Cooking Catalogue

Jill Breckenridge

On a cool September day, the soup commences:

vegetable beef, its vitamins an orange and green

rainbow, its sky dotted with beef, the dark

storms of carnivores. Then split peas, solidly

green or yellow all the way through. I soak them,

boil them until they give their sandy gift,

wrapped in ham smoke and salt. And turkey noodle:

breaking the empty carcass, boiling it,

dark meat and white relaxing from the dancing bones.

My kitchen a smorgasbord of smells, I ladle

steaming soup into seven bowls. At the table,

six people take and eat, while I lean back, full,

and watch an early snow stir and blow outside.

When lilacs unlock their buds, it’s salad time:

tuna salad, celery a crisp parenthesis

around slipshod macaroni. Radishes snapping

back at the bite; thin cucumber wheels and purple

onions roll me away in shivers; boiled eggs

gussied up with mustard and green chives. And artichoke,

the queen of vegetables, the sharp-tongued ruler.

Green crown shined and oiled, her layered

wisdom begins with justice only but ends with mercy

and butter melted and lemon mayonnaise.

Oh the feast of it all! Oh spring!

Pass the salad, pass the iced tea,

pass the lilacs for a second smell.