Food and poetry have long been a perfect pairing. In this reblog of a section in our newsletter, we share a recipe and poem duo to feed all the senses. To submit your own pairing, e-mail email@example.com with the subject line “Poetry Potluck Submission” and include the recipe, poem, and a brief introduction as to why they are meaningful to you. This week’s pair is brought to you by Center for Poetry Assistant Director Linnea Jimison.
I love pumpkin, and I started making this recipe with a college roommate who had a gluten allergy. It’s easy, delicious, and great leftover. (I love it as a midnight snack as much as I do fresh out of the oven in the morning.) I tend to accompany it with coffee, which is why I chose Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “My Uncle’s Favorite Coffee Shop.” The image of a hot cup of coffee ordered at the local greasy spoon becomes the focal point for a meditation on family, home, and memory, all things that we tend to think about at this time of the year.
Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
2 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1½ cups milk
½ 15. oz can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup dark or white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×8” pan or small casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients and pour into pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes; oatmeal will be slightly moist in the middle. Variations: substitute dried fruit or toasted nuts for the chocolate chips; replace milk with apple cider.
Adapted from a recipe by The Oatmeal Artist
“My Uncle’s Favorite Coffee Shop”
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Serum of steam rising from the cup,
what comfort to be known personally by Barbara,
her perfect pouring hand and starched ascot,
known as the two easy eggs and the single pancake,
What pleasure for an immigrant—
anything without saying.
My uncle slid into his booth.
I cannot tell you—how I love this place.
He drained the water glass, noisily clinking his ice.
My uncle hailed from an iceless region.
He had definite ideas about water drinking.
I cannot tell you—all the time. But then he’d try.
My uncle wore a white shirt every day of his life.
He raised his hand against the roaring ocean
and the television full of lies.
He shook his head back and forth
from one country to the other
and his ticket grew longer.
Immigrants had double and nothing all at once.
Immigrants drove the taxis, sold the beer and Cokes.
When he found one note that rang true,
he sang it over and over inside.
His eyes roamed the couples at other booths,
their loose banter and casual clothes.
But he never became them.
Uncle who finally left in a bravado moment
after 23 years, to live in the old country forever,
to stay and never come back,
maybe it would be peaceful now,
maybe for one minute,
I cannot tell you—how my heart has settled at last.
But he followed us to the sidewalk
saying, Take care, Take care,
as if he could not stand to leave us.
I cannot tell—
how we felt
to learn that the week he arrived,
he died. Or how it is now,
driving his parched streets,
feeling the booth beneath us as we order,
oh, anything, because if we don’t,
nothing will come.