How do you conceptualize your Thanksgiving practice? Do you loll in the warm gravy-filled bathtub of tradition, splashing between the green bean casserole and the marshmallow-topped yams? Do you light out for the territories with Thai-spiced vegan pumpkin soup? Do you skip the whole thing, go out for dim sum, then roast a turkey on Friday just for the joy of standing in front of the fridge, making sandwiches, picking at leftovers or frying up hash? Why Brussels sprouts? And how?
At times like these, a cookbook, an app, the Food Network, even Mark Bittman is not enough. For inspiration, for solace, for getting you through your kitchen’s long dark night of the soul, only poetry will do. (Philosophy, the big gun typically aimed at life’s meatier questions, is distressingly silent on crucial issues like do I brine or do I fry?) For all the koan-like beauty of his work, poet Wallace Stevens never made the most obvious suggestion to readers of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, one known to every kid since their days of playground double-Dutch: get yourself eleven more birds, mister, and you got yourself a pie.
Not that all poets should bake pies, but, as Grace Paley has pointed out, it’s a valid occasional alternative, even for a poet. As Paley writes,
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 doesn’t happen with poems
So, pace Mr. Stevens, we offer 13 Ways of Looking at a Brussels Sprout, our poem of recipes for you and your pre-holiday kitchen.
Among twenty winter squashes
The only moving thing
Was the cleaver heading towards your fingers.
Aida Mollencamp, CHOW, How to Cut Hard Squash
I was of three minds
Like a refrigerator
In which there are three slaws.
Mark Bittman, New York Times, Slaws Eight Ways
The pureed pumpkin whirled in the coconut milk.
It was a small part of the dairy-free, gluten-free pantomime.
Pim Techamuanvivit, Chez Pim, Pumpkin Panna Cotta
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a Brussels sprout salad
Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks, Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Apples
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of chestnuts
Or the beauty of butter.
The pie coming out of the oven,
Or pie the morning after.
Pies filled the long window
With buttery shards.
The shadow of you on your bicycle
Crossed it, to and fro, wishing you had pre-ordered your Thanksgiving dessert.
Traced on the glass
Sugared with longing.
Bay Area Bites, KQED, Food Secrets of Mission Pie’s Karen Heisler and Krystin Rubin
Bay Area Bites, KQED, A Day with 3 Babes’ Bakeshop
O vegan teens of Haight Street,
Why do you imagine golden tofurkys?
Do you not see how the bacon
Whispers to the Brussels sprouts
Of the Whole Foods around you?
Chef Zak Palaccio, New York Times, Fatty ‘Cue Brussels Sprouts
Chef Erik Cosselmon, 7×7, Kokkari’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Lemon
I know Burning Man
And its lurid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That fried onions in a can are involved
In what I know.
When the Brussels sprout rolled under the table,
It came out fuzzied in cat hair
The five-second rule, debatable.
Bay Area Bites, KQED, Food Safety on Thanksgiving
At the sight of Brussels sprout leaves
Wilting in a skillet with red grapes and bacon
Even the ennui’d of brassicas
Would cry out sharply.
Chef Rene Ortiz, SF Chronicle, La Condesa’s Coles de Brussels
He rode over to the coast
In a Zipcar Mini.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The false chanterelles
Edible East Bay Revelations of the Mushroom People
The lard is melting
the pigs must be flying.
It was dinnertime all afternoon.
The dishwasher was running.
And it was going to run.
(with thanks to Amy Rosenbaum Clark)