Strange bedfellows in a rose harissa

Thrilled to find Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book ‘Jerusalem’ at the library this evening !

I was taken in by the flavour of Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest book ‘Flavor’ at our friend’s house last month, where he had transferred the contents to his dining table by recreating some of the recipes; think of ground fresh lime leaves on fennel root and rose harissa on golden beets. The cauliflower tinged in the red of harissa was so delightful that I was inspired to concoct my own pepper paste. We were very eager that day to devour the food, so I got very few shots half way through, that do little justice to the deliciousness of Sunday brunch vegetables. 

Cauliflower with rose harissa from Ottolenghi’s ‘Flavor’ made by our friend; this was supremely delicious


Israeli-British Yotam Ottolenghi and the Palestinian chef, Sami Tamimi collaborated on ‘Jerusalem’ which was released in 2012. In the book, they explored  the cuisine of the city they were born in (the same year), the religious diversity of it’s communities. Tamimi was born on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. Together in dreams and ideas, they laid out 120 recipes from their unique cross-cultural perspective, that included inventive vegetable dishes to sweet, rich desserts [1] It was I think, the merging of two cuisines, a bridge across an amorphous yet real divide floating over the same land. The confluence of flavour is like that of rivers, but even rivers come from someplace else.


It shouldn’t be any surprise that Sami Tamimi writes, paints and composes Arabic poetry. He calls himself a very private person, not meant to brave the weather of publicity like Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi, also a writer, has studied comparative literature and was called the Philosopher Chef by the New Yorker. His master’s thesis was on the ontological status of the photographic image in aesthetic and analytic philosophy. Today, they say he wears the happy smile of a man who has left behind “The Phenomenology of Mind” for baked eggplants with lemon thyme, za’atar, pomegranate seeds, and buttermilk-yogurt sauce [2] Sami Tamimi has written the book ‘Falastin’, published last year, which is a remarkable collection of essays and 120 recipes [3] It may be of some note that it is actually a woman named Tara Wigley who helps both chefs translate their vision in the test kitchen. In one article, it was reported that there was a haunting gouache on Tamimi’s living-room wall, in lines of script painted over with bright-yellow flowers and green leaves. The poem, he told the reporter was “about the things you’re supposed to remember and the things you have to forget”; the flowers were according the Tamimi, “the way he felt after it was written.” Both Ottolenghi and Tamimi identify as homosexual. “I was an angry kid,” recalled Tamimi to the Guardian last year, “Because of the whole sexuality thing, I couldn’t talk about it to anybody. But I come from a different place now. I had a lot to prove. And I did it. I’m not angry now. The opposite.” [4]


I try not to talk of political theatre on my blog as I find it too absurdly real but the poem today is also inspired by the recent Israel-Palestine conflict that resulted in the death of 243 people in Gaza [5] I took a leaf from the Bible, from the Book of Ruth, because it has some lessons in social and political relationships, long forgotten. In the story of how Boaz purchased Ruth, the wife of the deceased Mahlon to be his wife, the deal was sealed with a sandal or a shoe from the nearest Kinsman of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. In chapter 4, line 7 of the King James Version are the words ” Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel ” [6] It is an interesting story in the bible about a woman from Moab, the kingdom of ancient Palestine which was located east of the Dead Sea in what is now west-central Jordan, it was bounded by Edom and the land of the Amorites [7] The poem is about geography, the politics of relationships, about being a woman in those ancient times when it was dangerous living without the protection of a man. It disturbs me to know that women the world over still suffer quite the same way they did in those days, as does the political map.


In trying to create my own version of pepper paste inspired by rose harissa last month, I partly succeeded with some pasilla and ancho peppers I had on hand, but I did not have rose petals nor any rose syrup so I  included the recipe from the book ‘Jerusalem’ instead.


I believe life is tediously long when there is little love of flavour and little flavour of love to go around, like a rare resource, it exists along the lines of a scarcity model. If it were like a fusion reaction rather than a fossil fuel, it would have been an Ottolenghi and Tamimi cook book of seeking the limits of our inexhaustible creative humanity perhaps and here I am, adding my two quatrains, figuratively speaking, to the universal deluge of poems, hoping to colour it rose, like harissa. Here’s raising a glass to peace in the world if there can even be such a thing.

Strange bedfellows in a rose harissa

Sunday readings are a flavour of rose.
The blood tint on cruciferous florets,

aim to wash away the sins of geography 
in a petri dish. I have no rose harissa,

so I look within the Book, in the poetry
of pomegranate love in vineyards.

I try divining recipes out of ancient lore 
but the page turns to Ruth the Moabite.

Pasilla and ancho feel not at home, 
in a harissa, like her, gathering wheat

in the strange fields of Jerusalem, where Boaz 
called her daughter. How does she bleed,

this woman from a strange land, to love
in rose harissa ? So the peppers were 

softened, deseeded, sugared and made tangy,
like Ruth, who was offering a measure of the same

to a man that called her daughter. Along the 
harvest, his golden heart welled to encase her, 

while she slept at his feet. With six measures of wheat 
for her honour, she walked at dawn in the grace of 

knowing, she was Ruth the Moabite, stranger in a strange 
land, now protected by a man who called her daughter.

I think of Ruth, I think of the sandals exchanged 
for the trade of goods, like honour among men. 

Only one sandal from a kinsman, that Boaz may 
walk into his tent to find a Moabite that he makes 

loves to in tender passion, a man to her woman, 
a fatherly intercourse in a field where her chastity 

was bound in his sheaves of golden wheat. Thus was 
created a cascade of affections, in the intoxicating Song 

of Solomon, David's desire for Bathsheba, for Ruth was 
the mother of Obed who sired Jesse, father of David who sired Solomon
Pepper paste substitute, the Zaatar is for the garnish; I have to reformulate this recipe to come up with something similar yet new. The peppers provide for a lovely tint without being hot
From Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book ‘Jerusalem’

References:

[1]~https://www.amazon.com/Jerusalem-Cookbook-Yotam-Ottolenghi/dp/1607743949

[2]~https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/12/03/the-philosopher-chef

[3]~https://www.tastecooking.com/sami-tamimi-wrote-the-book-he-wanted-to-write/

[4]~https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/mar/15/ami-tamimi-tara-wigley-yotam-ottolenghi-palestinian-table-recipes-food

[5]~https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57205968

[6]~https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth%204&version=KJV

[7]~https://www.britannica.com/place/Moab-kingdom-ancient-Palestine

Pastoral Poetry

Bengal gram / kala chana / Cicer arietinum / Chick pea ~harvested as a dry grain from fruit pods, Family: Fabaceae

Of the various pulses, Bengal gram [1]or kala chana as it is called in India is known for symbiosis through an interspecies collaboration with bacteria. Even under the most stressful drought like conditions, Cicer arietinum is able to grow, as it harbours symbiotic bacteria in root nodules that help fix nitrogen. To me though, it symbolizes, resilience. The mutualism of species that cooperate, helps the plant through a difficult time with as much give, as take. There is a vast amount of literature devoted to this chick pea in the culinary world. There exist countless recipes for what can be made out of its seeds and shoots, these include the ubiquitous ‘hummus’ or the less common (even in India and one of my favourite sweets), Mysore Pak. What endears it to me is that it’s a commonly grown legume and India alone accounts for over 60% of the world yield of this crop that has been cultivated since ancient times, over many millennia.

I prepare this legume in a variety of ways, whether in the use of its seed, flour or leafy shoots and yet, the need for the simplest basic, makes me circle back to sprouts each time, perhaps in an attempt to render it more Sattvic or calming to the body. I understand that unlike the blessed bovine, we ruminate only in the mind, so this chick pea could do with sprouting to aid digestibility, reduce it’s phytic acid [2] content so it may improve our chances at absorbing micronutrients through their increased bioavailability. The shoots though, may harbour calcium oxalate, the same as spinach.

Process ~ I washed and soaked the black gram in plain water for eight hours, drained and then wrapped in a cotton kitchen towel, tightly wound up around itself. This I kept moistened in a closed place for many hours until the sprouts were many inches long. These were stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Sprouts after a day or two

Years ago, I visited homesteads in farming villages in the North of India and it has been a pleasant memory. They weren’t really a foreign or exotic experience but there were moments that wished to birth into a poem, the way the women appeared to me. ‘Chick pea’ is a poem about a woman in her element, within her rural home, enmeshed in her landscape, her animals, plants, daily responsibilities, her dreams, harbouring  desires we aren’t able to see in those that do not mirror our realities. She is different and yet she is the same.

I also wished the poem to reflect on the malnutrition of women in India, especially since they mostly depend on plants for their protein needs and micro nutrient  requirements. Of the five essential nutrition interventions for mothers in India, one includes improving the quantity and nutrient level of food consumed in the household and another involves preventing micronutrient deficiencies and anemia, as per this report [3] by UNICEF India, where a quarter of women of reproductive age are undernourished, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2

Yet, in parts of the world with higher food security and the availability of highly fortified foods, I am not sure if we really know to process appropriately what we consume, if we devote requisite time or are mindful as we create, serve and consume meals. Food processing has always been of interest to me and our home is very partial to gastronomy. I have also included below, a recipe I created for a simple salad with nutty chick pea.

A prayerful symbiosis

The hinterlands in the faraway North ,
thatched homes plastered in the dung

of humped cows, a canvas of surprise.
A young woman swept away the debris

of seasonal dreams peeling off
the floor and walls alike.

Yet, happiness is in the patting
of dung cakes, for the Milch cow

is always happy. These she will use
to smoke the firewood stove as she pats

unleavened flat bread for sustenance.
Days grow in rustling up a new patchwork

of dreams, fecund as the loamy fields
coursing the arc of an overhead sun.

She will walk through the harvest,
now the soil a soft brown skin.

In a tepid romance of a moonlit night,
the black gram grew in ambition, in

fervent prayers of nitrogen. Cut down
a couple of nodes and buds diverge

to a residual pain in straw but
the Milch cow will ruminate over this.

Multiple stomachs to digest the last
of a sorrowful detritus. Little curlicues

of shoots make her wonder of her unborn
children as a fecund pastoral philosophy

hurtles her into the future. Roasted gram,
gram flour, sprouts and shoots and

will it be enough, this food of drought,
food for her, food for the Milch cow ...

Sprouted Chick Peas in water
Recipe for a nutty salad:     

Chop into fine cubes, a medley of crunchy vegetables; I would suggest a cucumber, tomato, spring onions or a sweet white onion, a lettuce head. Add cubes of a boiled potato.

Toast 1/4 of this mixture in sprouted black gram, in a wok drizzled in clarified butter or Ghee, with some cumin seeds. Add this mixture to the salad.

Create a dressing out of yogurt, sesame seed oil and extra virgin olive oil, the juice of lime or lemon, salt, cumin powder, a finely chopped green chilli pepper or half of a jalapeno or a tablespoon of Siracha. Mix well together and add to the salad.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro).

Know your Pulse:

Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. They grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes 11 types of pulses: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes. Pulses are annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely as dry grains, which differentiates them from other vegetable crops that are harvested while still green [4]

References:

[1] Crop information for Black Gram ~https://www.indiaagronet.com/indiaagronet/crop%20info/black_gram.htm retrieved 17/Apr/21

[2] Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains by
Raj Kishor Gupta, Shivraj Singh Gangoliya, and Nand Kumar Singh ~https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325021/ retrieved 17/Apr/21

[3]~https://www.indiaagronet.com/indiaagronet/crop%20info/black_gram.htm

[4]~https://pulses.org/what-are-pulses

On Clairvoyance as the Caduceus speaks

I believe this poem came inspired. We happened to scroll through some UFO videos which included a short documentary about extraterrestrials. I was also typing a poem onto my phone at the time, paying no heed to the narrators on screen as I wrote exactly this: “Serpents of lianas issue a curtain from trees that hide a ruin”, before the word serpent was even uttered in the documentary, until I realised they were talking about the Great Serpent Mound of Ohio. I found this momentary synchronicity quite amusing. I was imagining the ruins of a mud house in my village, overrun by the jungle.

A depiction of the serpent mound that appeared in The Century periodical in April 1890, drawn by William Jacob Baer (Wikipedia)

The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot-long and  three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek in  Ohio [1] A National Historic Landmark built by the ancient American Indian cultures of Ohio, it is an effigy mound (a mound in the shape of something) representing a snake with a curled tail. Harvard University archaeologist Frederic Ward Putnam excavated Serpent Mound in the late 19th century but he found no artifacts in the Serpent that might allow archaeologists to assign it to a particular culture. Based largely on the nearby presence of Adena burial mounds, later archaeologists attributed the effigy to the Adena culture that flourished from 800 B.C. to A.D. 100 and work is still to be done to clarify this [2]


I also awoke earlier that morning reading two paragraphs in a book in the final dregs of sleep, the second of which read something like “a Caduceus that interferes”. Utterly confounded by this weird dream, I woke up pleading with the matrix not to mangle my subconscious given I hadn’t even heard the word ‘caduceus’ that it should appear in my dream so. Perhaps it was clairvoyance of some sort, that I was to hear about the Great Serpent Mound that day, something I had never known of before either. Either way, it should have been the staff of Asclepius since there is only one serpent on that mound, not like in a Caduceus, but one does not rationalise with the matrix 😉


Images above L to R: Rod of Asclepius, Caduceus, Flag of the World Health
Organisation ~ (Source-Wikipedia)

Science fiction intrigues me and it has been a distraction during the pandemic that U.S. intelligence agencies shared declassified UFO reports during a congressional hearing in June this year but have found no evidence that the aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft. Even so, they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military. An unclassified version is expected to be released to Congress by June 25 [3] The world as we can see it, is teeming with the inexplicable; pastoral serpents, flying saucers, E.T.; consciousness and dreams.


Clairvoyance, synchronicities and all things Jungian appear intriguing. I have always wondered if the stranglehold of language has a part in this, if it constrains our conscious and the unconscious in a straitjacket of meaning that falls short of all there is beyond the realm of a rudimentary tongue or an ever changing lexicon. Does language force our consciousness down a set  tributary of thought ? Do we create our own consciousness or tap into waves of consciousness to electrify ourselves into being? I am not making this up. Here is an article by Johnjoe McFadden, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey, who actually studies if consciousness resides in the brain’s electromagnetic field, which may help explain a lot that has defied explanation thus far [4] Language could also animate consciousness in other ways, as hypothesised through the concept of linguistic relativity.


The 2016 science fiction movie, Arrival, a movie about Alien linguistics and the philosophy of language, addressed a concept called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which tries to explain that language does not only influence the way in which we communicate but also influences our behaviour and our way of thinking. Edward Sapir, a well known Emergentist philosopher of language, also says that the real world is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group [5] The Emergentist viewpoint of language expands the idea of “cultural relativism”, wherein “Language is primarily a cultural or social product and must be understood as such”, by saying, that what is thinkable for you might depend on the language you know. Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams in the movie Arrival), is a linguistics professor who is called on to lead a team of scientists in learning an alien language. and by learning the metaphors of language used by the heptapod (aliens in the film), she learns new ways of conceptualizing the world as well as discovers new ways of perceiving it [6] The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis on linguistic relativity is not widely accepted but makes for some interesting reading.


The kind of world we inhabit and how our being is animated into consciousness, is strangely the realm of science fiction even now. Until then, we can dream of the matrix, imagine sneaky adversarial craft, visualize aliens simply as depicted in movies, in fact our entire imagination hinges on what has already been elucidated for us in our contemporary although limited, knowledge. This poem spilled out simply as a tribute to science fiction, a random assortment of them too. I have fictionalised the constellations, having used Perseus instead of Draco. It is loosely based on the serpent mound I should think. The lianas actually inspired me to make fresh fettuccine this evening, I have included the recipe in the caption.

On Clairvoyance as the Caduceus speaks

In the helical there's a code, byte sized
thoughts rush into a poem as a montage

spirits onto the screen in the sepulchral;
Words I've already etched on a tablet

"Serpents of lianas issue a curtain 
from trees that hide a ruin" I wrote

while thinking of houses crumbling 
in short crust of mud. They that engraved 

hieroglyphics in sand claim 
the heavens sent forth what slithered 

from Medusa, writhing in slippery thought 
as her Beta Persei  blinked a demon rush

to engrave onto the green green grass 
of hills, a serpent that eats an egg.

They spirit the earth's pantheon, these 
mythologies interred into the appendix 

of starry faiths and Jesus sects, 
to create constellations 

of hope in the holy books, a creed
to believe until science reclaims

the story of gods, demons, the three tiers
of angels, an ark, covenant, Adam and Eve.

Beneath the drift of the heliacal, it's the pyramids 
that confound me still and serpent mounds and NASA 

Notes: (Make for some interesting reading)

The caduceus is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography, it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep [7]

In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius, also known as the Staff of Aesculapius, is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care, yet frequently confused with the staff of the god Hermes, the caduceus.[8]

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is a molecule composed of two polynucleotide chains that coil around each other to form a double helixcarrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are nucleic acids [9] DNA is a double-stranded helix, with the two strands connected by hydrogen bonds. One of the ways that scientists have elaborated on Watson and Crick’s model is through the identification of three different conformations of the DNA double helix. In other words, the precise geometries and dimensions of the double helix can vary. The most common conformation in most living cells (which is the one depicted in most diagrams of the double helix, and the one proposed by Watson and Crick) is known as B-DNA. There are also two other conformations: A-DNA, a shorter and wider form that has been found in dehydrated samples of DNA and rarely under normal physiological circumstances; and Z-DNA, a left-handed conformation. Watson and Crick were not the discoverers of DNA, but rather the first scientists to formulate an accurate description of this molecule’s complex, double-helical structure. 1869 was a landmark year in genetic research, because it was the year in which Swiss physiological chemist Friedrich Miescher first identified what he called “nuclein” inside the nuclei of human white blood cells. More than 50 years passed before the significance of Miescher’s discovery of nucleic acids was widely appreciated by the scientific community. In a 1971 essay on the history of nucleic acid research, Erwin Chargaff noted that in a 1961 historical account of nineteenth-century science, Charles Darwin was mentioned 31 times, Thomas Huxley 14 times, but Miescher not even once. [10] 


Heliacal Rising: Given how Earth moves around the Sun, we have the impression that our star is drifting across the sky. When the Sun is found in a certain region of the sky, its brightness prevents us from seeing any stars in its vicinity. As the days go by, the Sun changes position, allowing the stars it was concealing to be visible again. The heliacal rising of a star is the first day when this star becomes visible again in the east in the light of dawn just before sunrise. The ancient Egyptians noticed that the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, the brightest in the night sky, would occur a short time before the annual flooding of the Nile. The heliacal rising of Sirius therefore kicked off the farming season in ancient Egypt [11]


Serpent Mound — the head of the serpent aligns with the summer solstice sunset while the tail points to the winter solstice sunrise. Ancient peoples may have used the structure to mark time or seasons.The design of the mound also matches the shape of the constellation Draco, with the star Thuban (Alpha Draconis, which served as the north pole star from the 4th to 2nd millennium B.C.) lining up with the first curve in the snake’s torso from the head. This alignment suggests another purpose for Serpent Mound: a kind of compass that helps determine true north [12]

Algol, Beta Persei, is a bright multiple star located in Perseus. It is the second brightest star in the constellation, after Mirfak, Alpha Persei. It lies at an approximate distance of 90 light years from Earth.  Algol is one of the best known variable stars in the sky and a prototype for a class of eclipsing variable stars known as Algol variables. Algol is sometimes called Gorgonea Prima, in reference to the Gorgon Medusa [13]

Lianas in the kitchen ~ Fettucine

Ingredients:

4 large eggs (room temperature)
2 1/2 cups flour (I used all purpose flour)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, some water

Method:

Mix it all in a stand mixer or by hand, pull it together with a bit of water, knead until smoot and wrap in cling film to let it rest on the counter for not less than 30 minutes. (This can be frozen or left in the fridge for use the next day as well)

Roll out on a floured surface. I did not use my pasta maker, which is a mess to clean. I rolled it by hand as I used only half the mixture, just right for two servings. Roll and cut into strips, as long or thin as you like. leave to dry on a kitchen towel.

To cook this, bring a pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil and put in the fettucine for at least 10 to 14 minutes, until al dente. This is how long it took mine to turn soft and edible, perhaps it was because I used all purpose flour. Drain and serve immediately.

You could use pesto or a tomato sauce or simply sage in melted butter. Serve liberally with finely grated parmesan or Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano.

Admire your handiwork as you eat these lianas of fettucine. My kitchen was a fine jungle today.

References:

[1]~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent_Mound

[2]~https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/serpent-mound

[3]~https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/us/politics/ufos-sighting-alien-spacecraft-pentagon.html

[4]~https://aeon.co/essays/does-consciousness-come-from-the-brains-electromagnetic-field

[5]~https://medium.com/tamek/sapir-whorf-hypothesis-and-its-implications-in-the-movie-arrival-9b4b1d509dbc

[6]~http://www.cinemablography.org/blog/the-philosophy-of-language-in-arrival

[7]~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus

[8]~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_of_Asclepius

[9]~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

[10]~https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/discovery-of-dna-structure-and-function-watson-397/

[11]~https://m.espacepourlavie.ca/en/monthly-sky/heliacal-rising-sirius

[12]~https://www.history.com/topics/landmarks/serpent-mound

[13]~https://www.constellation-guide.com/algol/

In the universal cake house, the layering of a feast

We had guests today, so I baked pound cakes in fluted moulds, following a recipe [1] that is absolutely super easy with delicious outcomes. I adapted it to create a low sugar, but stronger vanilla version. Sour cream pound cake is a fine way to use any extra sour cream taking up space in the refrigerator.

It was when I unmoulded the cakes last night that I thought of how exquisite they looked, out of those rarely used bundt tins. I had enough time over the course of today to think of what this fine geometry should spark, a poem of sweet confections perhaps. The aroma of cake while rain is misting a garden feels a bit like the smoky woods, wise witches, cake castles, a cascade of the folkloric, Hansel, Gretel …

I remembered Alice Maud Krige, the elegant witch in the 2020 fantasy horror “Gretel and Hansel”, directed by Oz Perkins, based on the German folk tale, “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm. I thought of the indefatigable Gretel in the same movie. I realise that life is the stuff of stories, our well crafted fictions.

Alice Krige is forever imprinted on my mind as one of the ‘Sleepwalkers’ from the movie adapted off Stephen King’s unpublished story of the same name, a film featuring chameleon cars, unfeeling cats and a feeding complex tinged by the Oedipal. She fit into the 2020 ” Gretel and Hansel” like I would believe in water and salt. This movie also showcases a Gretel waiting to turn to the dark side, who is the perfect sister to her naive younger brother, brave as she is brusque. I thought this bundt cake should be dedicated to the wildness in Gretel as much as the counterpoint to her, in the malignant elegance of Holda, the older witch. So here’s to witches 🥂🍾

For Gretel, for Holda ...

In the woods of mysterious shapes
fluted soul confections exist
secreted into the dark matter
of a concentric existence,
baked like Bundt,
a universe within the world.

They stole the yolks to submerge
them in a bog of greasy labour,
the dust flour spirits of millennia
spool seasons in wild imaginings,
etch tablets, lay feasts for kings
and the lost offspring of man.

Here in the shape of sweet confections
they taste milk, vanilla, sweet berries.
She strode over thistle, a bramble bush
of experience, those yawning graves
and moaning plagues, pandemics,
until in the vortex, beaten in batter.

The saccharine curse of a gingerbread
ruse, beckoning like a copse of corpses.
When the fingertips are a tint of necrosis,
tales of sweet temptations spirit through
the peaty entrails of pillaged villages
torn asunder through billowing desire for

fluted castles, solid, sweet, aromatic
in the changeable woods and the wild
was therefore always a witch,
conjuring cake houses for mankind,
in layered feasts that adorn the table
and entice the palate,
to be desired, to be abhorred,
to be loved, to be scorned.
Here's the recipe:

1 cup butter (252 g), softened
2 1/2 cups fine white sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream, room temperature, beaten with 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Grease with butter and flour a 10 inch Bundt mould. Set the oven to 325°

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy for over 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture, alternate with the mixture of sour cream and vanilla. Beat on low until blended. Pour into the pan, level the mixture with a fork and bake at 325° for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Remember to cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely, or the cake may stick to the pan. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if desired.

[1] Adapted from the perfect recipe:

Sour Cream Pound Cake ~https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/sour-cream-pound-cake/

According to Wikipedia which defines them quite well :


A pound cake is a type of cake traditionally made with a pound of each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. Pound cakes are generally baked in either a loaf pan or a Bundt mould. They are sometimes served either dusted with powdered sugar, lightly glazed, or with a coat of icing”. 


A Bundt cake is a cake that is baked in a Bundt pan, shaping it into a distinctive doughnut shape. The shape is inspired by a traditional European cake known as Gugelhupf, but Bundt cakes are not generally associated with any single recipe”. 

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh and a note on Patrick Kavanagh

I began work on this article and poem a few days earlier, never quite finishing it, but the weather is the tint of silver and grey, the roads have been licked by showers, the same as on that day when I heard, once, twice, thrice more, Pádraig Ó Tuama, a poet from Ireland speak about Patrick Kavanagh, a poet from Ireland and it inspired me to pot my poem into place, like a herb at a windowsill gazing at rain. There was magic in this Irish voice [1] lulling me into a rainy day stupor in words that were meant for April, for marshes, and I would have liked to say for love, but how do you describe a poem that is love.

Patrick Kavanagh, was the self taught son of a shoe maker with an incoherent life view and philosophy [2] , some say, the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, but this isn’t what brought me to read about him, it was simply Tuama reading his poem, ‘The one’.

There were thunderstorms predicted that day. I’m not afraid of showers or a stronger breeze. In fact I had the car fuelled to capacity in case there was a miraculous flood and it needed fuel to coast away to safety … inane thoughts course like random particles in days of inexplicable lightening … incongruous as the fifteen varieties of eggs in the section for hens, which is next to fifteen varieties of milk in the section for cows and five varieties of egg whites in the section for eggs that didn’t quite yolk in a sunrise …

Tuama echoes my thoughts entirely when he says, in introducing Kavanagh’s poem, “But more often, these days, I’m turning to poetry when it makes me smile as I read it because the words are delicious, because it’s describing something of great delight, of great simplicity, and of great lightness of being”.

Cattails or Bulrushes

It is sometimes the beauty of voice and words too, that fuels a walk through aisles of produce in a store, like a musical secret between the one that speaks to you while you listen, for he speaks of poets, of childhood, of meanings and you listen, not once, but twice, then thrice, as you caress an avocado, slip tomatoes in a basket, ponder awhile at smiling citruses and blackberries. Then, for a while, I stay still to contemplate the labels that divide the plant kingdom into classes, much after Linnaeus, in terms of those raised by fertilizer, pesticides and ones that are organic through sheer will perhaps, or is it the fallaciousness of words that drags us into an abyss of untruths, darkened corners of commercial illusions, and how does all this matter, I ask, as I think about layers of food, that the lack of a label made much less edible somehow. Was food purer back then or was it an illusion too … Tuama spills a beautiful voice to say that one always returns to the hollows we carry inside, which is why we revisit poets of the past.

On a Marshland
The One by Patrick Kavanagh [3]

Green, blue, yellow and red –
God is down in the swamps and marshes
Sensational as April and almost incred-
ible the flowering of our catharsis.
A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals. A primrose, a violet,
A violent wild iris – but mostly anonymous performers
Yet an important occasion as the Muse at her toilet
Prepared to inform the local farmers
That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.

I tried modelling a poem in continuation of this one by Kavanagh. ‘The One’ which is a loose sonnet of sorts, with a couplet at the end, is a lyrical encapsulation of Kavanagh’s own view, as he observes in his ‘Self Portrait’,
“…the things that really matter are casual, insignificant little things ….” and he asserts that “in the final simplicity we don’t care whether we appear foolish or not. … We are satisfied with being ourselves, however small.”

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh ~ davina e. solomon 

That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
by a cut-away marsh, was breathing His love
and silver, and grey tints skies above,
floating in place under a lightning rod ...

and I am misted by the softest spray.
The tint of rain is a creamy green
hid in avocados, deep within,
as wanton herbs glisten a sweet array

of marsh grass, undulating fur on a pet
in a thunderstorms sweet caress.
Startled birds raise like a dress,
metal cars, stray shoppers ... mudflats all wet.

Cilantro macerated a fragrant apology
to a bloodied tomato, an onion grated to tears
to further press an avocado, reveal its fears
in lime to a wound. Here's a salty astrology

of a heaven strung in voices, in hope
streaking marshlands in the wet of rain
billowing hair, breezily dry, partly pain
reining love like a braided rope.

As I queue, it's clear these specks of colour
plan a future meal. I hear a cashier speak
both of us tinted in poems, a brazen leak
on a pastoral painting, stained to blur.

Process:

The stanzas follow the rhyming sequence of quatrains , each stanza a different sequence from the previous one. The stanzas alternate between engagement with store produce in the real and the imagining of the weather, outside. The entire article itself is an attempt at visual storytelling using prose poetry and free verse. I wove in the recipe of guacamole after Kavanaghs fist line of colour in ‘The One’.

A simple way to Guacamole:

A simple way to Guacamole
A couple of ripe ready avocadoes, a tomato, half an onion and a green lime. Grate the onion and tomato, chop some green chilli and coriander, mash lightly the avocados with a fork, squeeze a lime ... add salt ... serve with sourdough bread or simply, without.

References:
[1]Patrick Kavanagh A Poem About the Beauty of Home ~https://onbeing.org/programs/a-poem-about-the-beauty-of-home/
[2]Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967 ~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/patrick-kavanagh
[3]The One by Patrick Kavanagh ~https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/3/30/the-one-by-patrick-kavanagh