Summer reading: poems that celebrate food and cooking!

They say poetry is food for the soul. Feast on these food poems—and learn about rhyming recipes—while we explore all the ways food and poetry go together.

Today, we’re celebrating some of our favourite food poems and recipes. If these poems make you hungry to learn more ways that food and the arts connect, check out our previous posts on art history and food! To get started, William Carlos Williams’ poem This Is Just To Say is the perfect summer food poem to enjoy as you start this post—maybe as you raid the fridge for some plums.

Once you’ve taken the edge off your appetite with this poem and a plum or two, it’s time to get serious in the kitchen with some pie making and poetry.

“I was going to write a poem

I made a pie instead…
everybody will like this pie

it will have apples and cranberries

dried apricots in it      many friends will say      

why in the world did you make only one

this does not happen with poems.”
-- The Poet’s Occasional Alternative  (Grace Paley) (full poem here)

This wonderful poem is worth celebrating with pie. Here’s an easy tutorial for your child and you to get started making pies (after all, why in the world would you make only one?) while you read on.

If you’re more inclined to get outdoors together, we love Galway Kinnell’s poem Blackberry Eating In September about picking berries while picking the perfect words as well. If this one makes your family hungry, here’s a guide to taking your kids berrying this summer. 

Some recipes read like poems, and vice versa. In fact, some of the older recipes we have were actually written as rhyming poems, presumably to make them easy to memorize—you can check out this century-old one for bread and see if the rhyme helps you and your kiddo follow the steps.

And while she wasn’t writing rhyming recipes, 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson did write her poems on scraps of paper as she cooked. Here’s an excellent piece about the poem she wrote on the back of her recipe for Cocoa Nut Cake and how the poem and the recipe resemble each other.  Some poems read more like recipes too—Moniza Alvi’s Indian Cooking helps you see the ingredients of her favourite family dishes as they come together.  

While our previous poets were writing for adults, American poet Shel Silverstein wrote many beautifully funny poems for kids, often involving food. If you want to get a belly laugh out of your little one, try listening to this reading of Peanut Butter Sandwich together or read your way through 18 Flavours.  

Looking for more feasts of words? If you liked reading about rhyming recipes and the history of food, check out some of our history of lemonade, or the surprising history of cake! Then, discover more magical reads with our round-up of children’s books that celebrate enchanted food. For more recipe ideas and summer projects, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.  

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