Monday, December 24, 2012

Feast!


Feast! is an annual fundraiser for a local soup kitchen sponsored by Brooklyn Reading Works, a monthly reading series organized by Louise Crawford at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, Bklyn.

We had a feast at Feast! Wine and cider, salami and cheese,
home-baked cookies, oranges and pistachios


Over the years I've gotten to read at Feast! which is always writing about food and this year I curated the event gathering a wonderful line-up of women sharing poems, essays, and songs.
Molly O'Neill, author, teacher and leader of the on-line food community Cook-n-scribble  cooknscribble.com  read from her book Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball. 
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, founding editor of the wildly popular blog The Kitchn thekitchn.com read among other things an amazingly evocative section from Little House on the Prairie about making fresh churned butter.
Chef Rossi of The Raging Skillet theragingskillet.com read a riotous segment from an as yet unpublished (but should be!) memoir called The Devil and Mrs. Goldstein about the Passover seders her family shared as they traveled around the country in an RV (easier to kosher than a house kitchen!)
* Pioneering restauranteur, author and teacher Zarela Martinez zarela.com shared segments from an unpublished memoir, and thrilled us with a Spanish>English translation of a popular Mexican children's poem depicting a Mexican Candyland
* Lyricist Sarah Safford serenaded on her fluke (a baritone ukulele) sharing original songs- many written for communaltable events www.communaltable.blogspot.com  During her last song she was accompanied by fiddler Rebecca Aidlen of the Angel Jam Band and singer Mara Goodman, who sang an old Yiddish folk-song about oranges and pistachios.
Me. My work tries to capture how food gets woven into everyday life. Here's one of the poems I read:

Where is my mother
in all that clutter
inside her brain?
Is she fretting about the child
she sees reflected
in her mirror on the wall
who is standing on a ledge
on the building across the street?
Has she bumped into
a conversation from1940
she sees fit to convey
but cannot grab hold of
before another thought
bumps her to another thought
and then another?
Last week she would not
look me in the eye,
so busy was she
drifting.
Her caretaker humors, hums, shrugs, 
her husband reads the paper.
Days are long when there is no landing
or maybe they are short.
“Mama,” I whisper,
“I’ve brought lunch
and homemade pickles“
and I wave the garlicky gherkin
as if it were a wand undoing a spell.
It’s scent calls my mother home.

It is a puzzle what to cook;
the distance from plate to mouth
grows each visit.
What is forkable,
nestles well in a spoon,
is graspable with uncontrollable tremors?
I cook what she can lift,
then pierce the pieces on her plate
and hand her the fork,
and now sometimes
she lets me skip that step
and guide the fork directly.
It reminds me of feeding my babies.
How with manic efficiency
I shoveled towering forkfuls
into tender mouths,
or earlier, tapped impatiently
through languorous tibbling.
An earlier memory still;
I am in my father’s lap,
his knee-tapping turns horseback riding game,
his voice hums Bonanza. 

Sitting in morning meditation
my mind in constant motion
flits about seeking stillness,
dances and prances
bumping into unexpected thoughts.
All I need do is open my eyes
and I am here. Here now
I reach across the table
and wipe my mother’s mouth.
Who is this woman
who lets me feed her
but will not look me in the eye
or find words to greet me
and say my name?
I fork a radish to her mouth,
pink, and tender from grilling,
peppery and sweet,
and she opens her eyes and looks at me.
Delicious’” she says
as if picking-up a thread,
“my mother used to make these.”

So here we are:
lost and found,
pushing against             
hallucinations,
narcotics,
palsy.
I want to run
from this despair,
from this stranger woman
and then as if to curb my thoughts
and remind me she’s still my mother,
my mother orients herself 
and finds a beacon
and sometimes it is me
who has brought the light
on a plate of lunch.

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