Part Four of Our Story

At this point my life no longer seems overcome by food. After the courtship, the flirting, the obsessions, the headlong answer to the satisfaction of all hungry senses, the necessary ruminations over the question “eat to live, or live to eat”, which, happily, you and I laugh about over our perfect little meals rummaged out of the ice box, I have discovered for myself where the exquisite resides in a food, how to recognize it when it comes to me on a paper plate, bone china, or over the sink in my hands.

What is it about those thrown together meals that becomes so satisfying? And what about it is thrown? Is it the unplanned moment with surprise guests staying long into the afternoon, our appetites stimulated by deep conversation and laughter? We don’t seem to have much time these days for the spontaneous guest who drops in, one we didn’t know would slow us down to a speed where we could feel those languid pleasures associated with the devil (we’ll deal with the devil later). This, of course, brings on the question: how is it at times the same foods we eat every day may taste more flavorful than at other times?  Or when for years we’ve been convinced that we hated a food, found it absolutely disgusting and then one day we taste it and discover something so different than what we remember? What is that something? What? You think you don’t like eggplant? Well sometimes it is the mind that changes the mouth, which opens the soul that might change your mind…

Solanacae Melangela

As this child of crepuscular parenting
Hides from light
Under a verdant curve of sky,
We wait eighty eight days.
How very much like us they are:
You cannot snap
Them off a stalk like corn
Or twist sharply
As with tomatoes or by pulling
Out by the hair
As a radish or a beet.
You must use a knife to separate
Notice if you will, how pale
Flesh emanates
Out through the dusk
As painter’s black contains
Lamp soot or peach pit as you slice
All the way through.

And we believe they have no souls.
Your knife cannot be too sharp.

In Persia they were roasted, mashed,
And creamed
With equal weights of oil and seeds,
Then licked
Off bread and fingers.
Despite ancestral warnings they do
Not promote low moral character, perhaps merely
Of the pointlessness, the danger,
Of increased productivity.
The plant bears one to three fruit.
Ayurvedic text recommends it
To assist
In the heightening of vision
Or to open those narrow channels
Of the heart.
Now, dressed in expensive extra virgin
And perfumed
With flowering basil, finely chopped,
Lay them out with fingers,
No tongs, they require the risk,
And let their trial be quick
To a litany of
“are they done yet?”
And this must be the best,
If you will, your
Mother’s breast, or if not,
Your lover’s just after emerging
From her curve of inner thigh.
It’s that good.

What I love about a good poem is that it is always telling me something important, something I might not understand right away. Nestled in amongst the verbs and nouns are sweet, profound thoughts that need a little extra watering and weeding to bloom. Or, if I may mix a metaphor, the poem is a perfumed and jeweled lover, the read is the seduction, the foreplay, and my delightful insight might be the petit mort. Who knew a poem could be a recipe for finger licking, crispy eggplant?


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