An ode to kitchen poetry – The Hindu

“Take off the head and feet.

open body

And clean the birds..

…which you will uncover

to heat

of fire

For a moment.”

It is part of the oldest known recipe-poem in Western literature, dating back to 1750 BCE, from the Yale Culinary Tablets. The poem describes a delicious dish made from pheasant meat fit for Babylonian royalty.

read this also with one stomach

Back home in India, Nala’s Paka Darpanam Dohes, trasets and chaupayis have been introduced in honor of the food we eat, along with the nature of an ingredient, a process and the cook.

This tercet begins by talking about food being the life force of all beings: Sarvesham praninam pranam-annam pratham muchyate,

What is style?

Food has been elevated to a rhythm that inspires us.

Food has been elevated to a rhythm that inspires us. , Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lyrical expression has always been an integral part of all cultures, especially in places that honor food: from the farm to the kitchen to the dinner table. Folk songs, prayers, oral poetry such as limericks and quatrains celebrate kinship and family bonds, festivals, seasons, and even periods of mourning.

I’ve always found that whenever food comes up, even in novels, there’s a musical quality to that writing. from the most famous and much-referenced Proustian Madeleine to the magical powers of mistress of spices, food has been elevated to a cadence that inspires us. Jhumpa Lahiri’s crochet making tune by Ashima the namesakeand Bian Beans and Pear Patina in the Kitchen of Dominus Apicius in Ancient Rome feast of sorrow by Crystal King.

  crystal king

Crystal King | Photo Credit: Wayne E. Chinnock

When King was doing research for her globally acclaimed novel, she came across a series of 1st-century epigraphs about Apicius, the ancient Roman poet Martial, an ancient gourmet. King states, “In my own writing, I found a series of 1st-century allusions to the ancient Roman poet to be important to my research (and inspiration) for my novel about the ancient gourmand, Apicius.” Marcus Valerius Martialis, better known as Martial, left behind 12 books of epigrams that depict the sordid, cruel and grim side of ancient Roman life. It is one of more than 1,500 of his records, and hundreds of them contain references to food, food preparation, eating and drinking. In fact, it is one of his epithets that inspired me to write about Apicius.

on apicius

“You spent six million sesterces on your stomach, Apicius, but you still had a million dollars left. Took a dose of poison. No greater proof of your gluttony has ever been given by you, Apicius.”

religion and relationships

“Cooking is a wonderful thing / If you know it well / You don't need words.

“Cooking is a wonderful thing / If you know it well / You don’t need words. , Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In India, food and socio-political issues have stood at the intersection of literature and art for centuries. This poem by famous Lucknowi poet Sagar Khayyami describes the religious divide using food as a metaphor.

“Look what is lost in the war of hatred

The vegetables became Hindu and the goat became a Muslim.

“Look what we’ve lost in this battle of hate,

Vegetables have become Hindu and goats have become Muslims.

And then there is the work of Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novelist, Gujarati writer Dhiruben Patel. His kitchen poemsshe talks about the excitement of BhakriThe freshness of vegetables, a tribute to women who love their kitchens, and who dedicate themselves to being caregivers and nurturers.

“Cooking is a wonderful thing

if you know it well

you don’t need any words

To tell someone how deeply you love them.

food for the creative soul

Food is also representative of diversity.

Food is also representative of diversity. , Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The common theme in food-themed poetry is that food is a source of sustenance, memory, and a sense of community. Food is also representative of diversity, and it provides intimacy for people and their relationships, as they express their joy, anger, and longing.

‘This is Just to Say’ by William Carlos Williams:

“I have eaten


who were in


What else

you were probably


For breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

Very good

And very cold.”

Selja Sampat

Shailja Sampat | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Educator, theater artist and storyteller Shailja Sampath says she uses food items in her stories for children, noting that most of the stories we grow up with have food to offer before bedtime. inseparable from experience, as crow and sparrow,

His poem ‘Idli’ is as follows:

Idli, idli, idli

morning, afternoon and night

Idli, Idli, Idli

it’s always so much fun

eat it with sambar

or with sauce

or with sugar and ghee

but if you don’t like it

Adna Bus Bittu Beedi

(meaning, let it be).”


When we are in grief, food lifts our spirits like nothing else. It satisfies our taste buds, relaxes us, and brings back nostalgia filled with people and places that were once an integral part of our lives.

Risa Potter writes in her poem ‘In My Mother’s Things’:

“You never know what you’ll find in a recipe box.

Among the dishes served loosely, mixed with cakes and pies, there was

his poem. But where do you file sadness in the box? Where is he from?

When I lost my mother seven years ago, I found solace in her cooking from her recipes, simmering gravies and her magic making crispy dosas. chords, An excerpt from a poem in my memoir, lessons from my mom’s kitchen,

“The years have a strange way of making different women inside you

For example, I am now my mother…

… my kitchen smells like her

whole asafoetida and cardamom,

Milk burnt and ghee cracked.

The author is a true Bangalorean, a lover of all things food and culture.

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