With news that my next book of poems, Take This Spoon, has finally gone to press, I’m going to say it has, though we might not know it for the brisk days and chilly, chilly nights. Not to mention the endless rain. For those readers kind enough to have ordered advance copies, rest assured that you will in fact receive a book!
With our pastures finally greening up and the horses beginning to fatten up, I’d like to share with you a good recipe for spring munching, as (usually) all the herbs called for are in season.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
You sometimes have to read between the lines when following my mother’s recipes. Often they were written down quickly: ingredients without exact measurements and spotty instructions. Once, in attempting her spaghetti Aglio without exact directions, I took poetic license, adding ingredients and subtracting amounts, creating a dish quite different than the one I remember my mother producing. I thank my mother for her occasional culinary vagueness, which afforded me the room to be creative. This spaghetti Aglio is the perfect May dish, as all its herbs are in season. It can be made in a snap and is utterly scrumptious.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 package fresh baby spinach
2 tablespoons fresh basil or thyme, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup pistachio nuts
¾ cup fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, to taste
½ pound thin spaghetti noodles (white or whole wheat)
Cook spaghetti until al dente. Toast nuts until slightly browned. Sauté garlic in 3 T. olive oil until translucent but not brown. Add mushrooms and sauté until al dente. Add fresh spinach, basil or thyme, and parsley, then the rest of the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over spaghetti, stirring just enough to coat the noodles but leaving the mushrooms on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toasted pistachios.
And here is the poem, inspired by the recipe—or was it the other way around? I’m not sure. But I offer it for everyone who has adopted little ways of doing from their mothers—this one, visualizing the grocery store on a piece of paper and writing down items as you come to them in the store. And I offer it for my daughter Caitlin, in the name of change.
for my daughter
Mother mapped an index card,
matching each line to a grocery aisle—
she knew exactly where everything lived.
I try to remember where the coffee is,
the light bulbs and Splenda, as I sit at my desk,
shaking off a vodka sleep.
Scissors for the blooming peonies I put
close to Saskatchewan, Band-Aids for my cut finger
that won’t heal, farther south toward Antigua.
I’m following in her pen-steps, although poorly:
Mine can’t match hers in my hasty cartography,
which will mean a lot of back and forth
between grocery aisles when shopping.
Her map allowed detours and blank spaces
for last-minute cravings, and elbow room,
browsing the shelves, sharing news
or recipes with neighbors,
five-year-old me at Mother’s side,
Can I have a Bit-O-Honey, please?
I was learning how to ask for things,
attach strings, and visualize my goals,
marking items on an index card
in order of their placement in the store,
leaving room for what I wouldn’t need
for thirty years, making her recipes,
or longing for answers to questions
I never dared, or forgot to ask.
What to cover the turkey with—
foil or cheesecloth?
How long to simmer garlic for aglio e olio,
how to tell my daughter she needs a change of scenery.
Caitlin, if I stare long enough at the uncharted spaces,
will the route to your future appear?