“My forthcoming work in five volumes,The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature, is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful if I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to sprinkle this page. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ( G.K Chesterton, Daily News, July 10, 1909) “
This week’s theme is “Food Glorious Food.” Rebecca wanted to encourage contributions from beyond the writers and artists who normally respond to the theme by asking people for recipes and thoughts on favourite foods.
Writers are, of course, very welcome to share their favourite recipes. In fact we would love to see them. But poems and stories would be great too – on the theme of food or (as always) on anything else you would like.
The poets may have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese but the same cannot be said for writers and food more generally. Just last week we mentioned Proust’s memory-boosting madeleines and bread has inspired poets at least since Omar Kayyam (around 1120)
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Illustration by Edmund Dulac (1909)
In fact there is so much bread poetry that it is a huge subject in itself. But I will just share this one from 1860 by Emily Dickenson
A little bread – a crust – a crumb –
A little trust – a demijohn –
Can keep the soul alive –
Not portly, mind! but breathing – warm –
Conscious – as old Napoleon,
The night before the Crown!
A modest lot – A fame petite –
A brief Campaign of sting and sweet
Is plenty! Is enough!
A Sailor’s business is the shore!
A soldier’s – balls! Who asketh more,
Must seek the neighboring life!
Bread is often used symbolically and allegorically in poetry – it was “the staff of life” in Europe and parts of Asia, for millennia before Sir Walter Raleigh brought us chips and chicken korma. But Luke Jerram took it literally last year, initiating a collaboration between poets and the Hobbs House bakery who baked the poems on to loaves of bread!
“The poetry is being printed onto small sheets of edible rice paper and baked onto the underside of each white loaf. Each Saturday the ‘Poet of the Week’ is being celebrated and for the same price as their standard loaf, the public are able to read, share, contemplate and digest this unique artwork.”