filling the empty nest with food
A good friend sent me this poem recently, a gentle reminder of what’s important about food and cooking and eating. Sometimes, I need a reminder: a hit-over-the-head reminder like the Laputians in Gulliver’s Travels whose servants follow them around and shake rattles in their faces to jolt them from their self-absorbed day-dreaming and “Deep Thoughts” to get them to focus on the realities of the world around them.
This is the right season to remember not to allow corporate America to trivialize and sentimentalize the joy out of a simple shared meal.
“Great Things Have Happened” by Alden Nowlan
We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, “Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time.” But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn’t mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I’m sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.
“Is that all?” I hear somebody ask.
Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you’ve never visited
before, when the bread doesn’t taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.
from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread. © Nineties Press, 1993.