“The Book of Love is long and boring.”
Long ago, I’d decided February–the month of useless holidays like Valentine’s and Groundhog Day–was the cruelest month and given the nose-thumb to it with an annual anti-Valentine celebration where I’d invite single friends over for pasta puttanesca (whore’s pasta, of course) and we’d drink lots of red wine and eat dark chocolate and read the most scathing relationship poems we could find. Poems like Margaret Atwood’s “You Fit into Me” or Luis Urrea’s “Man’s Fate.” On one such occasion, I was with the writers Elizabeth Geoghegan and Lucia Berlin. The last poem was read by Lucia, a surprisingly sweet piece about kisses. The table fell silent. It was beautiful.
More surprising is that the words belonged to the poet Ed Dorn, a man who counted his edges by the lines in his face: He was one craggy dude.
I’ve spent a long time trying to reconcile the contemptuous man with that tender poem, almost as much as I’ve spent trying to reconcile the secret of my own soft heart with my shoot from the hip exterior.
In the last few years I’ve had, for the first time in my life, someone to go googly-eyed over. I’ve melted in more ways than I can count and done things I said I would never do. And it has been with apologies to my younger self, the woman who shot the finger to Valentine’s Day over and over again, that I have immersed myself in the sharing of food and poetry with my lover. Yes, I’ve felt a little guilty, but also a little giddy.
How much pleasure I receive planning a hotel-room picnic for the city-dwelling boyfriend and I later today: Choosing cheeses we like (he’s triple cream, I’m Maytag Blue), some thinly sliced prosciutto, a duo of tapenades (artichoke, mixed Mediterranean olive). Reveling in all the ways there is to love someone, I select a variety of texture and tastes: the velvety smoothness of duck pate, the pickled brightness of cornichons, the firm tartness of raspberries mixed with the deeper vanilla and dark-secret juice of blackberries.
When it comes to dessert, I can’t hold myself back. I pick two tiny opera cakes (salted caramel with chocolate and mixed berries and cream), some dried cherries covered in chocolate and chili-spiced Mexican chocolate. Turns out, I don’t do indulgence, just as I don’t do love, by halves.
I think about William Carlos Williams love poem:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
About all the ways the giving and taking of food expresses how we feel and what we need. How food communicates our desires and our urgency. Tonight, Greg and I plan to crack more than one bottle of Cava and relish the pleasure of taste and poetry and each other. It’s an excuse more than a mandate. One I will embrace fully, taking my cure from Ed Dorn, who seemed to know how balance the faces you show to the world and the one you share with the one who counts.