth, rolling taste across my tongue,
Caressing my eager throat as it slithers down,
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate –
Non-dairy but heavenly hot chocolate,
Strong, sweet and sensational,
My moringa hot chocolate,
10 grams of protein,
6.7 grams of fiber
And only 1.8 grams of sugar.
Hey – what can get better than that?

—Nayana Hein, an enthusiastic cheerleader

Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker
Drab little graham, how naked you seem,
riddled with belly buttons and a
ready-to-break line. Yet, when you
cloak yourself in that rich, dark
chocolate you transform, like a
puny knight who has donned
his armor and now stands ready
to do battle with my marauding mouth.

—Gerald Harris

My brother-in-law’s kugel
Crunch meets cream
Salt greets sweet
Each noodle-y, buttery bite raises generations
My heart swells with gladness and tears.

—Shellie Winkler

The King and I
Oh, king of heart, my royal flush
You wait for me
Immersed in the old bay
Seasoning my soul with heartful of desire to be
Marinated—every papillae of my taste buds
Tip of my tongue to root.

You wait for me
Sizzling—over national bohemian
Beer–steaming—burning with excitement
To claw my palm and fingertips
And to prick my lips with pointy thorn
Like that of the unicorn.

As I embrace you loose and throw hands
Down on table and reveal your hot winning wad
I savor your juice in my watering mouth
Anticipating your succulence
Whilst your sultry steam
Aces every inch of my heart.

And I wait for you, oh king
Your royal highness
To flush like the fire within me
Before I pick you up gently
And lay you down on my palette
To wine and dine me.

Yes, you oh king
Crab. Legs—
Are the very essence
Of my seafood passion
For I love every fiber of your thick meat.

—Kiswana Dee

Dear Dave,
here my contribution to „food“.
with best regards

on the marketplace of Helsinki
Your colour
peeping from under the ice on the stands
into the greyness of Suomi winter
rosy orange apricot
a sunset hidden under your skin
deep in the sea
offers now
to my eyes.

Joan and Sally, me in the back seat
huddled but happy to wait in the summer sun
Windows wide open to catch gentle salt breezes
after a long wet winter in this Salish sea.
Yes, we are content.
Content to watch our ferry slowly approach from the near
distant port. Sporting Island girls happy to occasion museums
and shops, especially that French bistro down in the Market.
The summer sun slants warm across our faces—
like warm peaches, says Sally
When I lived in Boise I’d drive 25 miles out to this farm
The farmer’d loan me a ladder, but I preferred to wander
beneath the shade of his broad older trees—
talk about low hanging fruit! soft and velvet tender globes
like Jimmie’s head when he was just born
I’d reach up they were so warm and twist the stem
just a bit they’d drop sweet pungent heavy
into my sticky palms.

—Claudia Hollander-Lucas

Potato Chips
Salty vector
“no one can eat just one”
Addictive substance
I abuse you
and you abuse me
desiccating my stinging lips
driving me to drink
making me ashamed of
my lack of will

—Gina A. Turner

Pasta Carbonara Celebration
“Io dementicato” “I forgot”
you came by means of a fellow
on a motor scooter
with his shades on his head
propped above the bill of his hat
second pair perched on the bridge of his nose.

You come up out of the bowl
with the quizzical squint of the clever craftsman
each tendril the call of an hungry workman
watching the proud pounding of the wife on the counter
the young one warming the bowl with hot water
pancetta chopped and squeezed into a ball

I forgot that I ordered you for my last day’s dinner
I recall that each foray is a new adventure
I repeat and repeat and aim for perfection
I puzzle that you are never the same, for me
How poor I am, I think to myself
How the poor stretch what they have to perfection.

—Devin Dougherty

How I Make Pizza (with Product Placement and Narration)
First, I coat my hands with Colavita
extra virgin olive oil and stretch the
Lamonica’s New York-style pizza dough
to the edge of my 13-inch Faberware
crisper pan, spreading the dough until
it has a uniform thickness.

My grandmother in my head:
Patience, my child, patience.

Next, I spoon out the Muir Glen sauce—
mmm… organic garlic, oregano, and
basil—and meditatively spread it
over the dough.

Mr. Miyagi in my head: Wax on.

Then I reach into the bag of cheese—
Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio,
the best I have found for pizza—
and drop clumps of shredded goodness
on the sauce until I no longer see red.

Bob Ross in my head:
Happy little clumps of cheese.

Lastly, I place the pizza in my Magic Chef
oven—pre-heated to 525 degrees—
and set the timer for 10 minutes.

My stomach in my head: Feed me! Feed me!

—Robert Grant

My grandmother loved you
Of course she’s Irish you say
She’d peel you each afternoon
Lovingly removing your brown suit
Revealing your yellow white flesh
Stealing a slice in her mouth every fifth one.

Always faithful to you
Fried in the morning glistening in oil
Boiled for dinner topped off with butter
Every day
Every night
Never unfaithful
Never succumbing to passion with pastas
Or a romance with rice.

Did she cling to you like a talisman
Superstitious fears of abandonment
Folk fear of the Famine
Promising love and loyalty
In return for a promise of plenty?

—Mary Ann Donnelly

The World Spins Faster
Night plays tricks trying to find my Johanna
Love is blind as eyes look inside
Angel is my terror keeping me alive
The world is spinning faster
There are no lights in the guest rooms
Where do we begin to find the ending?
The Fisher Maid sings of her passions

—Gregory Kiewiet

Blue Berry Bundt
I just love to say it…blueberry bundt.
Sounds so good!

Shaped like a life saver-
perfectly symmetrical
all plump and round. Springs
back to you and dares you take a bite.

Filled with buttery, rich cake
and even plumper blueberries ready
to burst. Sour cream brings out
the true flavor of its rich delight.

On days when there seems nothing
to bring me up, the blueberry bundt is
my life saver.

—Ellen Goldstein

Oh Coffee
When you were around
you lit up my mornings
with a bitter-sweet smile
we would dance in the kitchen
to the newest song on the radio
while the children laughed
into their little bowls of oats

On road trips you kept me up
way beyond normal
made me chatter and giggle and sing
all the way from Calgary to Comox
from grainfields to mountains
from orchards on down
to the Salish Sea

Oh coffee
I’ll miss your crazy ways
but I have to say
I’m better off without you
and I sleep better
now that you’re gone

—Ceó Ruaírc

Sticky Bun
Whale of a snail —
A fist of olfactory delight:
You beckon me from
my bicycle’s circling path,
my mouth sweating.
Buttery cornucopia of
Ceylon bark, native pecans and sun-dried grapes,
Bound together and adorned,
golden gooey gift of bees
bathing in orange blossoms,
Spiraling over the hot puffed shell.
I’m caught in your web—
Though I try to say no,
I’m stuck on you!

—Elisa De La Roche

toast sesame seeds
dress thin earth-flecked noodles
nest egg poached in joy

—Joan Blessing

Jelly Belly Bean
You perfect, misshapen orb.
I scoop you and your brethren up into my palm
And count all the colors I see.

The clinking sounds you make
When I shake you around,
In the prison of my hand!

Each grouping I eat
Makes me think,
“What flavor could this one be named after?”

You’d all stick together
If I let you.
So I take out a few at a time,
And before I know it,
You’re all gone.

—Kori Cooper

there are a thousand ways
to prepare and cook you
but now i cannot get
enough of the french scramble

i like to add spinach & onions
to the way
i scramble you on a pan,
but xander’s french scramble is best

—Jade Fassbinder