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.
I Among twenty winter squashes The only moving thing Was the cleaver heading towards your fingers.
Aida Mollencamp, CHOW, How to Cut Hard Squash
II I was of three minds Like a refrigerator In which there are three slaws. Mark Bittman, New York Times, Slaws Eight Ways
III 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
IV A man and a woman Are hungry. A man and a woman and a Brussels sprout salad Are happy.
Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks, Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Apples
V 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.
VI 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. The mood 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
VII 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
VIII 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.
IX 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
X 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
XI He rode over to the coast In a Zipcar Mini. Once, a fear pierced him, In that he mistook The false chanterelles For chanterelles.
Edible East Bay Revelations of the Mushroom People
XII The lard is melting the pigs must be flying.
XIII It was dinnertime all afternoon. The dishwasher was running. And it was going to run.
(with thanks to Amy Rosenbaum Clark)