Haiku Cooking

It recently struck me that haiku has much in common with the best improvised home cooking: the simpler and fewer the ingredients involved, the more feasible and better it is—and frequently, the most challenging to do well. (Haiku, for those unfamiliar, is Japanese poetry that comprises just three lines and 17 syllables in total, the syllabic breakdown per line being 5:7:5.)

I first heard of haiku way back in Miss Mitamura’s fourth grade class at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Back then, we were charged with describing cherry blossoms, which in springtime were ubiquitous and luxuriously lined the path to our school’s entrance. I wish I could share with you what I wrote, but I do remember the assignment like it was yesterday.

At nine years old, it never occurred to me to write recipes in haiku. The extent of my cooking repertoire was baking Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and I dutifully followed the instructions on the back of that bag of semisweet morsels.

But the other night, during the sweltering heat wave we’ve had here in New York, I threw together a simple salad with what was in the fridge, to accompany cold leftover pizza.

And I wrote a haiku about it:

Lettuce strewn with nuts,

Chunks of cherries, blue cheese, cukes;

Fruity vinaigrette.

Click here for a clever, effective method for pitting cherries.

A Foodie Faceoff

It seems only fitting to start this blog with what inspired it: a memoir essay I wrote for a food writing class taught by cookbook author Corinne Trang. The positive class feedback I received on this piece, and Corinne’s advice to my class of aspiring food writers to start blogging and develop our food writing voices, lit the fire in me to take the leap.

“Repeat after me, Gammer. Crumb buns,” said my older brother Maurie, correcting our grandmother as she prepared what she liked to call “crumble cake.” It was 1963, and at four years old, he was barely big enough to stand on his tiptoes so he could supervise her method of scrambling eggs. But he was already a perfectionist, culinary critic, semanticist and future iron chef.  Continue reading