When meat is cooked to a perfect tenderness, and the sweet smoky scents mingled with spices and hidden flavors dance on your tongue, it is like poetry to the tastebuds. It's no wonder that barbecue inspires those of the smoked religion to write poems. My poem this week is less smoky-dreamy, more kvetchy. The "Eck" and rhythm was inspired by a poem I read to my son in Judy Sierra's book, Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems . It's about a baby penguin trying to find his mama, by her special call. Following my ecky kvetchy anti-injecting barbecue poem, I'll talk about one of my favorite kid lit foodie writers - Amy Wilson Sanger. Her board book, A Little Bit of Soul Food, is one we read often.
Please comment, leave your own poem in the comments, and enjoy!
Eck. I Don't Inject
by Julie Reinhardt
Eck. I don't inject.
Don't put needles in my meat
Before you cook it on low heat
I can always always tell
From one bite or just the smell
In my mouth there is confusion
From your "secret mop infusion"
Was that brisket I just ate,
Or an orange-soda-red-zinger-tea-brown-sugar-ginger-saffron-jalepeno-oil sponge upon my plate?
Eck. I don't inject
If you do, out of respect
I invite you to object
Tell me, reader, why you think
Your 'cue needs the kitchen sink?
Can you tell that meat injecting is a peeve of mine? I can immediately tell when it's been done and it feels like Frankenstein is in my mouth, not barbecue poetry. I want to taste meat, without a dominant flavor coating my tongue. OK. Enough already. Let's talk about one of my favorite children's writer and artist, Amy Wilson Sanger.
Sanger combines perfect poetry with collage and papier mache. She wrote the groundbreaking baby boardbook, First Book of Sushi, but her A Little Bit of Soulfood is one that reminds me of family gatherings in the South. Each family member contributes to the potluck...listen.
"Ssss, Pop! Daddy's cooking, I hear the oil spatter. Crunchy hot fried chicken makes a tower on our platter." and later, "Here come's Grampa's famous chitlin's and a pan collard greens."
Incidentally, her collage includes designs inspired by the ladies quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Gee's Bend is one of the poorest counties in the country, and for socializing, the ladies there get together and quilt. I was lucky to once see an exhibit at the Whitney Museum in NYC of the Gee's Bend quilts. It was powerful seeing all those huge free-style quilts hanging together against the stark museum walls. One quilt was simply made with worn work jeans running opposite each other. They were work pants of men who had died. If you've ever loved a pair of jeans, you know that it's because they fit you, just you, perfectly. Something of a person imprints in a pair of jeans worn so often and in that quilt you could feel the essence of the dead.
Sanger is the perfect example of how every single word matters in a picture book or board book. She manages to cover an entire family potluck in less than 200 words. You can really sink your teeth into her effortless text that sings with emotion.