Around the sixth grade, I fell in love with poetry. Reading it, writing it, critiquing it, studying it. For a time, poetry was to me then what cooking is to me now. A deep, soul-satisfying passion.
I got my hands on every book of poetry I could locate in the South Central Wisconsin Library System. There were times where my desk would be piled with 15 or 20 books at once. I took poetry classes in middle and high school, entering every young adult poetry contest I could find. Not because I wanted to win, but simply because I wanted to write.
Of the few poems I saved from those days, most of them have themes of nature and are inspired by the seasonal environment of when they were written. I was smart enough to date a few of them, and by far my peak poem-writing months were March, April, and May. The spring.
This time of year was one that inspired me to no end. As the temperatures warmed and the sun returned to the sky after months of gray winter clouds, I remember spending afternoons cocooned in my favorite blanket and curled up in a rocking chair on the deck scribbling furiously onto a pad of paper. Most of the poems ended up in the trash. I’m a tough critic, especially on my own words. But for whatever reason, a few managed to get tucked away into one of my dusty notebooks.
Do you want to read them? Okay, just a couple. But promise not to laugh.
The Flower’s Day
Her color is deep, her smile is bright; her petals reflect the morning light.
Her yellow center is her face; pink petals are her locks of grace.
She bathes herself in morning dew; droplets soak her through and through.
Sunlight dries her in the day, as robins sing, then flutter away.
Green leaflets form her silky dress, which sways in the wind’s gentle caress.
As evening approaches and brings twilight, she folds in her petals, preparing for night.
Night sings a tune, sleep whisks her away; and she slips into slumber, awaiting the day.
I wrote this next one after a walk along a country railroad in June.
The Iron Railroad
Among the hills and countryside,
O’er streams and rivers, waters wide,
Upon the shores of sandy tide,
There is an iron railroad.
Across the valleys, meadows, plains,
The gentle brooks, the grassy lanes,
And golden fields of swaying grains,
Winds the iron railroad.
In the city’s busy core,
Past the house’s painted doors,
By the boy doing his chores,
Lays the iron railroad.
Near the farmer and his land,
Past the horses and the stable-hand,
Through the wood and wet marshland,
Runs the iron railroad.
And then—at last—the train finally comes,
From its deep core it bellows and hums,
With a lurch and a holler it strongly runs,
Along the iron railroad.
On March 25 one year, I tried my hand at a haiku and came up with this:
Under clouds so white
The sunlight barely peeks through,
And the air is thick.
Needless to say, I won’t be quitting my day job to become a poet anytime soon! But these days, I still love a good poem, and will occasionally grab a minute to jot down a few verses if the inspiration strikes. More often, though, I’m expressing my artistic side in the kitchen. So much of cooking is artistry, don’t you think? Playing with herbs and spices, practicing fancy knife cuts, layering flavors in a recipe—it’s a craft.
I love getting creative with grain pilafs. Changing up the grains and tweaking the herbs or vegetables leads to dozens of delicious and nutritious variations. Take something like brown rice or quinoa, for instance. Both are blank slates. But add some dill, fresh peas, a few scallions, and a squirt of lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a winning side dish.
This Chilled Quinoa Pilaf is basic but refreshing. Pair it with some grilled chicken or fish and a salad for a lovely early spring dinner. Then kick back, enjoy the lingering daylight, and—if you’re like me—lose yourself in a good book of poetry.
Chilled Quinoa Pilaf with Fresh Herbs
Feel free to play with the herbs here. Try mint, dill, tarragon, or cilantro instead of the parsley, chives, and thyme. Take this pilaf in any direction you like. It is delicious served with grilled chicken or fish.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Bring quinoa and water to boil in a medium pot over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy—12-15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to large mixing bowl and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Add parsley, chives, thyme, scallions, and celery to the warm or cooled quinoa. Stir to combine with a fork.
- Add lemon juice, olive oil, granulated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill pilaf for at least one hour before serving. (Can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours before serving.)