Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Recipes and Robert Frost

Joe said he was excited about the recipes. Do you know Joe? He's in Vegas. Read his blog. It's fascinating in the way that a gentle recounting of everyday life in a city that most associate with wild partying and go-for-broke vacations can be. Try not to be jealous of his kitchen remodel, though. The recipe is for you, Joe. Put those twin convection ovens to work.

 These pretzels have become a standby in our house. They involve a lot of butter. Real butter. But no mayonnaise. Enjoy. The recipe comes from an older episode of Paula's Home Cooking with Paula Deen, whom I love without reservation. She's like a big, warm, Southern hug and I know her recipes are mostly bad for you, but nobody eats kale all the time even if they say they do and I'd rather make my horrible junk food from scratch, you know? My mom was raised mostly in the South and tried very hard to overcome her roots and her accent in her young adulthood, but there are vestiges in her demeanor and bearing like a sense memory and they speak to me on a completely non-verbal level. I am terrified of Southern women and I love them like a school girl crush. Hence, Paula Deen.

I was not raised in the South. I was raised all over the place, but I spent grades one through eight in northern Vermont, in a very small town without a stoplight. We lived on old farmland that had been divided into ten acre parcels with our dogs and cat and garden and tree house. With skiing and sledding and ice skating in the winters, swimming holes and fishing in the summer, it was an idyllic sort of childhood that I have since come to realize is rather uncommon. When I was five, my parents were living in the middle of a bunch of concrete and tire factories in Akron, Ohio and decided they wanted to go back to the land, to a simpler, slower way of life. So we did and the shale and maple sap of that time still runs in my blood.

I have had a school girl crush on Robert Frost since I was about nine. He was our poet. With his simple wording and vivid descriptions of rural New England life, we memorized his poems in elementary school and knew he was talking about us, about our lives, our fences, our woods. Fourth grade was a terrible year for me, socially, but it was also the year that we studied Vermont history. I did a report on Robert Frost and it's the first time in my life that I felt the thrill of immersing myself in research and accumulating way more material than I needed for the project. (Because I am just that nerdy.) I devoured his poems, even the ones I didn't understand, and to this day, fragments and lines from them float around my subconscious.

He is the smell of the cold on my dad's wool jacket when he came in from chopping wood. He is the juice of the potato beetles my brother and I picked out of the garden and threw at each other. He is the sweet of a freshly mowed hay field. He is the crackle of ice that formed on the dogs' water bowls in the fall. He is soccer practice in the dew, he is jumping off the rocks in the quarry. He is wood smoke and maple sugar. He is the sweet decay of autumn in blazing splendor, he is lake mud between my toes. He is chilly nights in the yard under the stars. He is growing up, he is a changing world. He is simplicity and youth. He is home.

In re-reading a lot of his poems for this post, I realize his influence on my own writing. It's not a connection I would readily have made before. It's as if, like my mom's Southern-ness, my rural Vermont roots have clung to me in vestiges and sense memories. As if, after more than 25 years away - around the world and back - "I end not far from my going forth."

A Late Walk

When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you. 

-Robert Frost, 1915


  1. Mmm, I like that poem. It's interesting how our roots have hold of us, even when we don't realize it.
    (I've been wanting to make homemade pretzels for a long time. Now, you've given me the impetus to do so.)

    1. Make them, make them. And write me some poems while you're at it. :)

  2. I like the peanut butter and dipping stuff from the last one - you really are going to force me to make these and post photos now.

  3. This poetry stuff is so cool. Robert Frost is another favorite of mine -Carl Sandburg too! Talk about mid western influence. Now I keep thinking of all the other poems I could have sent you!

    1. I'm so excited that you're with me on this, Gracie. And yes, Carl Sanburg, yes! Send me as many poems as you'd like. Thank you for validating all of this poetry madness. I'm having a lot of fun with it and I am glad that you are, too.

  4. yummy!! I've never made pretzels before, but I am going to have to try this!!

    The poem is beautiful, though I have to admit that poetry isn't really my thing. :)

    And I am heading over to check out Joe's blog.

    1. Do try them and see what you think. They are loads of fun to make. You should also give some poetry a try, too.

  5. I'm not sure Robert Frost is any more poetic than you are, TL. Perhaps it's just in the construction, but your description of mud between your toes and the decay of autumn ... good stuff.

    1. Awww. I'm blushing. That's the highest compliment, Margi!

  6. Love the poem, love your imagery of your Vermont childhood. And what is it about fourth grade? I was just talking with a friend about the social nastiness we both experienced in fourth grade--I am four years older than her and we lived 1000 miles apart, but we both had very similarly nasty fourth grade years, socially.

    1. Is it that pre-pubescent thing? I don't know. I fear for my daughter who will be in fourth grade next year. Will it be awful for her, too? Probably. I think girls are just awful sometimes.


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