Sunday Poems 42: Cookbooks

I’ve got a lot of cookbooks on my shelf. Sometimes I pull them down, trying to figure out what to cook. Most of the time I just look at the pictures. Other times, I look at the recipes and start to play with them. I want to know where they came from, and what logic they follow. A cocktail bartender can think in sets of drinks. A sour is a sour, and the basic proportions of spirit, citrus, and sweet are similar regardless of whether they’re using gin, lemon, and sugar for a Gin Sour, or tequila, lime, and triple sec for a Margarita. When confronted with brandy and asked to make a sour, you’d stumble across the Sidecar pretty quickly. It’s more or less just a Margarita with cognac and lemon substitued for the tequila and lime.

Cooking falls into many of the same patterns. This is why we calls some things fruits and some things vegetables. This is why we have our mother sauces, and why we invent broader categories of dishes. The first step to learning to cook without slavishly following recipies from the book is to look across those recipes and realize that a salad is always a salad and a soup is always a soup. What happens when you substitute celery for onion? What new dish arrives from turning basil into mint? Why not try bulgar instead of rice? Not all of the combinations will be successful on the first try, which leads you hopefully to some truth about the ingredient. You know more for next time.

The same line of thinking can be applied to making art.

Sundays are a good days to go for long walks. There’s a part of the city you don’t go to often. A neighbourhood sandwiched between two neighbourhoods you know but have never walked between. Your bike is broken. No problem. Time for a walk. Walking brings you down to the water where the mosquitos are obviously going through their lifecycle. One of the female mosquitos bites your arm just beneath the elbow and you find yourself thinking about that mosquito for hour as the small spot around its tiny bite swells, turning red. You realize you’ve thought more about the mosquito than the mosquito has probably managed to think about itself. You feel a bit sad for the misquito and can’t quite remember if you squished it against your moist skin as you felt for the itch which blossomed on you. Below is a poem. If you know someone who might appreciate it, consider passing it on. As always, if you need to talk, I’m here. Have a great week, everybody.

on the walk home

kissing your head,
your hair like a hockey player
under a helmet,
i mean sweat
and what comes from sweat.

you’re tall and peeling like a birch.

sticky stalks of grass.

stinging caltrops
by the side of the path.

on the walk home
it’s easy to mistake you
for a butt
until my butts
fill up with rain.

sometimes they find
petrified sea stars
in the prairies.

Originally published July 24, 2016.

Theodore Fox is a poet living on Treaty Six land in Canada.
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